Building Diversity Across the Supply Chain: An Interview with Joan Kerr of PG&E

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Minority Business Executive Program at UW.  We caught up with Joan Kerr, a leader in the space of supplier diversity and minority supplier development.

Joan KerrTell us about your role at Pacific Gas and Electric.

As the Director of Supply Chain Responsibility, I have the pleasure of leading initiatives that uphold our company’s values of ethical, sustainable, and diverse sourcing.   Supplier diversity has been a long-term endeavor at PG&E – over 35 years in the making – so I am fortunate to have company-wide support and a great team here to help our initiatives succeed.

PG&E is a champion of supplier diversity as part of our overall commitment to corporate responsibility.  Our program provides vital opportunities for a growing number of enterprises owned by women, minorities, service-disabled veterans, small businesses and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Supporting supplier diversity promotes economic vitality in local communities, creating jobs and growing the economy as a whole.  Having a broader base of suppliers also leads to better business solutions for our company.

How do you go about promoting and nurturing supplier diversity initiatives company-wide?

We have numerous programs within the company to help our business units succeed in diverse sourcing.  We support appointed champions within all of our lines of business, helping them to understand the importance and benefits of diversity sourcing through knowledge, best practices, guest speakers, and trainings.  We help them to be effective within their organizations.  We also have robust internal training programs for our supplier companies.

PG&E diversity team

Pictured above: A few of the members of the Supply Chain Responsibility Team at PG&E

What are some of the opportunities for diverse suppliers that you see at PG&E?

We have diverse suppliers in almost all of our lines of business, so new diverse suppliers are entering a competitive space.  That said, there is always opportunity for suppliers who bring innovation to the table — artificial intelligence, robotics, microgrids – there is opportunity for suppliers who can solve problems in new ways.

Why does your company support the Minority Business Executive Program at University of Washington?

In today’s competitive marketplace, if a company is not committed to continuous improvement, then they are already falling behind.

We support the UW Minority Business Executive Program, because it helps our suppliers improve their competitive profile.  The program gives them a chance to focus on advanced-level topics and refine their overall business strategy, growth, and operations.  Some of our very best suppliers have attended the program, with some sending multiple team members over the years, and we continue to hear great feedback about their experience.

Learn more about the Minority Business Executive Program.