Supplier diversity

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Diversity among our suppliers has been a formal priority for IBM since 1968, when we established a program to build a supply chain that reflects the societies in which we do business worldwide.

IBM has long recognized that diversity is critical to fostering innovation and delivering value to clients — and that supplier diversity adds to our competitive advantage while stimulating growth in a global marketplace.

IBM created its supplier diversity program in 1968, before the existence of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). Our program’s goal is to provide opportunities to diverse suppliers who can add value in every region where we operate. Suppliers qualify by being at least 51 percent owned by people from an ethnic minority (as defined in each country or region), or by women, military veterans, people with disabilities or LGBT individuals.

In 2003, IBM expanded the program beyond the United States to promote relationships with diverse suppliers in every country where we operate. Each geographic region has its own program manager, and each has established locally relevant criteria for diverse suppliers. In all regions, our goal is to promote economic opportunities for historically disempowered groups wherever we operate.

IBM was the first information technology firm to join the Billion Dollar Roundtable, an organization that encourages businesses to increase their spending with diverse suppliers. Since 2000, IBM has annually conducted greater than $1 billion in business with first-tier diverse suppliers in the United States. With the growth of IBM’s diverse supplier initiative outside the United States, IBM since 2006 has conducted more than $2 billion in business annually with first-tier diverse suppliers globally. In 2015, IBM purchased $2.6 billion in goods and services from first- and second-tier diverse suppliers globally, of which nearly $1.4 billion was with first-tier diverse suppliers in the United States and $718 million with first-tier diverse suppliers in other countries.

IBM business conducted with first-tier diverse suppliers worldwide

($ in billions)

2015 spending with first-tier diverse suppliers by region

IBM’s expenditures with first-tier diverse suppliers declined in 2015 due to procurement spending reductions and changes resulting from IBM’s business and product line evolution. A number of diverse suppliers were providing goods and services for business lines that IBM divested in 2014 and 2015 (ex. IBM’s System x server business and Microelectronics Division); spending associated with these suppliers is reflected in this report up to the point of divestiture. A number of these suppliers continue to supply IBM at reduced levels, while others are now in the supply chains of the companies that acquired IBM’s divested businesses.

IBM has one the most robust supplier diversity programs that we are aware of. The IBM team has worked with us on several programs and challenged us to be innovative and demonstrate continuous improvement. Their challenge spurred Artech management to perform at the highest possible standard, and there is no doubt that IBM’s ongoing push for excellence continues to be a critical factor in our success.

— Ranjini Poddar, Artech Information Systems

In 2015, IBM was selected for the 13th consecutive year as one of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s top corporations, and was recognized internationally by the Minority Supplier Development China’s Corporation of the Year award. In addition, Michael Robinson, IBM’s program director of global supplier diversity, was given the William J. Alcorn Leadership Award by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and was recognized as the 2015 Top Contributor in supplier diversity by the Minority Supplier Development China organization.



IBM spent $2.6 billion with first- and second-tier diverse suppliers in 2015, including $718 million with non-U.S. first-tier suppliers.

IBM will continue fostering diversity in its global supply chain as its business needs evolve, and work with external organizations to support the identification and development of diverse firms in countries where we have purchasing needs.