Supplier Diversity: Moral or Business Issue?

The Nitor Network dives into how supplier diversity programs create a collective voice for minority owned businessesCopy of The Nitor Network sm.png and provide opportunities for all players to access the field, especially those who have historically been left on the sidelines. Trevor Parus, with his guests Dr. Eric Lutzo and Joan Kerr, answer the questions:

  • What is supplier diversity?
  • What is the context of supplier diversity in US history?  
  • How has supplier diversity evolved and how will the millennial generation move it forward?
  • What are the stigmas and challenges with supplier diversity?
  • What value does supplier diversity provide?

The composition of the consumer base has never been more diverse than it is today.  The growth of a population with diverse backgrounds is driving employers to adopt supplier diversity initiatives.

While gaining status as a diverse supplier through certification can contribute to business success, it is not typically the leading characteristic of a business. Rather, the business wants to thrive because they are the best at what they do.  For supplier diversity to be sustainable, it has to make business sense. It has to fit into the key business objectives of any company. Supplier diversity initiatives provide access and opportunities to underutilized businesses that historically did not have these opportunities.

Supplier diversity is seen as both a moral as well as a business issue.  How can these two concepts compliment each other while defying any preconceived stigmas?  

We would like to give a special thank you to our guests, Joan Namahana Kerr and Dr. Eric Lutzo.

Joan Namahana Kerr is PG&E’s Director of Supplier Chain Responsibility (Supplier Diversity, Sustainability and Ethics). Under her leadership PG&E has surpassed its annual spend with diverse business enterprises $2.85 billion, exceeding 44% of total procurement. Joan also led PG&E to become the first utility to include LGBT firms in its supplier diversity program and PG&E was honored with NGLCC’s Corporation or the Year. She currently serves on NGLCC’s Procurement Council and Corporate Member Council. During her tenure, PG&E has garnered many supplier diversity recognitions, including those given by the National Minority Supplier Development Council , Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

PG&E has been recognized as an industry leader in supply chain sustainability as well, receiving the inaugural Electric Utility Industry Sustainable Supply Chain Alliance Outstanding Achievement Award in 2015 and the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council’s Leadership Award for Purchasing Innovation in 2017. Prior to joining PG&E Joan served as Executive Director of AT&T’s Supplier Diversity Program where she led the creation of a best-in-class program. Joan has received multiple prestigious awards for her innovative work in Supplier Diversity, including the first ever NMSDC Trailblazer Award , the WBENC Applause Award and in 2015 the MBDA Director’s Award. In 2013, Joan was inducted into the WBE Hall of Fame for her tireless work advocating on behalf of women business owners. Currently, she is on the board of directors of the National Utilities Diversity Council, the Sustainable Procurement Leadership Council, the Western Region Minority Supplier Development Council, the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce and the Institute for Supply Management’s Supplier Diversity Group. She also co-founded WEConnect International and now serves as its Treasurer..

Dr. Eric Lutzo founded Plexus, the Northeast Ohio LGBTA Chamber of Commerce, in 2006 to give a voice to the LGBTA business community.  Plexus is a NGLCC member and strategic partner of the economic development of Northeast Ohio.  It also serves as a point of connection for corporations, LGBT supporters and professionals.  Dr. Lutzo is also the founder and Principal of Forward Thought, a coaching and leadership development practice that specializes in developing leaders. Eric has worked for Top 100 organizations such as Pillsbury, Citibank and American Power Conversion (APC).