Inclusion graphic

Here at ConnXus, we celebrate Black History month every February. This tradition started in 1976 and coincides with the birthdays of historical abolitionists, Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. While this months recognize and honors the impact of black individuals on United States’ social and political history, but it also celebrates the accomplishments of black entrepreneurs and the power that cultural inclusion adds to any business.

A Natural Evolution

In today’s article, though, we’ll explore what it means to move beyond supplier diversity to an even more promising approach: supplier inclusion.

First, let’s define our terms:

  • Diversity means recognizing all the ways people are different from each other …. everything that makes each of us unique.
  • Inclusion takes things a step further, by combining and using these diverse forces and resources in ways that benefit the organization.

We believe that companies and other organizations need both diversity and inclusion to thrive.While many business leaders now view diversity as a positive influence on corporate thinking, not enough have realized that inclusion can actually result in better business decisions and results.

Remind Me Why This Is Important?

Putting aside that supplier diversity and inclusion programs are good things to do from a social standpoint, they also make sound business sense in light of national and global economic trends.

Here in the U.S., the Census Bureau reports that “minority-owned businesses continue to grow significantly faster than nonminority-owned businesses.” As this chart illustrates, the number of minority business enterprises, or MBEs, increased 29 percent between 2007 and 2012 – more than three times faster than population growth among minorities.

Minority Owned firms vs. Non-Minority Owned Firms Growth rates 2007-2012

In light of these unmistakable trends, what is your company doing to inspire next-level thinking about inclusion?

Ready, Set …Action

If you’re ready to move beyond “checking the boxes” for supplier diversity categories and implementing supplier inclusion programs, here arefive proven tips on assessment and creating an action plan.

  • Make sure diverse suppliers are included in yoursourcing lists from the beginning.
  • Choose sourcing strategies that align with your supplier diversity strategies.
  • After going through the RFI /RFP process,negotiate aggressively with minority-owned suppliers –so both parties’ needs are fulfilled.
  • Develop supplier management and integration metrics in advance, to insure successful and sustainable inclusion.
  • Conduct “readiness assessments” with your supplier diversity partners before you enter into new supply-chain arrangements.

Change Is Hard, But Worth It

Kendra Austin, director of supplier diversity for St. Louis-based pharmacy services provider Express Scripts, talked about her dedication to the evolving role of supply-chain professionals in last month’s issue of Inbound Logistics. “Demographics are changing,” she observed; “more companies are run by people from diverse backgrounds. My job is to expand Express Scripts’ SD program, and add value so we attract and secure the business of more companies.”

Austin is particularly proud of her company’s partnership with AlphaPointe, the third-largest employer of visually impaired persons in the U.S. “Express Scripts had won a large government contract, and turned to AlphaPointe to manufacture medicine bottles. However, we first needed to work with them to secure equipment financing and to establish pricing. Because of the program requirements,” she noted, “it took more than a year to get the contract signed.”

All that hard work has paid off. “It has been a huge win for everyone,” Austin concluded, adding that she is actively pursuing similar, inclusive relationships with other minority-owned suppliers and vendors.