Using the power of procurement to drive gender equality

David Latten at Logitech explains why companies should take gender equality as seriously as they do environmental issues

What is really exciting about being in procurement is the influence that you can have and the opportunity to make a difference using the external spend that you control. Leverage is the bedrock of procurement and the whole reason we exist. Traditionally, we have tried to use that leverage to minimise risk, ensure compliance and get the best prices; but today, we can add a new goal – helping to foster gender equality throughout our global supplier bases.

At Logitech, equality and the environment are our two core values. Many global companies are doing very well on the latter, making great progress on targets such as Net Zero and becoming carbon neutral. Conversely, in terms of equality, particularly gender equality, things have gone backwards since the pandemic hit. There is a danger this consideration falls further down the list of corporate priorities.

Leading by environmental example

We can certainly learn from how businesses have aligned around the need for collective action on climate change and the environment. Leading companies all know their aspirational environmental goals, but if you asked them when they will be gender equal, most wouldn’t have a clue. So we badly need equality goals similar to Net Zero that can focus minds at the biggest global organisations.

At Logitech, we want to work harder not just to make our supplier diversity programme deliver results but also to influence other companies to commit to equality with similar energy to that they are focusing on environmental objectives.

Most companies spend around 6% of their supplier spend with diverse suppliers, leaving this huge untapped opportunity with the other 94% of their supply base. And the reality is that we will not replace all of our large suppliers with diverse suppliers because in an industry like ours – technology – we have to partner with large organisations with millions of employees and accrue trillions of dollars each year.

Gender fair procurement

So the key question for my team and I is: How can we influence these huge peer companies to commit to equality and diversity in the way we do? The way to achieve this was through the power of collective action – the Coalition For Gender Fair Procurement, which we recently launched.

Gender Fair was formed in 2016 to assess companies in the B2C sector on equality to influence consumers to spend their money with businesses that have women in senior leadership positions, family-friendly employment policies and break stereotypes with their advertising.

We came up with the idea of doing something similar in B2B procurement. With the huge spending in this area, we can influence and drive progress towards gender equality, especially if enough companies group together and pressure their suppliers to commit to these goals. The founding coalition of companies, including Logitech, manages around $15bn USD, so that’s quite a bit of weight to throw around for good.

We have gone to each of our high-impact (high headcount, high revenue) suppliers and asked them to take the Gender Fair assessment, create an action plan and put it into place, thus becoming an ally with us on this journey.

Impactful coalition

We want our suppliers to work with us to help create an equal society, and this is a great lever to make that happen. If just Logitech had done that, it might have had some effect, but it would have been limited. By joining with other like-minded companies, we can have a much greater impact and drive change quicker and more effectively.

We hope the coalition will grow quickly next year to more than $100bn USD under management, and that will increase the weight of pressure on suppliers to commit to these gender equality goals. I don’t think they will have a choice if it is not just Logitech asking them to do so but half a dozen or more of their other global customers too.

As we head towards a possible recession, understandably, there is a temptation for CEOs to abandon D&I goals and just focus on guiding their company through the tough times, but this is precisely the wrong approach. In fact, it’s time to double down on gender equality.

Final piece of the puzzle

The final piece of this puzzle is to ensure internal buy-in and make our business stakeholders willing to engage with suppliers committed to these equality goals. Logitech is quite an autonomous company. If people feel that our purchasing model hinders rather than helps them, they will bypass us and simply use whichever suppliers they want, regardless of whether they are committed to equality.

So the key for procurement is to provide a seamless, user-friendly experience which makes the business stakeholders’ lives easier and makes them want to work with us to find the best supplier for each project, ensuring that the list of providers they are offered includes diverse options. New technology is the way to make it easy to drive gender equality. At Logitech, Globality, our agile sourcing platform, delivers a consumer-like interface which our business stakeholders love.

Using the platform, our teams can scope their buying needs quickly and easily and are instantly matched with not only the best-fit suppliers from preferred provider lists (with diverse suppliers labelled for easy viewing) but they are also offered a selection of fully-vetted diverse providers as alternatives.

Crucial advantage

With the user-friendly interface, buyers can quickly compare the shortlist side-by-side, see which options support diversity and make informed, merit-based decisions on which supplier is the right one for that particular sourcing requirement.

Having immediate access to this broad base of diverse suppliers means we can benefit from the new ideas and perspectives they offer, which can be a crucial competitive advantage in today’s challenging economic environment.

The platform’s intuitive user experience, supported by the relevant, intelligent data insights, encourages our stakeholders to partner with us so that together we can drive this positive societal change that ensures companies put gender equality back to the top of their agenda, benefitting both themselves and the global economy as a whole.

David Latten is Head of Global Indirect Procurement and Supplier Diversity & Equality at software leader Logitech.

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