December 17, 2020
Mary Beth Westmoreland
Vice President of Brand Protection, Amazon
Under Secretary for Science and Research, Smithsonian
Senior Director of Strategic Alliances and Outreach, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Thomas M. Sullivan
Vice President, Small Business Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
All Americans should have equal opportunities to achieve the American dream. However, systemic inequalities often make it more difficult for those in minority groups to access the same educational, business, and financial opportunities as non-minority groups.
To help bridge this gap, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched the Equality of Opportunity Initiative in June of 2020. This initiative is a partnership of over 500 chambers and associations across the country, aimed at uniting the business community around helping all Americans earn their success and rise on their merit.
One actionable way companies can promote equality of opportunity is to diversify their supply chains. Here’s why and how supply chain diversity not only promotes workforce equity but also benefits businesses’ bottom lines.
Connecting Minority-Owned Businesses to Meet Supply Chain Needs Drives Economic Impact for Underserved Communities
One organization working to support this mission is the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). According to Adrienne Trimble, NMSDC’s president and CEO, the company’s mission is simple: connecting minority-owned businesses with entities looking to drive inclusion in their supply chains.
“We have a mission of four pillars: to certify, develop, connect and advocate on behalf of minority businesses to ensure that they have the resources, support, and access to opportunity that’s so necessary,” Trimble stated.
“It really is about driving economic impact in underserved and underrepresented communities, job creation, and making sure that there is revenue, disposable and discretionary income generated in those communities through the jobs created by our minority firms.”
With Increased Interest in Equity and Inclusion, Minority Firms Must Also Access the Necessary Resources to Succeed
With many businesses taking a renewed interest in equity and inclusion, NMSDC has seen a significant rise in membership within the past year.
“[Businesses are recognizing] there are systemic challenges that are impacting diverse communities, particularly black communities,” said Trimble. “Now we’re seeing corporations [coming] to the table saying, ‘We want to be part of the solution,’ and we’re really pleased.”
“We need to have the resources and tools in place to prepare our minority firms to be able to provide services and goods and provide these solutions in the supply chain … We’re now seeing a pull for this information, versus being a push that we had seen over the last several years.”
Supply Chain Diversity Benefits Business’ Bottom Line
Brian Butler, president and CEO of Vistra Communications, believes that now is the ideal time for businesses to become part of a more diverse supply chain.
“There is no better time than right now,” Butler stressed. “There are literally hundreds of thousands of small businesses, small African-American-owned businesses and other minority businesses across that country that are ready to provide services.”
Tom Thattacherry, head of supplier diversity at Genentech, agreed that economic inclusion is more timely and necessary than ever.
“This economic inclusion is like a ripple effect: you spend some money in a community … and that supplier who’s getting the opportunity is going to create another ripple, creating jobs in that community,” Thattacherry said. “We really have to look at the big picture, the inequities in healthcare and the inequities in economic inclusion.”
While Progress in Diversity Is Apparent, Barriers Must Still Be Broken
Diversity initiatives have long been present, and have helped pave the way for minority-owned businesses and professionals to get their foot in the door. Despite this progress, however, barriers must still be broken to achieve full equality.
“The barriers back [in the 1970s] were just simply getting on the playing field,” explained Reggie Humphrey, Assistant Director of Supplier Engagement at General Motors. “Now … we’ve got a lot of companies that are very mature in their supply chains, resting on their laurels.”
To stay relevant, minority-owned entities must have access to the resources necessary to grow and scale with changing business needs.
“The biggest barrier right now is finding diverse suppliers that actually have not only the talent but also the scale and capability to deliver solutions that meet our needs of tomorrow.”