Looking to the future: Can we make supplier diversity a priority post-pandemic?

supplier diversity, supply chain
© Igor Ivanov

Mayank Shah, MSDUK, explores how supplier diversity could become a priority in the distant realm of the post-pandemic

The disruption of the pandemic has created a new and often unknown landscape for business. For many corporates, supplier diversity has been put on the back burner throughout the global pandemic.

But for, other corporates have realised that they need to look at local suppliers to keep the continuation of their supplies, particularly when the pandemic disrupted the overseas supply chains.

During these testing times, many companies have managed to continue to deliver.  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.

Moreover, by procuring products and services from small and minority-owned businesses, these diverse and smaller businesses are also contributing to the economy’s recovery both in the UK and worldwide.

The importance of robust supply chains

By looking at local and minority business suppliers, some corporates have created robust supply chains despite the pandemic disruption. Improving their partnerships and collaboration, successfully delivering a diverse supply chain, and achieving the best outcome for all stakeholders. Also, when appropriately instilled, diversity in procurement creates social value to strengthen and embed resilience in our local and broader community.

One brilliant case study 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 UK regions.

For Sony, Brocks Compass met their high standards 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 promotional merchandise and ergonomic equipment.  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.

Sony Pictures Director of Strategic Sourcing at Sony Pictures, Andrew Edgeley, 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.

Generation Z are woke enough to want genuine evidence of change

For many 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 more than a statement on a website; they want evidence.

The last two years of the pandemic has forced a shift in 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.

Furthermore, employees are looking for organisations to have a more ethical approach, particularly in the pandemic where we saw front line workers living in poverty and the Black Lives Matter movement. These are hugely influential messages that have seen young people demanding change and seeing corporations take a more ethical approach.

Five steps to a more diverse supply chain

The first step is always the hardest, and often it can be a challenge to know where to start as a corporate, so I thought I would share five steps to a more diverse supply chain.

Step 1: Look internally and make a strong business case. Share the ‘Whys’ and the ‘what’s’ that supplier diversity brings to the business

Step 2: Look to the leadership team and secure genuine leadership commitment and engagement, and training

Step 3: Training is key. Invest heavily in training people from your supplier sourcing team

Step 4: Accountability. What gets measured gets done. Make supplier diversity accountable and set goals.

Step 5: Join an organisation like MSDUK to learn from peers and the success of other organisations with effective supplier diversity programmes.

It takes two to address supply chain diversity

Diversity in supply chains cannot be addressed by corporates alone. As they say, 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.

Corporations, businesses, the 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.

By 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 in the UK and overseas.


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