Magnifying Ford’s local community economic impact is always a priority.
In 2018, Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Company renamed its supplier diversity department—now called Supplier Diversity & Inclusion (SD&I)—to reflect the addition of LGBTQ and disability-owned suppliers to its priorities. Implicit in that expanded mission was another kind of inclusion: the communities in which diverse suppliers live and work.
“The vision of creating an inclusive supply chain that drives a better tomorrow is underpinned by our corporate value of ‘caring for each other,’” says Travis Spencer, who was named head of SD&I in 2019 after serving nine years as a buyer for the Lincoln Aviator and Explorer lines and in the powertrain and electrical commodity groups. “It applies to our employees, customers, dealers, supply chain and the communities where we have a significant presence. While community outreach is not one of our objectives, it does acknowledge our commitment to helping address social issues affecting local suppliers and their communities, regardless of whether those suppliers work for us or not.” It’s a commitment that goes beyond the requisite supplier summits, road shows, internal workshops, and lunch and learns.
One of those local issues was the critical lack of personal protective equipment available to frontline community organizations. To address that need, SD&I distributed 1 million masks to Dearborn- and Detroit-area churches, post offices, schools and day care centers in October 2020. (Separately, it also distributed 10,000 face shields to local businesses and hospitals.) Those efforts dovetail with Ford’s goal to distribute 120 million medical-grade masks to at-risk communities in all 50 states by mid-2021.
Other community initiatives are broader and longer term. Driving a Better Tomorrow, a 4- year-old SD&I education program, is helping increase Ford employee awareness about diversity, inclusion and sustainability issues. Externally, its partnerships with two greater Detroit-area community nonprofits, Focus: HOPE and Vista Maria, have focused on senior food insecurity, and diversity and inclusion, respectively. SD&I also teamed with Dearborn High School to create an educational video focusing on COVID-19, human trafficking, mental illness, substance abuse and unemployment. (To avoid duplicating efforts, SD&I coordinates its activities with Ford’s diversity, equity and inclusion group and the Ford Motor Company Fund, the automaker’s philanthropic and community investment arm.)
The vision of creating an inclusive supply chain that drives a better tomorrow is underpinned by our corporate value of ‘caring for each other’. TRAVIS SPENCER, HEAD OF SUPPLIER DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
Even as it continues such ad hoc community initiatives, SD&I’s main priority is on meeting the company’s 15% diverse spend target. (In 2018, that goal was increased from 10%, which had been consistently surpassed for nearly a decade.) The more than $11 billion Ford spent in diverse purchasing in 2019 had a gross domestic product impact of $20.6 billion. It supported more than 140,000 jobs, and generated nearly $8 billion in wages and almost $7 billion in tax revenue. Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, California and Illinois were the top beneficiaries of Ford’s diverse purchasing, with each receiving at least $250 million in minority procurement. Since 1978, Ford has spent nearly $162 billion with diverse businesses.
Despite the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has injected into the way SD&I works, Spencer and his team remain focused on magnifying Ford’s local community economic impact. Their Widening the Inclusion Network program, for example, is ensuring that prime suppliers meet Ford’s benchmarks for diverse subcontracting, staff diversity, community outreach, and engagement with supplier development organizations such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). The MentorWE mentoring and development partnership with the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council remains a priority, as does expanding Ford’s global supplier diversity program beyond North America.
“Supplier diversity is something that’s always been done in-person,” says Spencer, “but, in this environment, we’re well-positioned to connect virtually with new diverse businesses. We have an updated supplier portal, supplier registration process and tier 2 spend reporting system. We’re equipped to operate virtually and I expect we’ll embrace technology even more. The hybrid approach we’re using now most likely will become our ‘new’ normal.”
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