Yesterday, I blogged about the premise of determining supplier diversity status on employment base rather than ownership base. I also linked to a 2008 post of mine describing how UPS implemented LGTB-owned businesses as a new category of diverse suppliers.

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One thing that I wanted to bring up separately is that UPS has another uncommon supplier diversity classification for “Disabled Business Enterprise.” From their website, UPS explains that a Disabled Business Enterprise is a company that is “51 percent owned, controlled and operated by a handicapped individual or service-disabled individual. A handicapped individual is a person who has a physical, mental or emotional impairment, defect, ailment, disease or disability of a permanent nature, which in any way limits the selection of any type employment for which the person would otherwise be qualified or qualifiable. ”

This is interesting. I believe that supporting the disabled is a noble social responsibility goal, certainly at least as noble as supporting ethnic groups that had been discriminated against in the past.

To me, it makes sense. So much sense that I think it should be adopted as part of any supplier diversity program.

Again, I feel that it can have broader social impact if it takes into account not just the ownership, but the employment base as well. Could we see more of this?

I think so. And it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw subset categories, such as a category for Autism Spectrum Disorders which are becoming more and more of a concern for society.

According to the US Center for Disease Control, Autism Spectrum Disorders are “a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” And, according to Reuters (and countless other sources), autism is on the rise, with incidences “before the 1980’s…affecting one in every 2,000 children” growing to the latest ratio of 1 in 110 children. The rapid growth of autism is definitely a big-time social concern, making doing business with suppliers who hire those with autism certainly a socially responsible overture.

An interesting excerpt from UPS’ definition of Disabled Business Enterprise that ties in with autism is this one: “in any way limits the selection of any type employment for which the person would otherwise be qualified or qualifiable.” Some individuals with disorders on the autism spectrum are highly intelligent and capable, but their disorder is evident in social interaction. While someone with autism may be a phenomenal accountant, software developer, engineer, etc. – in other words being “qualified or qualifiable” – they may struggle in the interview process and may find getting employment difficult as a result. I think that companies who are aware of autism, and set aside any discrimination towards those with it, should be commended.

Could employment of the disabled be the next frontier in supplier diversity? Aside from autism, what other specific disabilities might be considered for qualifying the diverse supplier of tomorrow?

Disclosure: One of my children has been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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