AARP Supplier Diversity: Empowerment For All

Expanding opportunities to invite innovation and diverse perspectives.

As the United States continues to peel back the layers of social injustice, supplier diversity programs that include an inclusive approach to procurement have become more than just a gesture of goodwill. AARP, the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan, and social welfare organization, recognized the potential of creating a strong supplier diversity program early on. Making a conscious decision in 2015 to revitalize its supplier diversity program with the hiring of Kimberly Marcus, AARP demonstrated its commitment to create inclusion and economic opportunity for all.

In her role as director of supplier diversity, Marcus is responsible for redefining supplier diversity at AARP. “The AARP supplier diversity program resides at the intersection of who we are, what we do, and how we do it. AARP’s supplier diversity program is directly linked to our mission and why we exist,” says Marcus. With an impressive career spanning over 20 years in the corporate, public and nonprofit sectors, she has a passion for working with diverse suppliers, serving them, helping them grow their businesses, and promoting them in the marketplace.

Alongside Marcus is Supplier Diversity Senior Analyst Cameron Boli, who is responsible for identifying sourcing opportunities for diverse businesses, both, internally at AARP and externally within its supply chain. Boli’s enthusiasm for advocating on behalf of diverse suppliers is clear. “Successful supplier diversity initiatives perpetuate a cycle of equitable empowerment and create a better tomorrow,” he says. With a membership of 38 million dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age, AARP stands by its mission to link the supplier diversity program to its social mission, organizational culture and enterprise strategy.

AARP works to strengthen communities and advocates for what matters most to families, with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. Its supplier diversity program also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen products and services to carry the AARP name. By working together toward a common vision and goal, AARP creates a nation where people of every background, income or social status discover their real possibilities for living a life of independence, dignity and purpose.

That’s why engaging people of all backgrounds and cultures is not only a vital piece of AARP’s community strategy, it is also an integral part of its business. Given that there are many models for building supplier diversity programs, Marcus established several components to the AARP model in 2015 that would give it a competitive advantage. Garnering the support of AARP’s CEO Jo Ann Jenkins and the entire executive management team, the supplier diversity program continues to contribute to the success of AARP’s enterprise strategy.

Some components of the program include 15-day payment terms for certified small and diverse businesses to help fund growth, innovation and job creation; a supplier diversity web page and supplier diversity portal; and a Supplier Diversity Awards and Recognition Program and mentorship. Historically, AARP has partnered with Disability:IN and National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) to mentor disabled and LGBT business owners. In addition to a robust model, AARP spends more than 18% of what is defined as “eligible spend” with more than 500 small and diverse suppliers. These small and diverse suppliers are included in every category of the spend base, including higher margin segments such as investment management, marketing and advertising and outsourced services.

AARP’s commitment to developing a diverse supplier base has not gone unnoticed. The nonprofit has been the recipient of numerous awards through the years, including the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC) Corporation of the Year award; US Black Chamber of Commerce (USBC) Corporation of the Year award; OMNIKAL America’s Top 50 Organizations for Multicultural Business Opportunities award for four consecutive years; Elite Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Network (SDVOB) Veteran Champion of the Year award; The National Veterans Opportunity Coalition (TNVOC) Corporation of the Year award; Forbes One of America’s Best Employers for Diversity award; Minority Business News USA (MBNUSA) Allstars of Supplier Diversity award for two consecutive years and the Women Presidents’ Educational Organization (WPEO) DC Done Deals Public Sector award.

AARP is just getting started. The key word for AARP’s Supplier Diversity program in 2021 is Expansion. AARP will focus on expanding the number of opportunities available for small and diverse businesses within its supply chain, by identifying expiring contracts and vetting small and diverse suppliers in advance so that when opportunities become available, the supplier diversity team will have a list ready to supply to their internal clients. The team will take advantage of the AARP supplier diversity portal to identify suppliers to vet. AARP is committed to advocating for the 50+ population and small and diverse suppliers, of which many are inclusive of the 50+ population. “I believe that a diverse supply base is a key source of innovation and perspectives which continues to build and strengthen a culturally competent organization,” says Marcus.

“Successful supplier diversity initiatives perpetuate a cycle of equitable empowerment and create a better tomorrow.”