Supplier Representation

Published on June 08, 2017 and last updated on August 02, 2019

As part of our broader efforts to increase diversity, Walmart developed a program to encourage key account supplier teams that support Walmart to increase the diversity of their teams.
Supplier meeting

As part of our broader efforts to increase diversity, Walmart developed a program to encourage key account supplier teams that support Walmart to increase the diversity of their teams.

The program did not impose quotas or targets. Instead our goal was to encourage suppliers to reflect on their diversity goals and to take steps to meet them. To support our suppliers, we provided data to help them understand how their diversity performance compared to that of their peers.

In 2014, we began asking professional services suppliers to report the gender and the ethnic make-up of their key account teams. In 2016, the program was extended to merchandise suppliers that sold more than $1 billion in goods per year through Walmart U.S. or Sam’s Club.

Walmart created an easy-to-use site where our suppliers can complete the survey and access information on our diversity programs and resources, including Women's Economic Empowerment (WEE) programs. After a supplier completes the survey, we share dashboard reports that benchmark each supplier’s diversity performance against other participating suppliers on an anonymous basis. This gives suppliers an opportunity to benchmark their performance and to look for opportunities for improvement.

What We Did

  • Step 1: Start the Process
    Build infrastructure and systems to survey and track diversity performance.

    Determine infrastructure needs: Define resources needed for design, creation and execution of survey.
    • Form a working group to determine needs, provide feedback, and identify champions in each business area.
    • Review internal and external information technology capabilities to determine the best solutions for delivering the survey to users.

    Establish program goals: Define desired outcomes and ownership of the data.
    • Determine the data to be gathered from suppliers and the level of detail.
    • Create a toolkit with Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for external use as well as fact sheets for internal use.
    • Consider how data will be aggregated and publicized.

    Build and leverage leadership support: Align on importance, purpose and execution strategy
  • Step 2: Pilot and Test
    Create initial survey and supplier test group.

    Build and test the survey: Form team to design, create and test survey.
    • Schedule frequent updates to align on survey questions and process.
    • Determine companies to survey and build contact list.
    • Define steps suppliers will take to complete the survey.
    • Test survey system with a subset of suppliers.

    Conduct test: Review survey performance and results.
    • Analyze survey results to create baseline for supplier diversity.
    • Review and assess system performance.
    • Establish “Correction of Errors” process with supplier feedback, if possible.
    • Communicate findings to leadership with plan for improvements.
    • Provide site resources that reflect user needs.
  • Step 3: Program Launch
    Launch survey with full supplier group.

    Prepare communications and survey suppliers: Create up-to-date supplier contact list.
    • Draft communication for leaders to send to suppliers.
    • Pull internal report showing suppliers that meet sales threshold, e.g., those with more than $1 billion in annual sales through Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club.
    • Collect supplier contact information for full group.
    • Survey suppliers.
    • Analyze and share results.


Walmart’s first survey in 2014 showed that 35% of professionals, managers and executives on 38 professional services suppliers key account teams serving Walmart were women or ethnic minorities. These professional services suppliers key account teams subsequently reported in 2016 that their diversity had increased to 41%.

Results of year over year for large merchandise suppliers will be posted in the Fall of 2017.

Lessons Learned

Program clarity

  • Many suppliers and employees confused the program with initiatives aimed at diverse suppliers, those that are owned by women, minorities, veterans, etc.
  • Others thought the survey applied to the entire employee base of the supplier and not just the teams supporting Walmart or Sam’s Club. It was important to clearly communicate that the survey questions pertained to employees on the supplier’s key account teams serving Walmart or Sam’s Club.


  • The request for suppliers to report on the diverse make-up of their account teams must be accompanied by the business rationale for diversity. We found it helpful to have suppliers' CEO support for the program to clearly articulate the business rationale.
  • Beyond the CEO, leadership buy-in was crucial for driving resources and company alignment.

Supplier benefit

  • While some of our suppliers had already made commitments to build diverse workforces, they weren’t looking at individual teams. This was a benefit we were able to provide.
  • An insights dashboard was critical in offering suppliers information on how they compared to others that took the survey. All suppliers remained anonymous.


  • Timing was important. We delayed rollout to align with corporate strategy for supplier communication.
  • Maintaining an up-to-date supplier contact list was key to success because contacts changed frequently. Reaching the right person was essential for survey completion.
  • Response rates improved when communication to suppliers came from leadership within Walmart.

Additional Resources