Reginald K. Layton - 2022 Global Supply Chain Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Hall of Fame

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: I recently retired from Johnson Controls International PLC where I served as vice president of supplier diversity & supply chain sustainability. In this position, I was responsible for overseeing all diverse purchasing activities and supply-chain sustainability initiatives companywide. 

I joined Johnson Controls in 1997. Since 2002, the company has spent more than $22 billion with diverse firms. Its achievements have garnered prestigious recognition, such as being named Corporation of the Year in 2003 and 2008 by National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc.

I was named Minority Supplier Development Leader of the Year in 2008 and 2013, and Minority Business Enterprise Advocate of the Year in 2003 by NMSDC. I was also recognized with the 2021 Robert M. Stuart Award which is named for the founding chairman of the board of directors of the National Minority Purchasing Council [later renamed National Minority Supplier Development Council] and is presented to a leader who has invested his or her time, energy and passion into advancing opportunities for minority business enterprises in corporate America. This individual is recognized for his or her life’s work, overwhelming support and generosity that elevates the entire NMSDC network. In 2018, I also wrote, funded, filmed and produced the documentary, “The History of Supplier Diversity for Minority Business Development.”

Q: When and why did you become a supplier-diversity and minority-business-development champion?

A: Before joining Johnson Controls in 1997, my wife and I owned a multimedia consulting company. We were a certified MBE in Michigan. It was during the time when minority business development as a practice was just becoming popular. One of our clients — Reggie Williams of Procurement Resources [Inc.] — was hosting meetings with automotive suppliers on behalf of the Big Three automotive companies [Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Inc.]. The Big Three were launching their Tier Two programs. Williams was delivering the message that automotive Tier Ones needed to work with MBEs. Our company helped him with that event. 

I remember how excited he and Dr. Ray Jensen of Ford were after one of the sessions, stating how “big” it was going to be because the Big Three had thousands of Tier One suppliers who now were being directed to have supplier-diversity initiatives and how they would have to report their performance to customers. So, when I joined Johnson Controls, the Big Three were important customers to us, and they made sure I was successful in this space. I also knew firsthand what it was like to be an MBE.

Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for MBEs?

A: I think some of the greatest challenges for MBEs include: 

• Accelerated global competition

• E-enabled procurement tools

• Customer demands for more value

• Increased investor pressures for return on investment

• Material economics and rising cost pressures

• Tightening of credit by financial markets

• Financial state of customers

I think some of the greatest opportunities for MBEs include:

• Recognition of changing demographics

• Innovations in telecommunications and data accessibility

• Increased focus on sustainability 

Q: What must MBEs do to participate in emerging technologies like AI [artificial intelligence], IoT (Internet of Things), metaverse and the globalization of supply-chain delivery?

A: I think MBEs need to partner with, acquire or merge with companies that have a head start in these areas. I think technology is moving so fast and furious now that MBEs can’t afford to try to make inroads in these spaces on their own. In addition, I think there is an entire new generation of young people in North America and brilliant people in other countries who are comfortable with these technologies. I think the sooner MBEs start down the path of these emerging technologies, the better.

Q: What is your vision for supply-chain diversity over the next five to 10 years?

A: My vision is that corporations around the world embrace supplier diversity. I believe there will be great opportunities for supplier-diversity practitioners to do more advanced deals in every procurement category. 

I believe that the emphasis on environmental, social and governance [ESG] will more explicitly require reporting and disclosure of supplier-diversity activities beyond diverse spend and include economic impact on historically underutilized population groups. My vision is for the man on the street to know what supplier diversity is and how it economically equips entire communities.

Q: What would you like your legacy to be as a champion of supplier diversity?

A: I want my legacy to be the number of people I’ve helped to learn the practice of supplier diversity and do it well.. 

To learn more about RGMA Digital Suite, visit


Reginald K. Layton Johnson Controls International PLC supplier diversity supply chain sustainability National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. 2021 Robert M. Stuart Award Minority Business Enterprise Advocate of the Year MBEs MBNUSA Strategetics RGM Digital Suite

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