CAMSC fair showcases diverse suppliers

Event includes best practice workshops, strategic sourcing round tables and one-on-one meetings with suppliers and purchasing managers

April 12, 2013
by By Michael Power

Supplier diversity programs are more than simply a “worthwhile cause.” That was the message from Blackberry’s director of supply chain, Melinda Painter, who offered opening remarks during the 2013 Canadian Aboriginal & Minority Supplier Diversity Council’s (CAMSC’s) Diversity Procurement Fair, held April 9-10 at the Weston Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto.

Each year, the fair aims to support supply chain diversity by connecting aboriginal and minority owned business to corporations. The event included best practice workshops, strategic sourcing round tables and one-on-one meetings with suppliers and purchasing managers.

During her comments at the opening night’s reception, Painter stressed the value of the event not only for suppliers but also for corporations that attend looking to connect with those suppliers.

“It’s not (simply) a worthwhile cause,” she told attendees. “It’s good for your bottom line.”

During the morning program on April 10, Eric Fergin, TELUS’s vice-president of procurement, told the audience about the company’s supplier diversity program. Diverse suppliers are nimble and highly adaptable, Fergin said, and there’s a long-term value to new perspectives and business processes. Such diversity is a vital resource that will help the company stay competitive, he noted. TELUS is confident they’ll see higher costs savings and more creativity through their program.

The company is also introducing a mentoring program to focus especially on diverse suppliers, Fergin said. The program will include workshops focusing on proposals and will encourage their tier-2 suppliers to join CAMSC.

During a panel discussion on procurement and social responsibility Pascale Legros, sustainable procurement manager at HP, stressed the importance of getting support from senior leadership for policies surrounding diversity, sustainability and so forth. As well, developing metrics and key performance indicators can help track performance, Legros noted.

The largest challenge in implementing CSR goals has been balancing those goals with cost savings, Legros noted. While small suppliers can boast great quality, using larger suppliers can also mean multiple volumes and savings, she said. Her largest success, she told the audience, was saving $2 million over six months through sustainability initiatives.

Marcia Seymour, senior manager, special projects and change management, strategic sourcing group at TD Bank Financial Group, noted the biggest challenge she faced while implementing CSR initiatives has been crafting a 16-question sustainability questionnaire for suppliers. The bank asks potential suppliers to complete a questionnaire describing their environmental policies, management systems and recycling practices.

“Our biggest accomplishment is actually getting started and actually implementing and getting questionnaires back from the first RFP,” she said.

The session’s moderator, Patricia Moser, president of consulting company i3 Advantage, stressed the importance of having sustainability and CSR policies embedded in an organization’s culture.

“If it’s not embedded and the champion moves somewhere else, then that legacy goes with them,” she said.

During another panel session on building awareness of supplier diversity programs, Lori Benson, strategic sourcing director at Ernst & Young, also stressed the importance of engaging internal stakeholders in efforts to promote supplier diversity.

“Make sure your internal people know how important is it,” she said. “It becomes teams of people sending the message, rather than one person.”