When you are a multinational corporation operating on every continent except Antarctica, supplier diversity can be challenging. Just ask John Taylor, director of Supplier Diversity, Procurement, for the Cargill Corp. The company is a global marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. As such, the company influences the dinner tables of some 400 million people each year.
That makes the task of ensuring supplier diversity much more challenging, says Mr. Taylor—but no less critical to thecompany's success.
"We want to be a global leader," he says. "In an increasingly competitive business environment, we need world class suppliers to succeed.
"We see diversity as a competitive edge," he adds. "We need to find the sweet spot of supplier diversity."
That sweet spot centers on finding suppliers who provide world-class goods and services at competitive prices, he says. When you commit to identifying a diverse set of suppliers it pays big dividends.
The edge comes from the broad range of views and the innovation you get when you marshal resources from outside the mainstream. From diverse cultural backgrounds you get diverse capabilities and solutions, allowing you to benefit from unconventional problem solving. Cargill commits considerable resources to its diversity effort every year, partitioning those funds to various business units in accordance with needs and budgets. The program will likely get a nice infusion this year as a result of the company's handsome quarterly earnings—profits were up some 68 percent from last year, on net earnings of $883 million.
"The program is definitely growing," says Mr. Taylor, though he stopped short of revealing changes in target quotas for supplier diversity.
He adds that the program is seen by Cargill primarily as a competitive business advantage, rather than an
exercise in good corporate citizenship. Examples of how this advantage works are plentiful. A Hispanic supplier, for instance, may be able to provide a creative solution on how to efficiently supply food products to buyers in theAmerican Southwest, where there is a large population of Latino consumers. A supplier owned by a woman may offer insight on how to better serve the agricultural needs of modern working
women, who sometimes are challenged to find the right balance between career and family meal selections.
U.S. Focus, with Global Plans
For the time being, Cargill's efforts are focused on its diversity program in the United States, but Mr. Taylor says the company also will focus its resources on making sure that diversity programs are in place to support its operations around the world.
"Right now, we want to make sure we get it right in the U.S.," he says. "As we get those pieces (in place), we will expand internationally."
"It's simply good business to hire diverse suppliers."
Cargill, By the Numbers
Cargill was started by W.W. Cargill in 1865, providing early pioneers of the American frontier with grain storage facilities. Through the years, the company has grown to become one of the world's largest providers of food, agricultural, risk management, financial and industrial products.
131,000 -- Employees.
$107.9 billion -- Sales in fiscal year 2010.
$883 million -- Earnings in the quarter ending Aug. 31, 2010
66 -- Number of countries with operations.
6,000 -- Ports that off-load products.
400 million -- Tables reached every year by animal feeds and nutrition solutions.
14 million -- Tons of salt products the company sells every year.
50 percent -- More than half of employees live and work in developing countries.
75 -- The number of operations that use renewable energy sources, such as biogass, landfill gas and biomass.
440,000 -- The metric tons of grain that can be stored in the company's grain elevator in Baie Comeau, Quebec, Canada.
2.1 million -- The number of Chinese farmers that have received training from Cargill in crop nutrition, animal breeding and feeding technology.
1 million -- high-cholesterol patients helped by the company's plant sterol products.
25 million -- families in India that are aided by vitamin-supplemented cooking oil.
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