Today's Corporate Responsibility

Incorporating Diversity

Significant, meaningful and impactful change often can be found in the most unexpected places

How MassMutual reinvented the mundane process of procurement to manifest its own principles of inclusion and then reflect them out into the communities it serves

by P.E. Kelley

For Will Porter, MassMutual’s® Head of Procurement, the routine task of buying goods and services to support the company’s goals that could drive greater impact has blossomed into something much different over the last year. Porter and the company’s leadership believed that Procurement could be transformative for both Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and those who support it, by unifying the company spend and supplier relationships to supply the necessary goods and services that enable the company to meet its clients’ needs.

Extending The Live Mutual Philosophy To Suppliers –  And Instilling It In Relationships With Them

The strategy was a vision to bring corporate responsibility, diversity, and procurement goals together to have the most impact possible. MassMutual, under Porter’s leadership, seized the chance to transform procurement, which had been overlooked in terms of its potential to drive change.

“I saw this as an opportunity to create beneficial change both within the company and in the communities we serve. Procurement is unique in that its impact is immediate. The money we spend and the relationships we build as an organization have much greater influence when we are intentional. We truly can create a ripple effect,” Porter said. “I really thought we could create something special, something that maximizes purchasing efficiencies internally and creates lasting, positive change externally.”

MassMutual is unique in that it does not have shareholders like publicly held corporations. As a mutual company, its members and policyowners are often described as sharing in ownership. Thus, MassMutual is managed with a focus on policyowners’ long-term interests.

“By its very nature, our structure provides the foundation for everything we do and is the essence of our purpose – to help people secure their future and protect the ones they love,” Chief Executive Officer Roger Crandall and Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Lorie Valle-Yañez said in a recent joint statement.

A Vision For Procurement Measured By Positive Impact

A year into the process, the procurement transformation is well underway. MassMutual seeks to engage suppliers who share in its commitment to ethics, integrity, and compliance. Porter has recruited some of the nation’s most experienced procurement and supplier diversity professionals into the MassMutual family, expanding the team from five to 53.

“In less than a year, Will has built a team capable of creating and executing a world-class program that reinforces the company’s long-standing commitment to its suppliers as well as focusing heavily on diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Michael O’Connor, MassMutual’s General Counsel. “It demonstrates to our policyowners, our communities we operate in, our employees and the industry, that we are serious about changing the way we do business.”

Leveraging The Resources Within The Live Mutual Family

As such, MassMutual’s sourcing practices and philosophies are also the guideposts for its supplier diversity program. In this component of Porter’s vision, the change is real, and the effects are already tangible. At its core, changes in the Procurement process ensures the inclusion of diverse suppliers and that existing suppliers are held accountable for their DEI performance. An industry-leading framework has been created to provide quantifiable metrics for existing and potential partners.

The money we spend and the relationships we build as an organization have much greater influence when we are intentional. We truly can create a ripple effect...

The effort shifted into high gear with the mid-year announcement of MassMutual’s $150 million commitment to spend with underrepresented diverse businesses in the company’s procurement process – to create a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive world.

MassMutual will roll out its Diverse Business Program late 2021 and it committed to grow and scale 175 underrepresented diverse owned businesses over the next 5 years, while creating a pipeline of diverse suppliers and potential business clients for MassMutual. The company will select an initial cohort of 35 diverse-owned businesses to expand its base of diverse suppliers and have immediate impact on diverse communities.

Additional key components under the Diverse Business Program focus on strengthening relationship, both inside and outside the financial services industry. The company has assembled nine executives from across the organization including representation from investment capital, market insights, sustainability, and financial advisory.

MassMutual formalized long-standing relationships with various diverse business councils and collaborators, as a touchstone for this effort. Additionally, the Diverse Business Program has partnered with the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business Diversity Business Programs and the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative- a research and education collaboration between Stanford University Graduate School of Business and the Latino Business Action Network, to provide an educational partner program.

MassMutual will tap into its network of financial professionals affiliated with the company in a mentorship capacity, pairing diverse suppliers in its cohort with these professionals throughout the U.S. to assist with financial wellness, education, and planning for future state.

Forging A Path With Supplier Diversity So That Others Can Walk With Us

“Systemic problems require systemic change. We’re using our existing networks of diverse employees and colleagues to listen, learn and create an industry-leading program,” said Regina Heyward, MassMutual’s Head of Supplier Diversity. The Procurement team is also having frank conversations with non-diverse vendors and helping them implement best-in-class DEI frameworks within their own organizations. These efforts are driven by a strong corporate ethos of leading by example.

Beyond supplier and professional relationships, Heyward sees the Diverse Business Program as a holistic approach to leveraging the company’s founding tenets to address today’s most pressing issues, such as equity and sustainability, for example.

“We believe we can drive improved sustainability outcomes through procurement. Minority communities are at such a greater risk for environmental injustice,” Heyward continued. “If we can inspire positive change benefitting those individuals, then we’ve achieved both our corporate sustainability goals and underscored our purpose of helping people secure their future and protect the ones they love.”

“With so much possibility, I’m so incredibly excited about the journey we’re taking,” Porter added. “The teams have achieved phenomenal progress in the past year. Leading this team has been such a joy. The incredible impact MassMutual is going to have via procurement will make the world an even better place for all of us.”

 

Mr. Kelley is managing editor of Advisor Magazine. Connect with him at [email protected]