Multinationals announce $1.5 billion commitment to source globally from women-owned business

By Andrea Useem25 September 2013

Vital Voices and WeConnect will work with 14 corporations to help incorporate women-owned businesses into global supply chains. Photo: CIMMYT , (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Today at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, Vital Voices Global Partnership and WeConnect announced a commitment with 21 partners, including 14 multinationals, to source $1.5 billion globally from women-owned businesses by 2018.

The commitment also focuses on supply-readiness training for female entrepreneurs. Partners committed themselves to “mentoring and targeting” at least 15,000 women-owned business globally in that same five-year period.

The companies involved include Accenture, Boeing, Coca-Cola, DLA Piper, EY, Exxon Mobil, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., IBM, Intel, IBM, Johnson Controls, Marriott, Pfizer, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wal-Mart.

According to Elizabeth Vazquez, the CEO and co-founder of WeConnect, a corporate-led non-profit based in Washington D.C., the commitment builds on earlier work around women in the supply chain.

“These are corporation that have made strong commitments to inclusive supply chains, not just in the U.S. but around the world,” said Vazquez in a phone interview with Devex Impact. “We wanted to recognize those pioneering contributions and leveraging them to do even more.”

A number of the companies have significant programs around women’s economic empowerment. Coca-Cola, for example, is in the midst of its “5x20 Initiative,” announced at CGI in 2010, which aims to reach 5 million women in Coke’s supply chain by 2020. Intel has its “10x10” work around girls’ education, Exxon Mobil has its Economic Opportunity Initiative,  and Wal-Mart has been working both inside the U.S. and internationally to increase purchasing from women-owned suppliers.

Nonprofit and donor partners have a similar track record. Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women is wrapping up its five-year initiative to train women entrepreneurs globally.

Other partners include the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Center for Research on Women, McLarty Global Fellows, Thunderbird School of Global Management and the U.S. Department of State.

By working together, Vazquez said, the partners can share best practices. She said while some partners are contributing directly with funding, others are providing training or “purchasing power,” meaning they will commit to purchasing products from women-owned businesses.

Vazquez said that WeConnect and Vital Voices will form a secretariat-type organization that reports on results to CGI. 

She admitted that companies like Wal-Mart that have tried to incorporate women-owned businesses in their supply chains have encountered numerous obstacles, including the difficulty of locating these businesses. Wal-Mart has also reported difficulty in matching up its compliance system – which is designed for large suppliers – to make it relevant for smaller businesses.

“This commitment is a starting point to change the way we source,” said Vazquez. “The potential is huge, because it’s not just $1.5 billion for training. It’s creating an infrastructure to have visibility into how these big companies spend their money, and, as a result, how we as consumer spend our money.” 

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About the author

Andrea useem devex cropped2
Andrea Useem

As Associate Editor and Content Director for Devex Impact, Andrea creates and manages cutting-edge content on the intersection of business and international development. An experienced multimedia journalist, Andrea served as leadership editor at the Washington Post and spent three years as a foreign correspondent in Eastern Africa reporting for publications including the Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, and San Francisco Chronicle.


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