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Supplier Diversity Done Right National Grid’s Story — Creating Diverse Partnerships Across the Grid

Special Advertorial Business Section — Boosting local economies. Building community connections. Better meeting customers’ needs.

7/7/2015, 10:44 a.m.

Smart companies know that supporting small business is one of the best ways to accomplish these goals. Even smarter ones recognize the benefits of doing business with diverse suppliers — like small businesses run by women, minorities, veterans or people with disabilities.

National Grid Director of Supplier Diversity Carla Hunter Ramsey says she couldn’t be prouder of the strides National Grid has made in six short years with supplier diversity.

“One of our strategic goals at National Grid is to make sure our employees — and our suppliers — mirror the diverse customers and communities we serve across Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island,” Hunter Ramsey says. “It helps us better understand and serve their needs. It demonstrates our commitment to diversity and inclusion as a socially responsible company. It has had a real impact on the success of our business and our reputation in the communities across all our jurisdictions.”

National Grid’s supplier diversity efforts began in 2009, when the company’s U.S. executive team developed a business strategy to invigorate a stagnant program and put it at the heart of National Grid’s overall vision, mission and commitment to stewardship. The Supplier Diversity team started increasing the company’s investment in small and diverse suppliers, while staying cost competitive and supporting local economic development.

“We trained employees across the business to effectively seek out and partner with diverse suppliers,” says Hunter Ramsey. “And we sponsored a wide range of programs to help small suppliers network and partner with us and other large businesses in their communities.”

Consider that National Grid:

  • Spends an average $750 million a year on diverse suppliers — nearly 33 percent of its US procurement influenced vendor spend (versus 18 percent in 2009)
  • Spent $475 million on Tier 2 vendors (subcontractors) from 2009-2014 — $108 million of that in 2014 alone (versus $28 million in 2009)
  • Has received 37 industry awards since 2009 (13 in 2014), from organizations like the National Minority Business Council (NMBC), Greater New England Minority Supplier Diversity Council, Diversity Comms, Inc., US Black Chamber, Diversity Plus magazine, Color Magazine and the Black Equal Opportunity Employment Journal, among others. In 2015 National Grid has already received 4 awards with the most recent being the ISM-New York award for Outstanding Supplier Diversity Program. National Grid became the first company to receive this award for its commitment through innovative and effective contributions in the profession and the development of diverse suppliers.

In 2014, the company launched two substantial initiatives and built on a successful company-wide ‘Power of Connections’ program that promotes sustainability and supplier diversity.

Supplier diversity crosses the Atlantic

Supplier diversity moved to the U.K. in 2014, with a program sponsored by National Grid Chief Executive Steve Holliday and a mandate to follow in the footsteps of its successful U.S. counterpart. “Supplier Diversity in the U.K. stimulates competition, creates a more sustainable supply chain, and benefits our customers and communities,” says Ray Schlaff, National Grid’s global Chief Procurement Officer.

Professionally developing diverse business owners

In Rhode Island last year, National Grid joined forces with CVS Health and Roger Williams University to successfully complete a CEO Master Series program for six diverse business owners. The program — which National Grid plans to continue — helps diverse suppliers gain skills to best position themselves to competitively bid for contracts with companies like the utility company and CVS.