Strengthening Communities Through Supplier Diversity, a Conversation with Procurement Executive Shelley Stewart

July 26, 2022

“It was an easy choice made easier by the good it does.”

That’s how procurement executive Shelley Stewart Jr described his decades-long relationship with Compass Group and Thompson Hospitality and that relationship’s value to the communities it serves. Stewart led worldwide sourcing at United Technologies in 1997 when Compass and Thompson came on board to provide food service as a joint venture under a new diverse supplier program Stewart was building.

“Our leadership at United Technologies – CEO George David and vice president of supply chain Kent Britton – thought having a diverse supply base was important, even in those days,” said Stewart about his mandate to reengineer United Technologies’ supplier diversity program, the timing for which happened to coincide with the creation of the Compass Group and Thompson Hospitality partnership.

“George David became chair of the board of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, which meant we were fully engaged. Having leadership at the top of the organization driving that change made my job a lot easier, but so did Compass and Thompson, because they quickly proved to be better than any other alternative – not just diverse suppliers, ALL suppliers.”

Stewart was so impressed with the value the partnership created for United Technologies that he later brought in Compass and Thompson to compete for contracts at his next three posts with Raytheon Technologies, Tyco and DuPont.

“Raytheon, Tyco and DuPont all had very strong advocates in supplier diversity, but it was also easy for us because the Compass and Thompson relationship was proved out. It was one that created value from a diverse supplier perspective, yes, but also the service they offered, their cost competitiveness – all the things that someone in my job is looking for – were better,” said Stewart. “It was an easy win.”

For a procurement executive like Stewart, the proof is in the data. Now retired, he continues his life’s work as chair of the Billion Dollar Roundtable, which is made up of the 28 corporations spending $83 billion with diverse suppliers. The Billion Dollar Roundtable advocates for supply chain diversity excellence and produces an annual report that quantifies diverse supplier programs’ impact on communities. To Stewart, the proof for what makes the Compass Group and Thompson Hospitality partnership great is not only in value it creates for its clients, but in the economic impact on the communities it serves.

“We look at the economic impact that doing business with diverse suppliers has on communities. Who do they hire? They hire diverse people, right? Who do they buy from? They buy from diverse suppliers,” said Stewart. “It impacts not just the company that you’re doing business with, but also the larger community.”