Chandra Vasser - Leaders recognized for establishing consistent DEI strategies in their organizations
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at your company?
A: I am Nissan North America Inc.’s first vice president and chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer. I’ve been with Nissan for almost 20 years in various finance and purchasing positions. I assumed my current role in November 2021.
As Nissan’s chief DEI officer, I lead the company’s DEI strategy, which is focused on three pillars: people, culture and partners. I lead a team of individuals who oversee Nissan’s DEI initiatives, business synergy teams, supplier diversity, dealer diversity and philanthropy. I am also president of the Nissan Foundation; its mission is to build community by valuing cultural diversity.
Q: Why is diversity, equity and inclusion important to your company?
A: We know that DEI attracts and retains talent and that an effective DEI strategy is a true business advantage. Diversity of thought leads to creativity and innovation in our products, and diversity of thought leads to stronger teams that bring forth many perspectives.
Nissan U.S. has one of the most diverse consumer bases of any automotive manufacturer with nearly 40% of our customers being ethnically diverse. Building relationships and making a societal impact in the communities that Nissan employees, dealers, customers and suppliers call home is a core value of our DEI strategy.
Q: How has your company’s DE&I strategy evolved over the past couple of years as the spotlight has been on the country’s lingering racial inequality and social injustice issues?
A: Our DEI strategy was born when Nissan’s senior leadership team members analyzed our business through a DEI lens and set the strategic direction for our DEI function. The DEI team has revitalized our Executive Diversity Council and created a new advisory council to provide expanded, executive-level representation across the company.
Nissan launched a talent management program focused on education and exposure for African American talent to create a pipeline for executive and leadership roles and recently named Juneteenth a company holiday for all U.S. employees. In addition, a new parental leave program for U.S. employees now provides up to 16 weeks for both mothers and fathers, as well as same-sex couples and those who are adopting.
Our DEI strategy includes a focus on philanthropy focused in two areas: the Nissan Neighbors program and the Nissan Foundation. Nissan Neighbors supports community partners focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, humanitarian aid and environmental stewardship. The Nissan Foundation awards grants to nonprofits building community by valuing diversity. In 2022, the Nissan Foundation awarded grants totaling $848,000 to 33 nonprofits that share the belief that our differences make us stronger.
Q: How does supplier diversity and minority business development fit into your company’s DE&I strategy?
A: We celebrate the diversity of our customer base and reflecting that diversity in our supplier partnerships is a priority. Nissan is taking proactive steps to offer its diverse suppliers new business opportunities, while at the same time providing and extending additional support to our current suppliers to improve their chances for long-term viability. To that end, Nissan is launching a newly designed diverse supplier development program that will help provide support in various areas of our diverse suppliers’ operations.
DiversityComm Inc. recently recognized Nissan for having a Top Supplier Diversity Program. In addition, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council presented Nissan with the America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises distinction for its dedication to supporting women-owned businesses.
Nissan’s Dealer Diversity program is the first of its kind for the company and the genesis of our recent increase in minority dealers. The program creates a purposeful partnership where Nissan minority dealer candidates are the owners on day one, rather than a lengthy buyout process, plus financial, marketing and operational progress and planning are offered.
To learn more about Nissan’s diversity, equity and inclusion, visit nissanusa.com/responsibility/diversity.