hilton's journey toward 2030: 

an interview with supplier diversity director erika gibson 

by Kristin Bentley

As part of its future movement, Hilton has committed its corporate responsibility strategy to redefine sustainable travel and tourism globally, driving positive social and environmental change across operations, supplier chain and communities. In May 2018, Hilton began its goal of doubling its investment in social impact projects and cutting its environmental footprint in half by 2030.

In an effort to strengthen its supply chain, Hilton also commits to additional efforts such as creating a framework for a collaboration program with top-tier suppliers. Another is embedding human rights into its supply chain by partnering with suppliers that work to eradicate all forms of forced labor and trafficking.

In addition to these efforts, Hilton also launched its “Big Five” initiative in Africa last year, with a goal to invest one million dollars to drive sustainable travel and tourism across the continent. As part of this investment, Hilton says it is focusing on local sourcing in the region, specifically on the creation of partnerships to increase local entrepreneurship to deliver high-quality authentic goods and services.

Part of this commitment is also boosting local, small, medium and diverse-owned businesses with a newly improved, best-in-class supplier diversity program, which led to its recent partnership with RLC Diversity. Hilton has already seen rewarding progress towards these goals, with more than 3,000 women-, minority-, veteran-, and LGBT-owned suppliers.

Leading Hilton’s supplier diversity efforts is its recently positioned Supplier Diversity Director Erika Gibson, who we had the privilege to recently talk to.

Can you share what led to the decision for Hilton to further strengthen its supplier diversity program?

 

Our procurement arm is called Hilton Supply Management, and we have been undergoing a transformation over the past two years. Under the new leadership of Anu Saxena (Global Head), we’ve become more customer-focused and customer-centric by really elevating the offerings that we have as an organization, specifically as to how we relate to buying goods and services.

Now that we’ve elevated our customer experience and product width, and are providing more to our owners and corporate stakeholders, we are now focused on adding the last layer of supplier diversity. The program was already existing, but we wanted to elevate it to best-in-class to coincide with the rest of our offerings.  

So, the decision really has been a combination of this new transformation and our new leadership coming in with fresh new ideas who has helped to guide a renewed focus. It’s really been quite the two-year journey, and adding to our existing supplier diversity program has been the tail end of our transformation. Which really is a natural evolution of procurement.

Initially, Hilton was interested in RLC’s basic Roadmap service, which provides the framework for creating that best-in-class supplier diversity program. However, our partnership allows us an opportunity to be a little more hands-on. What led to that decision?

 

We knew we wanted a framework to elevate our existing program to one that is best-in-class, so that was the initial ask. Lamont (RLC’s CEO) and your team talked through some of the additional services and initiatives and we knew they could add value to helping us achieve our goals, particularly while we grow our team.

 

What are you most passionate about with this process?

 

I think I’m most passionate about sharing the story and the education that is happening as a result. Being able to observe our team members as they grasp and really understand what supplier diversity is and how they can help has really been most exciting to me.

 

We recently had our first supplier diversity summit where we invited some of our top diverse suppliers, who have been our suppliers for years. They acknowledged our new level of commitment and now look forward to upcoming programs and events. My fellow procurement colleagues were excited to see how they could plug in supplier diversity champions and to learn that we are finalizing the program. This really gives them something to hang their hat on.  

How has this decision to make changes to the supplier diversity program affected company goals for 2020?

 

2020 is not the immediate goal, our company goals are for 2030. We have had a commitment to double our sourcing spend from local, small and medium enterprises, and diverse suppliers. What that really does as part of our roadmap to enhancing our program is increase our spend, determine how to do it, and to ensure that our programming and targets really support those efforts. We’ll be tracking everything with regular check-ins to make sure we’re staying on task. Enhancing our supplier diversity program really does fall in line with our overall corporate purpose.

As you’ve been really digging in over these last few months to create your best-in-class program, what would you say has been the biggest challenge?  

 

There have been so many moving parts throughout this process. We have the challenge that I’m sure many people are familiar with of too many great ideas and not enough time in a day to get them all done, so it has been important for me to prioritize my time. What’s exciting is that there is a lot of great momentum moving us forward.

What would you say has been the most successful moment?

 

I would definitely say it was our Inaugural Supplier Diversity Summit, because we’ve never done anything like that before and it was a big event. The fact that I was able to do that in less than three months was probably one of my proudest professional moments, and definitely the highlight so far. I’m looking forward to hosting them annually.

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