Showcasing diversity—May print edition

Buyers and suppliers network and learn at CAMSC supplier diversity fair

June 21, 2013
by By Michael Power

Supplier diversity represents much 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) Supplier Diversity Fair, held April 9-10 at the Weston Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto.

The annual event’s goal is to support supply chain diversity by connecting aboriginal and minority-owned business to corporations that might be interested in doing business with them. The event featured best practice workshops, strategic sourcing round tables and one-on-one meetings with suppliers and purchasing managers.

Painter stressed the value the event offers not only to suppliers but also buying corporations. “It’s not a worthwhile cause,” she told attendees. “It’s good for your bottom line.”
During the program, Eric Fergin, TELUS’s vice-president of procurement, described the company’s supplier diversity program. Diverse suppliers are nimble and adaptable, Fergin said, and add value through new perspectives and business processes. The company is also starting a mentoring program focused on diverse suppliers, he said. The program will include workshops highlighting proposal writing and will encourage tier-2 suppliers to join CAMSC.

During a panel discussion on corporate social responsibility and procurement, Pascale Legros, HP’s sustainable procurement manager, stressed the importance of securing support from senior leadership for policies surrounding diversity, sustainability and CSR. Developing metrics and key performance indicators can help track performance, Legros noted.

The largest challenge in implementing sustainability policies has been balancing the organization’s goals with cost savings, Legros noted. The company employs smaller suppliers that offer high quality while also using global suppliers that boast 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 initiatives has been crafting the 16 questions that appear on their 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 was getting started and actually implementing and getting questionnaires back from the first RFP,” she said.

The session’s moderator, Patricia Moser, president of 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.

Building awareness
During another session on building awareness of supplier diversity programs, Rosilee Peevers of Merck described a survey the pharmaceutical company performed to understand current vendors. Merck wanted to leverage the results of the baseline survey to reach out within and outside the company, Peevers noted. The survey results formed the basis of a supplier diversity event to engage suppliers and create program awareness.

The three-to-five-minute survey contained fewer than 10 questions and was emailed to suppliers. It asked questions about business type, geography, product and ownership category and whether they were interested in learning more about supplier diversity, Peevers said. The survey eventually got a 20-percent participation rate.
The survey helped Merck identify suppliers that could be certified as diverse, created awareness, set an internal supplier diversity baseline, got external partners on board and created momentum surrounding supplier diversity, Peevers noted.

Merck also held an event at their Kirkland, Quebec site. Through that event, Peevers said, Merck was able to expand alliances with external organizations and introduce suppliers to certifying organizations like CAMSC and WeConnect.

During the same session, Lori Benson, strategic sourcing director at Ernst & Young, 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.”