Diverse suppliers integral to JPMorgan's Racial Equity Commitment

M.V. Greene

In corporate supplier diversity, buy-in from the top — the C-suite — is always talked about as a prerequisite for establishing a successful and viable program.


Business diversity advocates will say such buy-in from the likes of CEOs and chief financial officers (CFOs) is vital for infusing initiatives through the corporate ranks of procurement, business units and category purchasing departments.


That spirit of C-suite buy-in support was on full display at JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s recent Business Diversity Impact Forum in New York — a first-time event held to mark the bank’s milestone of spending an additional $750 million in procurement with Black, Hispanic and Latino suppliers as part of its 2020 Racial Equity Commitment, achieving that spend goal two years ahead of schedule.


Both Chase’s Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon and CFO Jeremy Barnum attended the forum, joined by other decision-making bank officials, advocates, community organizations, governmental leaders and diverse suppliers — evidence of the company’s stance and commitment to business diversity.


The multinational financial institution already had been spending more than $2 billion annually with diverse suppliers in a wide range of procurement categories. Realizing the additional $750 million commitment ahead of schedule in 2023 was the impetus for the forum, said Ted Archer, Chase’s head of business partner diversity who hosted the event.


“We thought it was important to host a forum to bring partners together and really unpack what we did to accomplish that goal, what we learned from it, and then how we can converse, come together and create sustainability around what we did, so that we can continue the good work,” he said.


Closing the gap

Business diversity is a linchpin of Chase’s $30 billion Racial Equity Commitment announced in October 2020 — amid George Floyd racial justice protests to help close the wealth gap in Black, Hispanic and Latino communities. In addition, the bank’s commitment includes lending, equity and direct funding to help increase sustainable homeownership — expanding affordable housing, improving the financial health of minority citizens through banking access and building a more diverse and inclusive workforce.


While meeting the additional $750 million business diversity objective was cause for celebration to bring to life the spend accomplishment, the forum was designed to be more than “a pat on the back” for Chase, Archer said.


“We love celebrations, but this [forum] was not that in its essence,” he said. “This was an opportunity to break down what is working and how do we carry that momentum into the future for years to come.”


Archer said about 300 Chase business diversity partners attended, so “having those groups in a room together over multiple days on this topic was a terrific outcome,” as many partners were meeting one another for the first time.


“People came away with a full understanding of [Chase’s] commitment, and it bolsters what others can do and what they feel is possible around the work that supplier diversity helps us accomplish,” he said.


Staunch commitment to supplier diversity

Archer said a fireside chat with Dimon during the forum served as a “conversation starter” to hit home the bank’s commitment. He said Dimon stated that Chase remains committed to operating an inclusive supply base — ensuring that its supply chain not only strengthens the company, but also helps create opportunities in every community where it operates.


“It was really important for our group of stakeholders to hear from our leader how much supplier diversity is woven into the fabric of Chase and how it is a part of how we do business,” Archer said.


The forum delved into topics that included supply chain diversity strategies, opportunities for diverse suppliers within corporate supply chains, best practices in small-business lending and emerging supply chain trends.


Another highlight of the forum was a panel discussion, “Advancing the Legacy of Business Diversity,” that Archer moderated with James H. Lowry, senior advisor, Boston Consulting Group; Donald Malcom Smith, senior advisor to the undersecretary and chief of staff, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), U.S. Department of Commerce; and Kevin Kim, commissioner for the New York City Department of Small Business Services.


The panel discussed the evolution of supplier diversity as a government and corporate practice from the 1970s to the present day. Lowry — widely acknowledged as a pioneer in minority business development — laid out a sort of good, bad and ugly of the legacy, agreeing that while progress has been made, efforts need to continue to create billion-dollar businesses owned by minorities, making a positive economic impact on minority communities. 


In applauding Chase as “a leader in this space before it was fashionable,” Lowry urged other major corporations to make similar investment commitments in business diversity as a business imperative — and not a social program. In 1978, Lowry prepared the first major study on minority business enterprise development for the U.S. Department of Commerce, titled “New Strategy for Minority Business,” which led to the creation of the MBDA as the government’s conduit for accelerating minority business development in the United States.


Archer praised Lowry’s comments on the panel as impactful “because he could speak from direct experience” over a long career of understanding the initial importance of supplier-diversity efforts to ensure that the U.S. economy works for all its citizens.


“It has never been about what any one institution or any one organization or any one business has access to,” he said.” It has always been about the bigger picture and what this supplier diversity means for our economy.”


To learn more about JPMorgan Chase’s supplier diversity program, visit jpmorganchase.com/about/suppliers/supplier-diversity.

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JPMorgan Chase & Co. 2020 Racial Equity Commitment Jamie Dimon Jeremy Barnum Ted Archer supplier diversity Business Diversity Impact Forum James H. Lowry Boston Consulting Group Donald Smith Minority Business Development Agency MBDA Kevin Kim New York City Department of Small Business Services

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