Supplier partnership in People and communities

As a globally operating company with countless moving parts, we know the scale of impact we can make on local communities around the world by working with suppliers of all backgrounds and sizes. A diverse supply chain promotes innovation, ensures competitive access, and represents our customers’ and employees’ diverse viewpoints in our products and services.

Using the Billion Dollar Roundtable as our North Star, we focused 2021 business diversity efforts in the following areas:

Divisional ownership and accountability

In June, United launched an accelerated Business Diversity Ambassador (BDA) program to establish ownership and accountability at the divisional level. The executive-appointed BDAs will:

  • Establish and be accountable for meeting divisional diverse and small business spend goals
  • Seek out opportunities for increased small and diverse business spend
  • Identify growth and mentorship opportunities for existing suppliers

These principles ensure we are not only considering the quantitative elements of a successful Supplier Diversity program but also those qualitative elements that drive growth, opportunity and economic impact for our diverse suppliers and communities.

Putting it into action

In 2021, United’s Corporate Real Estate team launched a diverse supplier mentoring initiative to ensure our diverse businesses could successfully operate within the airport environment and grow their business with United. The team identified a diverse business enterprise in each of our hub locations and helped navigate known challenges including escorting and badging, risk and insurance, and finding the “right project vs. bidding on all projects”.

In Denver, United partnered with Gilmore Construction, a minority and women’s business enterprise that provides general construction services, including design/build, scheduling and budget management. Gilmore started working with United on a smaller project to help prevent unauthorized boarding and after participating in the mentoring initiative, is now the general contractor for two top projects in the market, DEN B West and the Gate of the Future gate expansion project.

Transparency in data

To build accountability and drive action, United has begun issuing quarterly reports to executive leaders. The reports cover:

  • Total 3rd party spend influenced by the leader’s organization
  • Diverse spend by attribute
  • Spend with small businesses
  • Rate of compliance on tier 2 reporting
  • Rate of inclusion in RFPs.

As part of their core responsibilities, Business Diversity Ambassadors will use these reports and data to advance our progress toward Billion Dollar Roundtable induction.

Continuous education

In June 2021, we launched Business Diversity awareness training, the first in a series of employee-led training sessions to educate, inform and empower every employee to support our business diversity program.  The first e-learning module is geared toward category managers, procurement managers and others with purchasing authority, and raises awareness about the importance of diversity in United's buying process.

Affiliate engagement

We expanded our engagement with National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and partnered with two local affiliates to provide certification assistance for small, diverse owned businesses. NMSDC’s certification is considered the gold standard in supplier diversity and provides certified minority-owned businesses access to privately held and public sector buyers, government entities and educational institutions to help support and grow their businesses.

In collaboration with the Western Region Minority Supplier Diversity Council, and with the Golden State Warriors, United selected 25 minority-owned, Bay Area small businesses to join the Franchise Fund initiative, which offers resources to assist with business growth, including covering costs associated with the businesses receiving Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification from the NMSDC.

Along with the Mountain Plains Minority Supplier Development Council (Mountain Plains MSDC), United helped 50 Denver-area minority-owned businesses pursue their Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification from the NMSDC. 

Supplier sustainability

United continues to expand its partnerships with sustainable suppliers to ensure we reduce our waste footprint as much as possible.

Reducing plastic and improving packaging

Our Shedd the Straw program has eliminated all non-recyclable plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks on our aircraft, replacing them with an environmentally-friendly alternative made out of bamboo. The elimination of plastic stirring sticks and cocktail picks is just part of a larger initiative we are taking to ensure the things we use and serve onboard every day are environmentally friendly. Another includes introducing more sustainable packaging for our illy coffee, of which we use 1.7 million pounds of each year.