Culture as a value proposition

Last week I joined the Supply Nation delegation in the US for the National Minority Supplier Development Council Conference in Chicago.  Supplier Diversity programs began in the US over 40 years ago. They have been successful because they have a strong business case and companies recognise that the supply chains need to be reflective of their customer base if they are to keep relevant. Diverse suppliers also offer other benefits such as being nimble, responsive and innovative, which larger companies struggle to be.

We met with companies like Johnson & Johnson who spend over $1 billion US dollars with minority and women owned businesses each year. 

Johnson & Johnson’s former Chairman, Robert Wood Johnson, wrote a credo for the company in 1943 before taking it public to ensure that external investment wouldn’t change the culture of the organisation. What stood out for me is that he spoke about values that are still so very relevant today.

As Indigenous people we often talk about the importance of our culture but what we don’t talk about is the value proposition our culture can bring to the supply chains of Australian companies. 

Indigenous culture is fundamentally about living sustainably. We believe we are connected to our Mother (the earth) and each other. We are taught from a young age the importance of only taking what we need and sharing with others. This can sometimes be in direct opposition to contemporary business practices that require exploiting nature and people to make a profit but as companies struggle to meet their corporate sustainability responsibilities Indigenous businesses are well placed to bring their cultural value proposition to the table of large companies. 

So next time you are pitching for work do your research about the company you are pitching to. What problem are they trying to solve and how can you help them do that? If we consider Johnson & Johnson’s credo we can see that their primary goal is to meet the needs of their customers with high quality goods that are reasonably priced. Is your pricing competitive in the market? Companies won’t pay more just because you are Supply Nation certified.

What else can you bring to help them meet their goals? Your value proposition may also include a high number of Indigenous employees or some environmentally sustainable business practices. Are you offering an innovative solution to their problem?

If you haven’t reviewed your value proposition and thought about how this can attract your ideal customer now is a timely reminder to do so. In Australia, unlike the US, supplier diversity often sits within a companies CSR portfolio. Indigenous suppliers need to help Australian companies see the business case for using their goods and services over an above their CSR objectives. Not just because it is the right thing to do but because it makes good business sense. 

Our people have been innovating sustainably for thousands of years. As we move into an era of environmental and economic uncertainty our knowledge and innovation may well lead all Australians into a better future!

Jocelyn Grant