Big Businesses Can Promote Diversity

Burt Jordan, vice president of the Ford Motor Co.’s global vehicle and powertrain purchasing and supplier diversity, believes big businesses have a responsibility to support minority-owned and operated companies around the world. He continues to take that sentiment and apply it to what companies Ford decides to boost through its goods purchases and local business partnerships. Jordan was recognized in the book, “Driven: A Tribute to African American Achievement in the Automotive Industry” in 2011 and was named one of the 70 Most Influential African American Men in the Automotive Industry by African Americans On Wheels Magazine.

How does Ford’s supplier diversity development program help diversify business?

The mission of supplier diversity development is to economically empower diverse communities through the creation of wealth. The program was started in 1978. Ford recognized that it had a social responsibility to provide opportunity to minority individuals and their communities. When Ford started this program there were few minority-owned and operated companies with the capabilities to provide the goods and services purchased by Ford and other automotive manufacturers. At the direction of Henry Ford II, a program was designed to identify high-potential minority business persons and assist them in growing their companies to competitive positions in our industry.

At Ford Motor Co., we extended our diverse program to include (but not limited to) businesses categorized as minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, as well as businesses located in historically underutilized business regions and small, disadvantaged businesses.

Why is it important for large companies to support minority-, female- and veteran-owned businesses?

Ford believes that everyone benefits when all businesses are afforded an opportunity to compete in the marketplace. It is our expectation that diverse suppliers deliver innovative value propositions, invest in their communities, provide job opportunities to socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, maintain their own supplier diversity development program and contribute to the social well-being by supporting community-based organizations.

How can organizations, both big and small, implement this same initiative?

One of the hallmarks of our supplier diversity development, or SDD, program is the top-down commitment. Since the SDD program was implemented 35 years ago, each CEO and C-suite leader has embraced the mission and vision of the program. We have also built metrics and initiatives for the SDD program into quarterly corporate reviews, ensuring that these initiatives remain top of mind and that our team is accountable for staying on track with our diversity goals.

How does diversity and inclusion, in this regard, add to Ford’s growth?

Diversity and inclusion for our employees and our suppliers is an integral part of the DNA of our company as well as with the Ford family. Embracing various cultures strengthens our competitive advantage and allows Ford to deliver the very best products to a diverse and growing marketplace. We believe the success of Ford largely depends on enabling people and businesses of all kinds to succeed and share in the One Ford plan of profitable growth for all.

In your opinion, what role does big business play in supporting a diverse workforce?

Throughout the history of Ford Motor Co., inclusion has been as much a part of the company’s success as the great products our diverse employee base has created. Ford is a leader in diversity and inclusion, and both remain key Ford business strategies. Our diversity makes us a better company, a stronger company, by bringing in fresh ideas, perspectives, experiences and life responsibilities, and by fostering a truly collaborative workplace.

Jessica DuBois-Maahs is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. She can be reached at