Supplier Diversity: The First 2 Months of COVID-19 In Supply Chains

Supplier diversity: the first 2 months of COVID-19 in supply chains

There’s no doubt – COVID 19 hit the business community with tornado strength. Since mid-March, businesses have had to re-organize, shift priorities, pivot how they do business, re-tool to answer the call for necessary equipment, sadly lay off staff, make wage cuts and for many, multi-task as they spend their days at home with children, managing at-home learning while managing their day to day operations in these difficult times.

We wondered. In all of this craziness, how has our community of corporate and government buyers continued keeping supplier diversity a priority? Did supplier diversity fall off the radar or did inclusion of women-owned businesses in supply chains remain a focus among the buyers. And have women-owned businesses kept pace with the new and often challenging demands of major corporations to keep supply chains working? So, we asked the question to our member corporations and WBEs: ”What has happened to supplier diversity during COVID-19?” Here are some stories from both our Certified WBE community and Corporate/Government Member organizations we want to share. 

Staff Shop Inc.

Staff Shop is a Certified WBE company specializing in temporary, temp-hire, contract and direct hire hospitality & event staffing, across the Greater Toronto Area and beyond. With COVID-19 hitting the event industry hard, all events were cancelled and Staff Shop came to a sudden halt. Staff Shop had to think differently and act differently and pivot in order to survive. 

Staff Shop pivoted very quickly to staffing essential services. Luckily their experience and business model allowed them to staff any industry. They changed their focus to staffing for cleaning, retail, light industrial, meal prep, delivery etc. and are now assessing healthcare staffing as their next step. 

Supplier diversity during COVID-19 - Acetronic story


Accenture is a founding member of WBE Canada, supporting the organization since its beginnings in 2009, playing a major role in shaping supplier diversity programming and best practices in Canada. 

As COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Accenture quickly gathered supplier information, conducted RFIs and onboarded diverse suppliers for PPE and other essential services within the first 4 weeks of the pandemic. They also purchased masks for offices across North America which were delivered within days of the purchase. 

Supplier diversity during COVID-19 - Accenture supply chain


RBC is a founding member of WBE Canada with a strong commitment to supporting Canadian women-owned businesses through their supply chain opportunities. 

“On behalf of RBC Global Procurement I would like to thank WBEs who were able to meet our pandemic supply demands during this challenging period,” said Kiruba Sankar, Director-CSR, Global Procurement at RBC. “Your support and committed supply helped our bank branch staff to serve our clients during this COVID 19 situation. During these 8 weeks we onboarded 4 new WBE suppliers to RBC as direct suppliers with a quick payment process to support their cash flow.”

Supplier diversity during COVID-19 - RBC supply chain

AceTronic Industrial Controls

AceTronic is a Certified WBE company focusing on repair, calibration, control and plastic processing products. Established in 1983, the company provides comprehensive manufacturing and distribution for standard and custom solutions in the plastic industry. 

“About 3 years ago Acetronic introduced a food approved disinfectant/sanitizer product, Ultralyte, to our portfolio,” said Kim Thiara, title, Acetronic. “We chose to market Ultralyte as a means of reducing absenteeism in the workplace and decreasing the number of sick days employees took. We approached a few of our customers and received some interest, but not enough to deplete our inventory. Because of COVID-19 we were able to allow some vital work to begin with one of our biggest accounts, ABC Technologies. ABC Technologies became aware that AceTronic was offering a disinfectant/sanitizer. Traditionally an automotive TIER 1 supplier, for well over 60 years, ABC Technologies pivoted immediately. Within 3 weeks they were able to provide General Motors ventilator components. These components would enable General Motors to build much needed ventilators. Our ability to provide ABC Technologies with Ultralyte reinforced AceTronics’ vision of ensuring we meet and exceed our customers expectations and provide them with solutions. We are all part of such a bigger picture, no matter how small and insignificant we may feel, our contributions are important and valuable.” 

Supplier diversity during COVID-19 - Acetronic story


BMO is WBE Canada’s founding member with a strong commitment to supplier diversity and inclusion of Canadian women-owned businesses in their supply chains. In their own words:

“BMO continues to seek out and cultivate strong relationships with local and diverse businesses, ensuring that Supplier Diversity is a top priority. Our partnership with WBE Canada has helped to support our PPE requirements by giving BMO access to high-quality products that keep our employees safe and help businesses in our communities.”

Supplier diversity at BMO during COVID-19


BDC is one of our newer Corporate Members, yet they’re known for their commitment to supplier diversity. Understanding that financial relief supports became their primary focus during COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to know where they stand in their supplier diversity efforts. Here’s what we found out: 

“While BDC’s main focus is on helping entrepreneurs with financial relief, we continue purchasing from our existing WBE suppliers and are still looking for new certified suppliers to fulfill our needs.”

Supplier diversity during COVID-19 - BDC supply chain

STEM Minds

STEM Minds is a Certified WBE company, a K-12 STEM content creator and program provider for both in-person and online #fearlesslearning, designed by expert educators and technical professionals and supported by research and education pedagogy.

STEM Minds was founded in March 2016 based on a personal need identified by the founder and CEO, Anu Bidani. With aspirations to introduce her two bright boys to STEM-based learning and career opportunities, she knew she couldn’t leave it to the schools alone. STEM Minds was born right in Anu’s own community of Aurora, Ontario.

Over the next 3 years more than 30,000+ students discovered their place in the world of STEM through school workshops and classes as well as programs delivered in the state-of-the-art STEM Minds learning centre. 

With powerful programs taught by certified teachers and STEM experts, they helped kids explore their passions and find the power of #fearlesslearning. Knowing that the STEM Minds approach to STEM learning worked, the team committed themselves to taking STEM Minds to the global community.

COVID-19 crisis presented STEM Minds with a new challenge – the need to bring their training into a virtual environment. What seemed like an obstacle turned into a great opportunity. Through the development of the STEM Minds Online Academy and the launch of Virtual STEM Camps for ages 4-14, STEM Minds is now bringing the power of STEM to the whole world, with clients from across Canada and in countries including Brazil, China, and more to empower the next generation of leaders, game changers, and problem solvers. 

Supplier diversity during COVID-19 - STEM Minds story

Staples Promotional Products

Staples Promotional Products is the company focusing on branded promotional products with a strong commitment to procuring from Canadian women-owned businesses. In their own words…

“Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Staples Promotional Products is continuing to engage new WBE suppliers and supporting their growth through branded solutions for our clients.”

Supplier diversity during COVID-19 - Staples Promotional Products supply chain


As WBE Canada’s founding member, TELUS has showcased a great leadership and commitment to the success of Canadian WBEs. 

“At TELUS, we ensure that our WBE suppliers continue to be supported during COVID-19, and are proactively seeking opportunities where diverse suppliers can support us with increased short-term demand in certain spend areas.”

Supplier diversity during COVID-19 - TELUS supply chain

The WBE Canada community is full of many more inspiring stories of commitment to supplier diversity on the side of corporate/government organizations as well as stories of innovation on the Canadian WBE side. It is encouraging to see how Canadian women-owned businesses continue innovating and pivoting to provide solutions for the large organizations and make a difference at the time of crisis.  

As we witness disruption in supply chains around the globe, it is refreshing to observe the continued commitment of our Corporate Members to including women-owned businesses in their procurement opportunities which speaks volume about their corporate citizenship. Making the right decisions to support communities that are impacted the hardest takes intention and leadership. With such commitments on both sides of supply chains our future looks bright – perhaps more large organizations could tap into creativity, innovations and efficiencies of Canadian women-owned businesses to put us on a growth trajectory. To learn more about Corporate Membership, click here.