Listen: Creating an Impact with Supplier Diversity
Over the past year, many organizations have been looking inward to examine their culture and partnerships. One strategy that can help improve an organization’s inclusivity and diversity is through supplier diversity — encouraging the use of suppliers operated by an individual or group that is traditionally underrepresented or underserved.
Shelly Brown, Diversity Solutions Leader at Aon, discusses how creating relationships with businesses that are minority-owned, woman-owned, LGBTQ+-owned and others can help companies boost their performance and make a positive social impact.
How is supplier diversity good for business? Increasingly, organizations are exploring working with suppliers that are operated by someone or a group that is traditionally underrepresented or underserved. We sat down with Shelly Brown, diversity solutions leader at Aon, to discover how supplier diversity can be the key to growth, talent recruitment and a positive social impact.
SHELLY BROWN: We saw in 2020, for so many reasons, the global conversation on the impact of diversity and inclusion. So whether it was when COVID-19 was having a devastating effect on low-income, Black or Brown communities, or whether we saw the social justice and social equity conversation advance, corporations, like our own, stood up and said, “We’re going to think differently about diversity. We’re going to think differently about our culture.” Our clients are doing the same thing.
We know that Gen Z and millennial job candidates are attracted to an organization whose vision and values around social concerns mirrors their own. So it’s on the sourcing side, the commercial impact, an employer of choice, but also as a leading global corporate citizen.
Simply put, supplier diversity is the intersection of supply chain strategy and business development. When we think about Aon procurement, we work with our strategic sourcing colleagues to develop diverse suppliers who could potentially work on Aon sourcing projects. This is a best practice. Our clients expect it of us. And as we envision economic inclusion growth, we bring our suppliers with us.
How can companies diversify their suppliers? The first step may be in dispelling some misconceptions.
SHELLY BROWN: So let’s frame it as a myth, and then I’ll be a myth buster for you. Number one, there are no available diversity partners who have the expertise to do the type of work that we go to market with. Well, the myth busting to that is there are so many new entrants into the marketplace whose expertise around data and analytics creates some fantastic opportunities for us to explore.
In addition to that, another myth is that it’s more expensive to work with a diverse provider. So with that in mind, a smaller firm may be more flexible, more nimble, not have the overhead or the middle and back-office expenses that a larger organization might, but that smaller firm might also be more apt to provide innovation or ingenuity in their approach to delivering a solution.
The third myth that I’ll put up is if they were already good, I’d be doing business with them. Rightfully so, people do business with those they know, like and trust, but competition is good for any supply chain. And the idea to find new entrants into the supply chain who innovate faster, who can bring those deployable resources… And again, the economics is so powerful. A smaller diverse firm might be able to give us numbers that are a bit more competitive maybe than our incumbent. I know there’s a cost associated with change, but these things, I think, point to why it’s worthy of our time and diligence to go out and entertain a new conversation.
Whether it’s supplier diversity, or organizational diversity initiatives, how can we create a more inclusive culture going forward?
SHELLY BROWN: Number one, let’s be bold and courageous. These are some fantastic times to be in the world and to be of benefit and to be of impact, so where we as colleagues can lead those conversations with our teammates and the clients we serve.
Number two, be curious. Can Aon help me in this journey? From a client perspective, give us a chance to talk to you a little bit about what we’re doing. Give us a chance to listen and learn what your goals and priorities are in this space.
This aspect of inclusive leadership, yes, it was brought forward in 2020, but it will only continue to grow in its tempo and its intensity.
Thanks to Aon’s Shelly Brown for sharing his insights and perspectives. Additional resources from Aon can be found on aon.com.