Supplier diversity gets high ratings at Nielsen
From finding good collaborators to helping potential alliances grow, Nielsen puts the power of its people
behind the supplier diversity mission
Nielsen Holdings NV (New York, NY) collects and measures consumer information in more than 100 countries. The company caters to multinational enterprises and single storefronts alike.
Nielsen tracks both what consumers see and hear in the media and what they purchase. The “watch” segment of the business measures what consumers watch and listen to on television and radio, as well as computers, mobile phones and tablets. The “buy” segment focuses on measuring which categories of goods, and which specific brands and products, consumers are purchasing.
Nielsen’s supplier diversity program began in 2009 to address the needs of internal clients in the company’s business units, as well as requests by external clients, says Lamont Robinson, VP of supplier diversity.
“Supplier diversity is important socially, but it also creates a competitive environment that reduces costs,” Robinson says. “We would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t introduce new suppliers to our supplier chain.” About 65 percent of Nielsen’s total supplier diversity spend is in telecommunications and other technology sectors, he says.
Searching for strategic business partners
Nielsen has consistently increased its spending with diverse suppliers since its program started, Robinson reports. “Last year, seven percent of total spend went to diverse suppliers, an increase of nearly fifty percent over the previous year,” he notes. “That reflects our recent efforts to be more proactive in raising awareness about our program.”
The company issued its first supplier diversity annual report in 2013. “Externally, the report gave us a chance to tell our clients and the community we live in why supplier diversity is important for us,” Robinson explains. “Internally, it helped us send the same message to the leaders of our business units.”
Nielsen’s executive leadership recently set a goal of 10 percent diverse supplier spend for each of the business units. “Some business units were already doing more than thirty percent,” Robinson says. “We encouraged them to continue to push the effort even further.”
However, revenue is just as important as spend when it comes to gauging the program’s success, he points out. “We’re looking for diverse suppliers to help us penetrate markets that we’ve never been in before. It’s not just a matter of us buying products and services from suppliers. We want to build strategic relationships.”
How Nielsen networks
To find suppliers owned by minorities, women, veterans, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Nielsen reps attend major conferences, including those hosted by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
“We also attend regional conferences in some metropolitan areas, everywhere that Nielsen has a major presence in the U.S.,” Robinson says. “It’s one thing to receive phone calls and e-mails from potential suppliers, but it’s another to meet them face-to-face. We feel those meetings are much more beneficial.”
Suppliers can connect with Nielsen through its online portal at nielsen.aec global.com. Members who register and add their information to the Nielsen supplier database receive notices about webinars and upcoming conferences.
“Any time one of the business units approaches my team about finding new suppliers, the first thing we do is look to see who is registered in our system,” notes Robinson. “The portal helps us find suppliers quickly. It’s important that we build a program that is transparent, where the suppliers have access to us. The only thing we ask is that they also do their research on us.”
NMSDC and WBENC are Nielsen’s preferred certifications, but the program also accepts local and state certifications, DoD form 214 for military veterans, and National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce certification.
Finding the perfect match
Typically, when a new project is initiated, Robinson and program manager Shirelle Magee meet with the sourcing team to determine the types of suppliers needed.
“If a diverse supplier who fits the profile is in our system, we’ll reach out to them first before giving the information to sourcing,” Robinson explains. “We then set up a meeting with that supplier to make sure it’s a good fit for the company based on the specifications we receive and the breadth, depth and scope of the supplier’s capabilities. If we have a national or global opportunity, but the supplier hasn’t proved that they can branch out of the city that they reside in, it’s probably not a good fit.”
Helping small suppliers grow
There still are many opportunities for small suppliers, starting with the Nielsen supplier diversity academy.
“We realize that ninety-nine percent of suppliers are small, especially in the diversity world,” Robinson explains. “So instead of penalizing suppliers for not having the size and scale for national and global opportunities, we source for diverse suppliers through our diversity advocates in our outlets in major cities, like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tampa, Dallas, Cincinnati and Baltimore/D.C.”
Webinars and online courses provide some supplier training. “These courses cover topics ranging from understanding our sourcing team to understanding the value we place on our suppliers,” Robinson explains. “We also partner with a law firm in Chicago to educate diverse suppliers on teaming agreements, which helps them form partnerships to go after larger opportunities.”
A case study in supplier diversity and trust
Interconnect Cable Technologies Corporation (ICTC, Brooksville, FL) is a global minority-owned company and a Nielsen supplier. It delivers electronic products and services to original equipment manufacturers.
“ICTC manufactures the set-top boxes that collect data on what consumers are watching, which is essential to the measurements that form the Nielsen ratings. The fact that we’ve entrusted such an important part of our business to a minority business enterprise says a lot about how much we value supplier diversity,” Robinson points out.
Before the contract was signed, Nielsen provided ICTC with free process improvement education based on an assessment of its operations. “We want to help our partners secure business opportunities beyond what they do for us,” Robinson says. “Having a strong supplier partner helps make our company stronger.”
At Nielsen, the supplier diversity head is a VP-level position. This is not common in the industry, Robinson notes.
“In supplier diversity, we have the flexibility to create a program that goes beyond the borders,” he adds. “We have a global business, and we’re expanding our supplier diversity program to include women-owned companies around the world.”
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