Monday, October 16, 2006 9:32 PM

Mr. Bryant –

My apologies in advance for the lengthy message.  I want to bring an expanding initiative to your attention.

In September, I participated in a very memorable session in the German Federal Chancellery. I represented my employer, a Fortune 11 technology solutions provider, and along with several other like-minded, forward-thinking global companies, engaged Professor Dr. Maria Böhmer, CDU, (Minister of State in the Federal Chancellery and Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees & Integration) in a frank discussion regarding how this group of companies can, while working within the limits of German law, establish policies and goals to promote the inclusion of under-represented businesses in corporate tender processes. 

My limited knowledge of German culture and history notwithstanding, the significance of the meeting was not lost on me.  Less than half a kilometer from the former site of the Berlin Wall, an historic symbol of division and disparity, this group of companies sat in session in the Chancellery concerned with extending economic prosperity and equality of opportunity to ethnic minority-owned, woman-owned and other under-represented Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Germany.  As the session ended with the loud, approving rapping of knuckles on the tables there in the Bundeskanzleramt Konferenzraum, I understood this session to be a key milestone in my lifelong commitment to diversity, inclusion, economic development, and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). 

The following week I participated in a similar session in Paris which included a lively discussion with Louis Schweitzer, President of HALDE  (La Haute autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l’égalité) – the French high authority against discrimination, a quasi-governmental agency.  Mr. Schweitzer is the former CEO of Renault; a highly respected business leader in France; currently Presidential appointee with oversight for Anti-discrimination policy.  This too was a key milestone.

I am currently responsible for my company’s Global Supplier Diversity program, which works to ensure that disadvantaged businesses are provided an equal opportunity to become suppliers of goods and services to the company.  In the United States, disadvantaged businesses include ethnic minority, woman, and veteran owned business, and businesses located in certain historically under-utilized business zones.  As you know, Supplier Diversity programs are very mature and robust in the States, and although they have their root in compliance with federal mandates, US corporations have increasingly come to understand that diversity is a business imperative.  These corporations have realized that inclusion of SMEs is both consistent with corporate commitments to supply chain social responsibility, and a method of fostering innovation, efficiency, and cost competitiveness that improve to the corporate bottom line.  In sum – “diversity is good business”.

As European Union member states work to implement the requirements of the EU Charter and Lisbon Accord, issues of diversity, migration and anti-discrimination will continue to be key priorities; and states will be challenged to investigate new and innovative policies to develop systems of inclusion and equal opportunity.  I have begun the work of collaborating with EU-based Non-governmental Organizations (NGO), SMEs, and corporations to establish a framework for European Supplier Diversity.  As I have collaborated in the UK, France and Germany over the past year I have learned some important lessons:  first, while US-based models may be examined and leveraged, these emerging programs must have a “European Flavor”; and second, to ensure success these programs must be shaped in the context of the deep historical, cultural and legal framework of the country and the region.

I subscribe to your mission and agree "…that low-wealth communities, the world over, represent future emerging markets waiting to be born."  I believe that I can help to bring economic opportunity to the ethnic minority-owned, woman-owned and other under-represented entrepreneurs in the EU, through the development of corporate policies that ensure equality of opportunity in tender processes.  I want you to be aware – as my personal role model in the movement – that I agree that "…in the silver rights movement we must find new ways to address issues of class and poverty", and that I am working to do my part.

Brian Tippens
Supplier Diversity Manager for a major U.S. company

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