While eliminating human trafficking and sourcing from environmentally responsible suppliers are now common topics in supply chain management, in fact they are just two of many ways a company can have a positive impact on communities through its supply chain. Dell is one company showing that increasing the diversity of suppliers, with a focus on women and minority-owned companies, can not only help bring opportunities to new sectors, but build a better business, as well.
Dell is a leading member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable, which was founded in 2001 and recognizes corporations that achieved spending of at least $1 billion on minority and women-owned suppliers. In fact, Dell is one of just 22 Fortune 500 companies to be part of this organization. They’ve gone far beyond the minimum, having spent $4.9 billion with diverse suppliers and small businesses during the most recent fiscal year. Other notable members of the Billion Dollar Roundtable include Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Boeing, CVS Health, Ford, Honda, Johnson & Johnson, Kroger, and Procter & Gamble.
Last week, the Roundtable held its annual summit in Oakland, Calif. Jennifer Allison, Dell’s Vice President for Supply Chain Sustainability, came to the event eager to share Dell’s experience, but also to learn about how others are tackling this challenge.
“You can collaborate and learn from one another,” Allison told Sustainable Brands. “Everyone makes mistakes along the way, and you learn as much from what fails as what succeeds.”
Dell first became a member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable in 2009, when it first hit $1 billion, and in the years since, has nearly increased that amount by 500 percent - showing the company’s commitment to not just hitting a goal, but going beyond.
One of the suppliers that Allison said she is most proud to work with is Techway Services, and its CEO, Cathi Coan. Dell began working with Techway in 2005, and has helped the small, Texas-based company grow from its region base to an enterprise whose business stretches not only across the United States, but also Canada and Mexico.
“Her business has continued to grow and expand,” Allison said. “It’s five times revenue from where she started, an amazing story.”
Despite its size, however, Dell is just one company, and for its diverse suppliers to be successful, they have to have diverse business clients, as well; Techway Services, for example, could never have grown so large had it only supplied Dell. In fact, Dell works to help these suppliers get contracts with other businesses, including the federal government, so that they can expand and grow beyond their relationship with Dell.
“For us, it’s really about the greater good,” Allison said. “Watching and helping these companies grow and expand.”
In this vein, Dell also convenes the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN), which brings together female entrepreneurs from around the world. While some of the members of DWEN are also suppliers to Dell, that isn’t the reason DWEN exists.
“This year, we had seven Dell suppliers that went, but the rest were not,” Allison said. “Maybe one day we’ll end up doing business ... but still it’s a way of giving back, regardless of whether we are doing business or not.”
This willingness to work with diverse business owners regardless of having a direct business relationship is core to Dell’s philosophy. By helping more women- and minority-owned businesses gain access to business opportunities, whether directly with Dell or throughout the growing technology sector, Dell is playing its role in helping bring the benefits of innovation to those who have, for the most part, been left out.
There’s still a long way to go before the entire technology sector is as diverse as not only the U.S., but the world, but Dell’s efforts point a clear, actionable and beneficial path towards reaching that goal.