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Growing the Canadian Economy through Supplier Diversity


I want to let you into my world and share something about my job that makes me want to come into work every morning. When I first started at TELUS, part of my portfolio was to take on and manage our Supplier Diversity Program within Procurement. Great! I thought …What is Supplier Diversity? …What is Procurement, even? Let’s pretend that last question was just a joke.

In short, the Supplier Diversity Program is an effort to be more inclusive of historically under-represented groups in our supply chain. In layman’s terms: we want to buy more products and services from companies owned and managed by women, aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and members of the LGBTQ community. Canada is a cultural mosaic, so why don’t we (or any Canadian corporation) take advantage of the creativity and innovation of people who represent the makeup of our communities, neighbourhoods and economy?

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This makes sense to me. And it should make sense to you. But I can sense your doubt and uneasiness. So allow me to address your concerns.

You might be thinking, don’t large corporations want to consolidate their number of suppliers? Yes. But let me ask you this: would you rather have one supplier who services 80% of your needs, or two suppliers that service 100% of your needs? If it makes us a better business, frankly the physical count of suppliers becomes irrelevant. There are several niche or highly specialized companies that are able to give us that extra 20%; the competitive advantage.

What does that have to do with Supplier Diversity? I’m glad you asked. I work closely with Canada’s three organizations which certify diverse suppliers: CAMSC (Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council), WEConnect (women owned businesses) and the CGLCC (Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce). These organizations put even the smallest companies on TELUS’ radar. If it wasn’t for our Supplier Diversity Program, we would have no way of knowing who these companies are, or that there are companies that even exist which can service that last 20%. Attaining that extra competitive advantage usually requires a niche or highly specialized business; now we are exposed to a whole network of them.

Don’t get me wrong, not all certified diverse suppliers are small companies. But they are usually smaller than the large corporations that Canadian industries normally deal with. This means they may be more flexible, nimble and able to provide the type of service that a large corporation simply cannot. They are often very responsive, able to meet our demanding timelines, and provide customized solutions. This last point is particularly important.

Having exposure to diverse suppliers brings with it a whole new perspective. It provides us with the opportunity to work with a company to find innovative solutions to common business needs. And guess what? This has positive externalities as well. Say TELUS works with a diverse supplier to improve the collaboration tools within our business; a problem common to many large Canadian corporations which span across our massive geographic landscape. This diverse supplier can in-turn package the solution and sell it to other large corporations. Doesn’t this give up our competitive advantage? Well, if it improves our business and in-turn several other businesses in Canada as well, it improves the economy. This means there will be more people and businesses that can buy products and services from TELUS who then buy more from other companies and so on; cue the exponential positive economic impact.

 

The US is years ahead of us in this space. The US government awards points for supplier diversity in government bids and mandates large corporations to report their percentage of spend on certified diverse suppliers. Their supplier diversity programs are extremely robust and the economy has seen positive impacts as a result. Diverse businesses are much more likely to hire from their communities, which means more jobs for under-employed minorities and aboriginal peoples.  This regulation does not exist in Canada – yet. TELUS and several other corporations have recognized the benefits of such programs and together we are breaking new ground. Although our program is still young (officially launched at the beginning of 2012) we are ahead of the curve and are already realizing positive results.CB 2

 

Just this past week, we officially launched the TELUS Supplier Diversity Mentorship Program. We paired up six TELUS executives with six certified diverse suppliers across the country to engage in one-on-one relationships with the goal of strengthening and growing their respective businesses. On August 14th as part of this program, we hosted our inaugural Quarterly Workshop Symposium in collaboration with Accenture (another leading corporate partner in supplier diversity who also has a mentorship program). Protégés from both mentorship programs heard from subject matter experts on the topic of collaboration, in celebration of this new partnership.  They networked and engaged in discussions about the challenges and opportunities that face diverse suppliers. We have since received very positive feedback. But this is only the beginning.

Corporate supplier diversity advocates like Accenture have been more than willing to share their best practices and common pitfalls which have helped shape and grow our program, and accelerate its success. As I did research and reached out to other corporations, I was shocked to receive the amount of feedback and advice that I did. I am paying it forward and helping other corporations nourish their young supplier diversity programs. This collaboration and support externally between corporations allows us to march toward one common goal: growing the Canadian economy.

Equally as important is having support internally. TELUS has backed this program starting from the top with our CEO, Darren Entwistle down to our Chief Procurement Officer, David Sharma and Director of Business Strategy Development, Indy Sian; the latter two are on the boards for CAMSC and WEConnect respectively. I have had the flexibility to build and grow the program without the red-tape barriers that one might assume exists within large corporations. Having this strong network of support both externally and internally is instrumental in shaping the supplier diversity landscape in Canada.

In six short months, I have become fully immersed in a program that has grown exponentially and become the leader in the telecom industry in contributing towards the supplier diversity movement in Canada. If you haven’t heard of supplier diversity yet, you soon will. Technically you just did. It doesn’t matter if you work for a corporation, the government, a small business, self-employed, or simply just a consumer; supplier diversity is here. Embracing it will positively impact you and our country.

Carlos Cabrero

Links

For more information: TELUS Supplier Diversity

Interested in certifying your company?

CAMSC

WEConnect

CGLCC