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Corporations & Women Entrepreneurs: Changing The World Together Through Diversity
Corporations & Women Entrepreneurs: Changing The World Together Through Diversity

Global Compact Network Canada, the Canadian Network of the United Nations Global Compact and WEConnect International Canada bring together leaders to discuss how Canadian businesses can address gender equality and diversity in supply chains, and advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

TORONTO, May 25, 2016 – The Global Compact Network Canada (GCNC) and WEConnect International Canada hosted a morning of two interactive panel discussions and a networking breakfast at the office of Baker & McKenzie in Toronto. Over 80 industry leaders attended the two interactive panel discussions, moderated by Astrid Pregel, Executive Director of WEConnect International in Canada and Helle Bank Jorgensen, President of the Global Compact Network Canada.

The panels explored the positive economics of diverse supply chains and the crucial role of women entrepreneurs in all sectors. The first panel addressed the importance of gender diversity, with the second panel extending the discussion beyond gender equality to broader compliance issues in the supply chain through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Attendees at the event included a wide range of industry leaders from Baker & McKenzie LLP, Unilever, Thomson Reuters, PricewaterhouseCoopers, SkyPower, Engineers Without Borders, Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Procter & Gamble, Sodexo, and many more.

The morning began with networking, breakfast, and introductory remarks from Kevin Coon, Managing Partner & Human Rights Lawyer, Baker & McKenzie LLP. Coon highlighted the interconnectedness of the SDGs and the particular importance of SDG 5: Gender Equality and SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities, as they are essential components of sustainable supply chains.

First Panel Highlights

The first session, which addressed the positive economics of diverse supply chains, saw panelists Michael Robinson, Program Director, Global Procurement Supplier Diversity & Supplier Connection at IBM, Rosemary D. Weppler, Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Procurement Manager at Ernst & Young LLP, and Cristina Falcone, VP Government Relations at UPS. Robinson made the business case for gender equality and diversity in IBM’s supply chains by emphasizing: “You’re doing it because it’s good for your bottom-line.” Weppler commented on the need for diversity programs that are responsive to businesses’ unique needs by saying: “There is no one size fits all supplier diversity program. Ask the what, when, where, and why.” Highlighting the importance of partnerships and corporate culture, Falcone suggested businesses “partner with the right organizations and embed into corporate culture.”

Second Panel Highlights
The second session focused on how supply chains can help advance the SDGs, including gender equality. This panel saw participants, John Coyne, VP of Legal & External Affairs at Unilever Canada, Patsy Doerr, Global Head of Corporate Responsibility & Inclusion at Thomson Reuters, and Sue Rauth, Deputy Director, Ontario Regional Office at Global Affairs Canada.

In light of the recent anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, Coyne discussed Unilever’s approach to tackling compliance issues in the supply chain and the important role that sustainable consumerism plays in shaping supply chains. Patsy Doerr, who has been following the adoption of the SDGs very closely at Thomas Reuters, stressed the importance of inclusion in supply chains. She explained how companies can benefit from this approach and why it is important to ensure that supply chains are diverse. With small businesses accounting for over 98 per cent of all firms in Canada, Sue Rauth reiterated that inclusion means considering smaller partners, such as SMEs, as small businesses have a key role in global supply chains and this demonstrates the need the need form SMEs to be represented in sustainability discussions. The sessions were followed by a dynamic question and answer period where panellists discussed the value of diversity certifications, the role of government, and how businesses negotiate diversity in various cultural contexts.

The GCNC would like to extend special thanks to WEConnect International Canada, Baker & McKenzie LLP, Unilever, and Thomson Reuters for their support in making this event possible, as well as all of those in attendance for their fantastic questions and discussion.