BDR celebrates 20 years of supplier diversity excellence

By M.V. Greene

For the Billion Dollar Roundtable Inc., or BDR, at age 20 — the journey continues.

The corporate-based advocacy organization is marking the 20th anniversary of its founding this year, still advancing a vision to lead, influence and shape supplier-diversity excellence globally.

Since 2001, BDR has recognized and celebrated U.S. companies with a demonstrated commitment of an annual supply-chain diversity spend of $1 billion or more, while collaborating and targeting best practices that move the function forward.

Sharon Patterson, who co-founded the organization with Shirley Harrison and Don McKneely, said BDR remains as relevant now as it was at the founding. “The vision for the future of supplier diversity is full of hope,” Patterson said. “It involves the awarding of continued growth opportunities, training and development to all types of diverse suppliers in corporate supply chains at every level.”


How did the BDR take root?

Patterson and Harrison were working with a corporate group when the company’s composite procurement spend with minority- and women-owned businesses reached $1 billion in 2001. They and the C-suite were thrilled at the achievement and wanted to celebrate the milestone and keep that spend momentum going, Patterson recalled.

“They also wondered what other corporations had achieved the same milestone and what could be learned by a confluence of ideas from this accomplishment,” she said.

Enter MBN USA publisher Don McKneely, president and CEO of TexCorp Communications Inc., and conversations began among the co-founders. He had created a model in his publications for a “Million Dollar Roundtable”, a group of supply-chain procurement individuals who spent more than $1 million annually with minority suppliers that served as an inspiration for what was to come, Patterson said.

The co-founders brainstormed ideas, surveyed other corporations and then put forth an ambitious plan to launch an organization where the diversity spend threshold would be $1 billion, thus the creation of Billion Dollar Roundtable Inc.

“Twenty years ago, we were making good progress and seeing positive success in supplier diversity. The whole idea was to build on that success and take supplier diversity to the next level. The creation of the Billion Dollar Roundtable gave companies a new focus and new targets they could shoot for. We found that very positive and very progressive companies wanted to be a part of this movement,” McKneely said.

Ten charter member companies joined the not-for-profit effort in 2001, including current members AT&T, IBM, Walmart, Verizon Communications, General Motors, Ford and Daimler Chrysler — now Stellantis.

Fast forward 20 years, and BDR is sticking to its founding principles — promoting thought leadership on key topics in supplier diversity, conducting annual best practices summits, launching new initiatives and programs, and collaborating with like-minded organizations. BDR recently marked its anniversary at its annual summit, titled “Celebrating Two Decades of Resiliency & Transformation”, which was conducted for the first time as a virtual event because of the pandemic.

Today, 28 corporations — including the seven charter members — make up BDR’s roster of member companies. In addition to the charter members, other BDR member companies are Adient Apple, Avis Budget Group, Bank of America, Boeing, CDW, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Cummins, CVS Health, Dell, Exelon, Honda North America, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Kaiser Permanente, Kroger, Merck, Microsoft, Pacific Gas and Electric, Procter & Gamble and Toyota Motor North America. 

A 2020 BDR report showed that documented composite supply-chain diversity spend of its member companies had reached $115 billion.

BDR Chairman Shelley Stewart Jr., retired vice president and chief procurement officer at E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., noted that BDR is an organization that relies on collaboration among its corporate members — even among market competitors — to advance solutions that will benefit the whole universe of the practice of supplier diversity.

In 2020, for instance, BDR launched its BDR Connects webinar series, a recurring program that brings in subject matter experts to tackle specific topics in supplier diversity, such as trends affecting supplier diversity in the automotive and food industries, impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business strategies and impact of global business environments.

In another initiative, BDR is updating its book, “Supplier Diversity Best Practices: Building Excellence to Improve the Supply-Chain Matrix,” to refresh and examine additional best-practice areas for operating viable and successful supplier-diversity programs to achieve billion-dollar spend.

Regarding policy positions, in 2018 BDR added certifications from disability- and veteran-owned enterprises — along with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender- or LGBT-owned enterprises — to minority- and women-owned businesses, as a means for expanding the reach of opportunities for diverse companies.

Stewart said that often corporations will need to undergo organizational culture changes to reach the billion-dollar spend breakthrough, requiring the involvement of leadership at all levels of the organization. As a condition of membership, BDR member companies are audited annually to ensure they continue to meet the spend threshold.

“Yes, it is difficult to get to $1 billion and to sustain it. Corporations must think hard and long about their commitments to diverse suppliers to drive the change needed to deliver a $1 billion-plus [spend],” he said.

Stewart added that BDR works with corporations seeking to achieve BDR membership through its Ambassador program, in which a current member company is assigned to a prospective member to review requirements.

Patterson said BDR looks forward to pushing ahead with innovative achievements that will continue to propel the organization.

“Supplier diversity is receiving outstanding attention worldwide. It’s an exciting time. Investment entities interested in investing in diverse businesses are making funds available in record numbers. This is the time to invest in diverse suppliers to help them build capacity and elevate capability,” she said.


To learn more about BDR, visit


BDR past chairmen  2001-2021 in order of succession

•  Don McKneely

• Jethro Joseph

• Bill Moon

• Rick Hughes

• Shelley Stewart


BDR Shirley Harrison Don Mckneely Sharon Patterson MBN USA TexCorp Communication Inc Million Dollar Roundtable Billion Dollar Roundtable

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