There is certainly agreement that the COVID-19 pandemic triggered massive changes in the business environment. Some changes are disappointing, like increased distrust in businesses on a global basis. However, many changes have the possibility of delivering great opportunities to businesses owned by people who have struggled to be included on an equal basis – Aboriginals, women, and diverse people.
The most obvious and immediately impacted corporate business function is procurement and the supply chain. Supply chain disruptions happened unexpectedly and rapidly due to the pandemic, forcing businesses to rethink their sourcing and procurement strategies going forward. What is the new normal, and how should Canadian corporations adapt? These are the most basic questions being asked in the C-suite, and it is the ideal time to include strategies for expanding diversity in the supply chain.
There is general agreement among professionals already that supply chains need to diversify their sources of supply and new suppliers should be integrated in the supply chains. In addition, the risks of using offshore suppliers have been highlighted. The pandemic also magnified the economic inequalities that already existed. The CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business surveyed Aboriginal businesses and reported that 79 percent said their business revenues had declined by more than 30 percent and over half said their revenues decreased by 75 percent or more. The Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce found in their survey that 61 percent of women founders of small businesses lost contracts, customers, and clients due to COVID-19.
The suppliers that struggled so hard for economic inclusion were hit the hardest by the pandemic. Now it is time to look forward and evaluate what will be different going forward. What will change at the corporate procurement level, and how will supply chains adapt post pandemic? How should Canada’s Aboriginals, women-owned, and other diverse suppliers prepare for the future and take their place in the new normal?
There is no doubt that new opportunities exist for Canada’s Aboriginal, women, and diverse businesses. Many corporate procurement functions will be using more domestic suppliers as they implement new strategies, like ensuring multiple suppliers of critical goods and services and sourcing more from domestic suppliers to minimize the risks of supply chain disruptions. This is a clarion call for Aboriginal, women-owned, and diverse suppliers to make sure they are visible and available. For example, it is important for the supplier companies to participate in advocacy organizations where corporations often look for suppliers. They should get certified as an Aboriginal, woman, or diverse owned business which adds to visibility and equal opportunity to become a supplier of a major corporation. Aboriginal business owners should access the funding available through the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association and the network of Aboriginal Financial Institutions.
At the same time, the future holds the promise of more equality. As corporations focus on building more resilience in their supply chains, the small-to-medium businesses owned by Aboriginals, women, and diverse people should be prepared to help them fill gaps created by the disruption. Those that bring innovation, creative ideas, alternative sourcing options, and collaborative opportunities are likely to find success. There are also opportunities to step up and supply goods and services that are in shortage because of the pandemic. This increases visibility too. The Aboriginal, women and diverse suppliers can play an important part of the solution for recovery and the continued growth of Canada’s economy.
The real challenge is ensuring the corporations do deploy inclusive practices for post-pandemic supply chain development. It is a proven source of job creation and economic growth in Canada. Companies need to diversify their supply chains in terms of the sources of goods and services and the type of suppliers included. It is unrealistic to expect Canada’s procurement functions to suddenly increase their inclusion, so it is incumbent on the Aboriginal, women, and diverse suppliers to take advantage of every avenue – advocacy organizations, government organizations, Aboriginal councils, and procurement functions. Inclusion takes a relentless effort.