By M.V. Greene
As global supply chains
go, none may be more complicated than that of Sysco Corp., the Houston,
Texas-based foodservice distributor whose fiscal year 2023 sales of $76.3
billion supports more than 71,000 employees worldwide.
Think about Sysco’s supply
chain — which serves more than 700,000 customer locations through 300
distribution facilities globally in industries ranging from hospitality and
restaurants to health care and education — and “farm to table” comes to mind.
“There are so many
categories and so many suppliers that we work with. It’s a retail environment
with many complexities that we need to support our global supply chain. It is a
huge undertaking,” said Adrienne C. Trimble, vice president and chief diversity
and culture officer.
Her mission in joining
Sysco was to lead and help accelerate the company’s global efforts to create a
more diverse workforce and equitable and inclusive culture, including for
Prior to joining Sysco,
Trimble served as president and CEO of the National Minority Supplier
Development Council Inc. (NMSDC) from August 2018 to March 2021, when she
joined the food service behemoth. In addition to her tenure at NMSDC and Sysco,
she has had a career steeped in supplier diversity and the broader diversity, equity
and inclusion (DEI) field.
Before NMSDC, Trimble was
general manager for DEI at Toyota Motor North America Inc., and earlier served
as the car manufacturing giant’s supplier diversity manager. In that role, she
helped the company retain its position in the Billion Dollar Roundtable Inc.
(BDR), where member companies commit to annual first-tier supply chain
diversity spend of $1 billion or more.
So now, with Trimble also supporting Sysco’s
supplier diversity efforts, her message to diverse suppliers seeking business
in the foodservice industry brings resonance.
“There are so many
opportunities for smaller and local suppliers to get engaged in (Sysco’s)
supply chain,” she said. “Where we have the greatest opportunity is helping
them learn how to work with a large distributor like a Sysco.”
Trimble said Sysco is
eager to show capable diverse suppliers the ropes in foodservice – including
helping them meet the company’s quality guidelines, while understanding the
type of volume needed to support a major multinational like Sysco and how to
create demand within its procurement system.
Darnell Greene, director
of supplier diversity, works alongside Trimble and her team.
“Diverse suppliers offer
numerous advantages to foodservice distribution, ranging from innovation and
cost savings to social responsibility and risk mitigation as companies move
away from relying on a single source for products and services. Embracing
inclusion in the supplier base can lead to a more competitive and sustainable
“We work to get them into
our global supply chain and onto the tables of our customers and restaurants,”
Trimble said. “It could be anything from something that is locally sourced to
something that a small business is making that may be an ingredient that one of
our customers like a restaurant is looking to procure.”
division is North America’s largest wholly-owned produce distributor and works
directly with restaurants and chefs to provide the ingredients for their
culinary creations. Other divisions distribute custom meats, seafood, spices
and imported foods.
While farm to table is a
key element of Sysco’s supply chain, Trimble notes that Sysco focuses on
ensuring opportunities to procure from diverse indirect suppliers as well,
including technology, warehousing, transportation, logistics and real
In building out Sysco’s
DEI and supplier diversity strategy, she is leading a three-year strategic road
map that is guiding the company’s objective to embed its priorities throughout
the company globally. The road map is being implemented with the assistance of
Sysco’s Global DEI Council and colleagues throughout the company.
Trimble credits Sysco
President and CEO Kevin Hourican and the company’s board for “really pushing us
to continue advancing and ensuring we are meeting goals.” Internally, the road
map includes accountability measures for Sysco’s senior leaders to meet related
to their oversight of DEI and supplier diversity.
“That makes a huge difference
because it gives us the momentum that is needed to ensure that those goals are
translating down into the organization,” she said.
initiatives have been in place at Sysco since the mid-2000s but were largely
focused on minority and women suppliers, Trimble said. Today, Sysco has
expanded its supplier diversity footprint to include veteran-owned,
disabled-owned and LGBTQ+-owned enterprises, working closely with third-party
certification organizations, chambers of commerce and other partners to
identify suppliers, she said.
“By doing that, we really
were able to accelerate our efforts and expand our reach. We really broadened
our efforts,” Trimble said, noting that Sysco has already met a goal to
increase diversity spend by 25% by 2025. Another goal, she said, is to gain BDR
membership in the near future as the first purely foodservice organization to
join the elite group of major corporations.
In Trimble, Sysco has a
veteran DEI and supplier diversity practitioner leading its efforts, but also
someone regarded nationally as a thought leader and strategist. Given that
background, she is asked often to weigh in on broader implications for DEI and
For supplier diversity to
continue as a corporate imperative with an undeniable value proposition amid
recent legal challenges — including the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2023 decision
effectively striking down the use of affirmative action in college admissions —
Trimble said advocates, partners and professionals need to ensure they are
accentuating the business case for the function.
Considering the Supreme
Court’s decision, many are waiting to see how corporations will react going
forward and whether they will dilute their programs, she said.
“We have to keep showing
the economic impact when suppliers are given the opportunity to compete for
contracts,” Trimble said. “At Sysco we will continue to live our values and
demonstrate that a diverse workforce is a stronger workforce. Our ultimate goal
is to have a workforce and customer base that matches the demographics of the
communities we serve.”
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