11 May 2009 | Jake Kanter
Wal-Mart spent an unprecedented amount with minority and women-owned suppliers last year, according to independently verified figures.
The retail giant spent a total of $8.1 billion (£5.3 billion) with minority businesses in 2008, an increase of 25 per cent - nearly $2 billion (£1.3 billion) - on the year before.
Wal-Mart said it spent $6 billion (£3.9 billion) directly with minority and women-owned vendors who in turn subcontracted $2 billion of spend with their own "diverse" suppliers
Supply management specialist CVM Solutions confirmed the figures.
Harriet Mitchell, the US National Minority Supplier Development Council president, said Wal-Mart had a responsibility to its diverse customer base to contract with minority-owned business
"Buyers are not doing the best for their company if they don't purchase from minority vendors," she said.
"Minority businesses can bring innovation and cost savings."
Theresa Barrera, vice-president of supplier diversity at Wal-Mart, said the retailer was "proud" to commit to diverse suppliers in "difficult times".
Contracting with minority suppliers is popular in the US. Hotel group Marriott announced it spent $500 million (£331 million) with minority vendors in 2008 (News, 19 March).
Wal-Mart also invested in creating opportunities for minority suppliers and developing their skills. It held 'meet the buyer' events and donated $25 million (£16 million) to the Pinnacle Minority Supplier Development Fund, a resource for vendors who need capital to grow.