By: Alix Ladd

A breakthrough goal is an ambitious goal set without knowing how to achieve it.

At the Mackinac Policy Conference in 2019, Consumers Energy announced a breakthrough goal:  to double our spend with diverse suppliers over the next five years. By sharing the goal on that stage, we invited our customers and peers to hold us accountable.

Just four years later – one year ahead of schedule – we achieved it!

Ed Clifford, who had recently joined Consumers Energy as Executive Director of Supply Chain, proposed the goal. We asked what inspired him. “I knew that it was critical to a world class supply chain and would enable better outcomes for our business partners. It was scary, but I believed we could get there,” he said.

Getting to know new suppliers is a best practice sourcing strategy. It brings new purchasing options, opportunities and solutions. The supplier diversity team meets new minority-, woman-, veteran-, disabled- and LBGT-owned businesses and makes introductions across the business.

Supplier diversity is one of the company DE&I pillars, along with employee engagement, customer experience and community involvement. Angela Thompkins, our vice president and chief diversity officer, says supplier diversity is a unique force for good.  

“As one of Michigan’s largest employers, we’re embedding DE&I in all we do for our co-workers, customers and communities, and that includes our suppliers,” Thompkins said. “We’re building a world-class, inclusive workforce that better reflects the broader community, and that extends to our suppliers,” Thompkins said. “Focus on supplier diversity advances our DE&I leadership by better reflecting the broader community, not just within our company, but among our vendors and industry.”

Reflecting on how we reached our supplier diversity goal, Supplier Diversity Manager Lynn Wilson was quick to pinpoint important contributors, including top-down leadership support and intentional action among the gas and electric sourcing portfolios.

Our president and CEO, Garrick Rochow, chairs the Executive DE&I Council – an opportunity for senior leaders to hear about DE&I programs across the company with a monthly scorecard report and highlights from senior leadership groups. Supplier diversity spend and related measures are reported on the scorecard, and leaders share success stories among their organizations.

The natural gas category managers identified several capable diverse pipeline suppliers. To bid on natural gas projects, suppliers must achieve several safety certifications. The natural gas team shared information and helped several diverse-owned businesses navigate certification processes. These suppliers were then able to compete for, and win, work in 2022.

The electric category managers recognized the importance of inviting diverse suppliers to compete when the storm restoration contract bid came up in 2022. The electric portfolio is responsible for sourcing storm restoration, substation repair, forestry and other critical efforts.

We doubled our diverse supplier spend from 2019 to 2022 by taking several small steps that together moved us to the goal.

Learn more about our commitment to Supplier Diversity.