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ASCM Insights

Championing Diversity and Inclusion in Supply Chain

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This is Black History Month, a time when we honor the accomplishments and contributions of Black people throughout U.S. history. According to National Geographic, the celebration honors all Black people — from the enslaved individuals brought over from Africa in the early 17th century to citizens living here right now.

Black History Month began in 1926, when the topic wasn’t included in textbooks and, as President Gerald Ford stated, the accomplishments of Black Americans were “too-often neglected … in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Carter G. Woodson, often called the Father of Black History, noted that Black History Month is a time to reflect on the ongoing effort to attain equality. Indeed, many events over the past year have illuminated the continued struggle to end systemic racism and achieve social justice for all people. As I wrote back in June, supply chains must stand together if we are to establish real structural change.

When problems are this immense, we may feel helpless, but we can make a difference if we focus on the things we can control. One clear and meaningful action that the supply chain community can take is to manage diversity into our supply chains.

The current issue of SCM Now magazine features an interview with someone who does just that, each and every day: Jalayna Bolden, ASCM Award of Excellence — Diversity and Inclusion Champion. Director of supplier diversity at AT&T, Bolden discusses some of the strategies she uses to ensure that AT&T maintains a diverse supplier base of minority-, women-, LGBT-, services-disabled and veteran-owned businesses.

“Our program’s goal is to provide the maximum practicable opportunity for diverse businesses to ensure competitiveness within the industry,” she says, adding that her team achieved more than $15 billion in spend with diverse suppliers in a single year. Bolden explains that this was made possible because of an intentional change in focus on how AT&T approaches supplier diversity.

She shares with SCM Now readers that this change in focus involved three key strategies: First, provide more advocacy for diverse suppliers through tier-one and tier-two relationships, supplier education and fostering business. Bolden adds that, if diverse suppliers cannot scale to tier one, they can be introduced into tier two. The goal is to grow their businesses so one day they are able to fulfill a tier-one opportunity.   

Second, promote partnerships through supplier education. It’s important for diverse suppliers to have an executive-level education about running a business because it helps them scale and make better decisions for the company.

And finally, get involved with minority supplier development councils in your city, with your chamber of commerce, and other ethnic- and segment-based organizations. This facilitates introductions to certified, qualified, diverse suppliers.

“Connecting with the diverse business community keeps me informed of new and innovative companies and helps me get to know business leaders,” Bolden says. “Together, we can advocate for policies that help diverse businesses thrive.”

The ASCM Award of Excellence — Diversity and Inclusion Champion honors a professional who displays exceptional commitment to diversity and inclusion, fosters professional environments that value equality and individual differences, and inspires people of all profiles and backgrounds to succeed in supply chain careers. This year’s ASCM Awards of Excellence Call for Entries launches next month. Learn more about the program and all of the categories here.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer at ASCM, the largest nonprofit association for supply chain and the global leader in supply chain organizational transformation and innovation. Prior to this, he was the managing director for the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. His leadership roles have included project management, business process redesign, and individual and organizational alignment. Eshkenazi may be contacted through editorial@ascm.org.

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