A is for advocacy

A supplier diversity advocate is an individual who actively supports and promotes the development and embedding of supplier diversity within their company - often referred to as a ‘champion’. 

Advocates of supplier diversity promote the supplier diversity commitment within their company. They support initiatives to increase spend with Indigenous businesses and promote the benefits through internal communication. An advocate may encounter many obstacles including resistance of staff or key personnel, misconceptions about the capability and/or capacity of Indigenous business to supply goods and services or they may be challenged with a lack of allocated resources to drive supplier diversity initiatives. A critical attribute of an advocate is effective communication. An advocate must have the ability to educate and increase awareness throughout the wider company using communication and influencing skills. 

To gain a brief insight into what it takes to be a great supplier diversity advocate, we interviewed Supply Nation’s Advocate of the Year 2013, Jennifer Levasseur, Head of Indigenous Community Team at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Why do you believe in supplier diversity?

I first became aware of supplier diversity about 14 years ago when I was in the United States.  Since then I have seen what supplier diversity can do, and some great success stories in the US, UK and Australia.

How did you become an advocate for supplier diversity?

I first heard about a movement to start a supplier diversity organisation in Australia in November 2008. I realised how much sense it would make in Australia and I wanted to be involved. I didn’t realise at the time that there wasn’t much knowledge in this space, and that my work in supplier diversity in the US and Europe meant that I was one of a few people who had supplier diversity experience. The advocate role grew naturally.

What makes a good supplier diversity advocate?

A good advocate needs to be able to teach others. Supplier diversity was a new concept back in 2008, and everyone from procurement and corporate social responsibility professionals to Indigenous-owned businesses and government agencies had to learn what it is and how it could work. Together, we can continue to share best practices and teach others about the concept.

What have been some achievements through your advocacy role? 

One of the biggest achievements is the sheer number of people I’ve been able to share my experiences with over the past four years. Whether it’s been with Supply Nation corporate and government Members, procurement and sustainability teams or with organisations with Reconciliation Action Plans; I’ve worked alongside Supply Nation to help educate Australia on what supplier diversity is, how it works in the rest of the world and how it could work in Australia.  Also, I was able to provide members with tier two supplier diversity opportunities to help them get started in supplier diversity right away. Second tiering is a great way to make an impact throughout your entire supply chain.

What challenges have you had to overcome as an advocate?

I’ve had to be patient and learn that things take time.  I have seen how supplier diversity can work, and was ready to go full speed ahead, but I needed to share this with others and take them on the journey that I had been on.  Moreover, it’s not just about the people involved in Supply Nation, it’s taking this back to an organisation and getting everyone on board with your vision as well.

What tips do you have for individuals in our Member organisations, who are interested in becoming a supplier diversity advocate?

1.  Take simple steps to get started and keep building on what you’re doing.  Supply Nation has a lot of tools and resources available, so it’s a great place to start.

2. Share what you know – be the champion within your organisation and tell everyone about what you are doing. 

3. Identify some of your unique partnerships with Supply Nation Certified Indigenous Suppliers and share these partnerships with other Supply Nation Members, so they can learn from what you’ve done.

4. When you meet with your suppliers, talk to them about the opportunities for them to support Supply Nation Certified Indigenous businesses in their own procurement; for example, through tier two supplier opportunities.

5. Talk about it – be an ambassador to supplier diversity and help spread the word. 

If you understand the benefits that supplier diversity can bring to your company, you’re already one step closer to becoming a Supplier Diversity Advocate. Knowing your company’s commitment and championing this throughout the wider company helps educate and increase awareness about supplier diversity. Follow Jennifer’s top tips or contact Supply Nation for further support.  Your advocacy promotes your company’s commitment and helps to build a vibrant and sustainable Indigenous enterprise sector.