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What Do Supplier Diversity and Agility Have in Common?

i4cp’s Chief Diversity Officer Board tackled two seemingly disparate topics in their recent virtual meeting: supplier diversity and i4cp’s latest research on organizational agility. But during the meeting, four themes from the panel on supplier diversity reemerged in the agility presentation:

  • Being the instigator of disruptive change. 
    By focusing on inclusion, organizations that would normally be reactive to change can create safe spaces to surface disruptive ideas. In addition to making organizations more inclusive, diverse suppliers are often more nimble and responsive to their customer’s needs and may be more willing to adopt disruptive change than larger and more established competitors.
  • Sensing the external environment.
    Curiosity and awareness of real-time marketplace dynamics are a characteristic of agile organizations. By bringing fresh perspectives to their supply chains, organizations can increase their awareness of the markets they serve. Panelists revealed that diverse suppliers are often sourced from local businesses in the areas they are expanding in to. This provides insight into local communities, builds good will, and stimulates the economy in the markets in which they operate
  • Developing and managing networks.
    Agile organizations are good at bridging gaps between silos, discovering new expertise, and developing talent to capitalize on new opportunities. Agility also benefits from developing boundaryless leaders who are adept at building both internal and external relationships that promote the flow of ideas and strengthens bonds within their markets. Diverse suppliers bring their own sets of connections to the table, and developing them is a great way to build a trusted network that is attuned to your organization’s needs. Several sources for connecting with diverse supplier networks were shared during the discussion.
  • Putting structures in place to help alleviate risk.
    In diverse supply chain development, overcoming risk means planning support for new suppliers. Several panelists cited the need for mentoring to develop their diverse supplier’s capabilities and increase their effectiveness, as well as developing outreach to recognize and celebrate them for their contributions. All of this led to stronger relationships and lower churn among their supplier.

The panel—comprised of four experts from Chief Diversity Officer Board member companies—discussed various aspects of program development, from building a business case rooted in organizational goals to verifying supplier certification to ensure the legal integrity of their programs. When discussing the impact of a well-developed supplier diversity program, several panelists cited huge revenue boosts from government contracts or similar incentives from fund managers and customer. As a final point of overlap, both supplier diversity and agility start and end with a focus on customers. Several CDOs revealed that adding diverse suppliers to their customer base was a solid success metric.

The meeting ended with i4cp’s CEO Kevin Oakes updating the Board on i4cp’s continued support for CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. Kevin repeated a personal pledge he made at a CEO Action summit in New York to the event’s host, CNN’s Van Jones, to help add 10 new members to the organization. He also updated the Board on a survey on D&I metrics.

Find out more about i4cp’s Chief Diversity Officer Board.
Eric Davis
Eric received his master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Marshall University in 1996. He has had 20+ years of workforce experience in a variety of fields. Before coming to i4cp, he worked as a laboratory technician for DuPont, a conference planner for Marshall University, the public relations manager for the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Technical Manufacturing, and a graphic designer for COX Communications.