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Building An Inclusive Ecosystem, by James D. White and Krista White

Building An Inclusive Ecosystem

By James D. White and Krista White
February 15, 2023

As we discussed in our previous post, the future of work requires anti-racist leadership. The latest generation of leaders will no longer accept the status quo, as evidenced by phenomena like the so-called Great Resignation. Transforming corporate culture requires not only buy-in from the CEO and senior leadership, but also a shift in the way the entire organization shows up in the world. One key aspect of this transformation is creating an inclusive ecosystem. This can look like integrating companies into the communities they serve through advocacy and diversifying the supply chain.

Activities like community service days or philanthropic giving are often seen as a box ticked under the banner of corporate responsibility. But what does it look like to truly engage with community? During James’ tenure as CEO, Jamba Juice hired more than 2500 low-income young people under President Obama’s Summer Jobs initiatives in 2011 and 2012. The Smoothie chain also implemented a number of programs with the goal of increasing accessibility to healthy foods in minority communities. These were investments in building an inclusive culture for all of its stakeholders: consumers, communities, suppliers, employees, and investors.

Cultivating a diverse and inclusive supply chain is good for resilience and also acts as a force multiplier on an organization’s impact on its industry. In addition to intentionally seeking out diverse suppliers, consider requiring all suppliers to meet (or provide a plan to meet) certain minimum diversity and inclusion requirements. A couple of ways to expand your supplier base include establishing networks through partnerships with professional associations and hosting your own development programs.

Professional associations representing marginalized entrepreneurs are eager to partner with business leaders to offer more training programs, conferences,  and networking opportunities. More and more industry trade associations have launched their own DEI initiatives and are actively seeking the support and sponsorship of corporate partners. If you can’t find an existing organization with a program that fits your agenda for creating a more diverse ecosystem, design your own program and enlist the appropriate associations as partners.

Larger companies in particular are actively developing the suppliers they need. UPS is doing this through partnerships with such organizations as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the National Minority Supplier Development Council, and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, running mentoring and training programs, workshops, professional matchmaking, supplier-diversity conferences, and management education to support the growth and success of diverse suppliers. Coca-Cola runs a supplier-development institute in partnership with Georgia State University, providing education for disadvantaged groups on how to start a business. Target hosts a Supplier Diversity Summit, where indirect vendors can learn more about Target’s processes and business initiatives, while at the same time gaining direct access to Target leaders. Target also hosts both Target Accelerators, a quick, intensive training program for entrepreneurs, and vendor fairs aimed specifically at Black-and Latinx-owned businesses.

So much of this work is about legacy. Anti-racist leadership is multi-year work with very real challenges that may at times seem insurmountable. But companies large and small are microcosms of society, and the time is past due for leaders to get off the fence when it comes to issues of social justice. We encourage leaders to think about what legacy they’d like to leave behind – at their organization, in their country, and in the world. We are all competing for the future.

James D. White

James D. White is the former chair, president, and CEO of Jamba Juice. He currently chairs the board of the Honest Company and is the Executive Chair of the startup Air Protein, in addition to several other boards. He is the author, with his daughter Krista, of Anti-Racist Leadership: How to Transform Corporate Culture in a Race-Conscious World (Harvard Business Review Press, 2022)

Krista White

Krista White is a writer and consultant in the DEI space, focusing on work at the intersection of race and queerness. She is the founder and CEO of Kiki For The FutureTM and the co-founder of Culture Design Lab, two DEI-focused startups.

James and Krista White are Keynote Presenters in this year’s Leadership & Innovation 2023 Online Conference! Register today.

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Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.
Leadership and Innovation 2023

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