The whole area of supply chain diversity is a deeper aspect of diversity and inclusion and one that employers in Ireland have been slower to fully embrace. The reasons for this are varied – with some considering it difficult to engage with and others not seeing it yet as a priority.
However, supplier diversity within an organisation can:
- create competitive advantage;
- develop an inclusive, competitive supply chain that reflects the demographics of the customer base;
- create a multiplier effect that adds more jobs, revenue and vitality to communities.
Such was the topic for a thought leadership event run by eir this month under the aegis of their diversity and inclusion programme. The audience comprised procurement and supply chain specialists including Independent News and Media, ESB, Ericsson and others, all interested in taking diversity and inclusion to the next level and engaging with systems that apply diversity in the relationship between companies and their suppliers. Kara McGann, Senior Labour Market Policy Executive, Ibec moderated the event and speakers included Carolan Lennon, Managing Director of eir’s wholesale business, eir’s Procurement Director Anne Stewart, Eavann Murphy, Chief Commercial Officer and Margot Slattery, Managing Director, Sodexo Ireland alongside panellists Grainne D’Arcy, Global IT Strategy Sourcing Manager, Intel, Catherine Vaughan, Head of Compliance, EY and Davin Roche, Director of Workplace Diversity, GLEN.
While eir have a well-established commitment to diversity and inclusion, the motivation for this event was to take their work forward and impact how they do business through having an inclusive procurement process. Ms. Stewart spoke about eir's plans to apply best practice in diversity through the entire procurement process so as to build sustainable solutions with suppliers. This includes everything from vendor set up and purchase communications processes to supplier contract negotiations. eir also gave an excellent overview as to how diversity and inclusion features as a key pillar of their CSR strategy and the work that has been engaged in to date.
Some of the core themes shared from the interactive workshop included:
Get leadership buy-in
The motivation for engaging with supply chain diversity varied slightly from organisation to organisation but included the influence on the social and economic development of communities, its growing importance to clients, competitive advantage and differentiation and the need to reflect the diversity of the customer base. In all cases the leadership team were driving and supporting supply chain diversity within the organisations. Both Sodexo and Intel had specific public global targets to achieve in the form of a $1 billion spend with SME’s or certified diverse suppliers.
Reaching diverse suppliers
While having targets and goals around a diverse supply chain is important – the next step is trying to identify and engage with these suppliers. In Ireland, unlike other countries supply chain diversity has typically been limited to female owned and operated companies or SME’s. In other countries veterans, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and ethnic minority run organisations often feature. Many of the organisations work with WeConnect International, an agency that certifies and registers women’s businesses as being 51% owned and operated by women, the criteria typically used to designate a diverse supplier. It was noted that there is a gap in Ireland for a certifying body to identify and register diverse suppliers.
Provide support and development for diverse suppliers
A number of the organisations have put formal support and mentoring programmes in place to help diverse suppliers, including SME’s and NGO’s, to address the challenges they faced and to help them pitch to larger organisations. The programmes had a number of features including workshops to address skills gaps, sessions to introduce suppliers to decision makers and buyers, and direct one-to-one mentoring on commercial conversations, pitching for business, and how to do business with multinationals.
Global versus local
It was noted that sometimes an organisation faces challenges when their global approach to diversity and inclusion meets the local legal landscape in certain countries. Organisations navigate this carefully by respecting sensitive issues like sexual orientation where the safety and security of their people could be at risk. EY discussed how they handle this for example with regards LGBT employees in countries where it is illegal to be gay. While EY has a clear organisational policy supporting an inclusive work environment and has initiatives and networks geared towards LGBT colleagues and their allies, they have to respect the country culture. This has led to the unusual situation whereby employees may be “out” and supported through policy and practice at work, where it would be illegal to be “out” in their non-work lives.
Demonstrating your diversity credentials
As a supplier there are often requests in the tender process to demonstrate how the organisation is diverse or supports diversity and inclusion. Advice was offered by the panellists regarding how that can be achieved. This included the diversity breakdown in the organisation, the results of engagement surveys with sections of diversity questions, and how the organisation has fared in awards. GLEN developed the Workplace Equality Index last year and it includes a section on supplier diversity. Panellists explained how participation, shortlisting and success in these types of awards can add to the diversity credentials of an organisation.
For further information on diversity and inclusion please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our diversity section on the Ibec website.
Monday, 30 May 2016