Why supplier diversity should be top of the to-do list

posted by Mayank Shah
6 April 2022

The last two years have been a new landscape for business.

Supplier diversity has been put on the back burner for some corporates throughout the global pandemic. But other corporates have realised that they need to look at local suppliers to keep the continuation of their supplies, particularly when the pandemic disrupted overseas supply chains.

These are the companies that have managed to continue to deliver. Moreover, by procuring products and services from small and minority-owned businesses, these diverse and smaller businesses are also contributing to the recovery of the UK economy.

Large corporates spend millions of pounds with suppliers annually but changing their supply chains to include more diverse suppliers is beneficial to both the corporate and the supplier.

Diversity matters

There is no doubt that the pandemic disrupted supply chains. However, by engaging with diverse suppliers, corporates can improve their partnerships and collaboration, successfully delivering a diverse supply chain, and achieving the best outcome for all stakeholders. Moreover, when instilled properly, diversity in procurement creates social value to strengthen and embed resilience in our local communities. 

A great example of how a diverse supply chain helped global name Sony Pictures UK was when they were in the middle of its summer blockbusters' production at Pinewood Studios and on locations across the UK when the pandemic hit early 2020. As a member of MSDUK, they reached out to us to recommend diverse suppliers who could provide certified PPE products. They were looking for a diverse supplier to provide certified PPE products that could offer a flexible and agile approach to delivery and serve all regions in the UK. 

Brocks Compass was able to meet the high standards Sony required for its PPE products, and on many occasions, the team has gone the extra mile to deliver last-minute requests in different filming locations across the UK. In addition, Brocks Compass has expanded the business to supply ergonomic equipment and promotional merchandise.

Sony Pictures demonstrated its ability to be agile and highlighted its commitment to supplier diversity by integrating Brocks Compass in its procurement systems to work more effectively. 

Talking about the supply chain, Andrew Edgeley, director of strategic sourcing at Sony Pictures, said: Sony wants to send a message that small, diverse companies can add value to the baseline. Not only did they deliver, but they have been competitive, offering the flexibility we need to keep our latest productions from Cinderella to Venom 2 and many other movies on track safely. Dee Patel at Brocks Compass has been quite phenomenal because he doesn't let me down and always goes the extra mile.

We are also noticing that more and more, this is something that new employees are looking for, a purpose-driven generation with higher expectations.

The next generation

Corporates, as a rule, generally include social responsibility, equality, and justice on their websites and in their mission statements. However, the next generation of employees are more Woke and want evidence, not just a statement on a website.

The pandemic has shifted the need; it's no longer enough to have a statement on the website. When graduates apply to us now, they ask us what they are doing on climate change, local communities, etc. In addition, employees are looking for organisations to have a more ethical approach, particularly in the pandemic where we saw front essential line workers living in poverty and the Black Lives Matter movement. Both powerful messages have seen young people demanding change and a more ethical approach from corporates.  

Where to start

It can be a challenge to know where to start as a corporate, so I thought I would share five steps to making your supply chain more diverse.

  • Start internally and make a strong business case. Share the 'Whys' and the 'what's' that supplier diversity brings to the business
  • Secure genuine leadership commitment and engagement and training
  • Invest heavily in training people from your supplier sourcing team
  • Make supplier diversity accountable and set goals, because what gets measured gets done. 
  • Join an organisation like MSDUK to learn from peers and the success of other organisations with effective supplier diversity programmes.

EMBs need to step up

However, whilst corporates need to address diversity in supply chains, it takes two to tango, and we also need smaller ethnic minority businesses to be open to change. To step up to the plate and engage with corporates they want to work with. Without the EMBs, the corporates can create a diverse supply chain.

Businesses and corporations, and community and government organisations are all stakeholders in creating a diverse supply chain. Each has a role to play in making supplier diversity viable. Their relationships increase the chances of success for such programmes. 

Incorporating supplier diversity objectives is a great way to demonstrate your organisations' commitment to diversity and inclusion. Supporting small and minority-owned businesses, regardless of an owner's race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, or other potentially discriminating factor benefits everyone. Moreover, making this support part of an inclusive business development continuum helps economic growth and will be crucial for our recovery from the pandemic.

If you're reading this and thinking, 'My company needs to do more', you can find out about training available here.

☛ Mayank Shah is CEO and founder of MSDUK.  

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