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Indigenous Awareness: An Imperative For Competitive Canadian Supply Chains

Written by Al-Azhar Khalfan

Supply chain as a profession has transformed in a myriad of ways in the past two years, amplifying its vast impacts on the economy. As well the profession has now been recognized for the strategic role it has started playing in influencing organizational performance and strategic mandates, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action.

Supply Chain Management Association Ontario (SCMAO) has been a champion for bringing awareness to the role that the supply chain plays in strengthening the Reconciliation Action Plans (RAP) of organizations. “Awareness through continued learning is the first step toward fostering a safe environment where organizations can develop the right tools, tactics, and leadership that can advance an organization’s relationships with the Indigenous Peoples,” says Al-Azhar Khalfan, President and CEO of SCMAO.

With over 4,100 members and a community of 10,000-plus supply chain professionals, including leaders from some of the country’s largest organizations, SCMAO recognizes its role in building Indigenous awareness and supporting supply chain professionals in developing the knowledge necessary to bring this discussion to the boardroom.  

SCMAO started this initiative by partnering with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) to build a knowledge-sharing forum for supply chain professionals. This forum included Indigenous leaders and business owners.

“OPG and its predecessors have a long history in the province and a journey marked by very negative and very positive chapters. Although we were proud of the progress achieved through our 50-plus agreements with Indigenous communities and organizations, this was only a start.

"Awareness through education is the first step toward fostering a safe environment where organizations can develop the right tools, tactics and leadership that can advance an organization’s relationships with the Indigenous Peoples."

Launched in 2021, OPG’s Reconciliation Action Plan builds on our long-standing commitment to creating meaningful economic development opportunities for Indigenous Peoples and communities. It’s a direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #92, which specifically urges corporate Canada to adopt the Reconciliation framework to create a better future. OPG has seen the immediate and lasting economic benefits that come from clean power partnerships and the increased participation of Indigenous businesses in our initiatives — benefits like job creation, skills development, and stable revenue streams. We believe partnerships and relationship building are the way forward, and we know there’s much more we can do,” says Karen Fritz, Chief Supply Officer at OPG.

SCMAO has also collaborated with Staples Professional as part of its roadmap for building continued Indigenous cultural awareness and competency through education and collaboration. “We’re delighted to help amplify the learning offered by SCMAO on Indigenous culture, history, and understanding as a way to support the advancement of Indigenous-focused initiatives that will drive the reconciliation process in Canada,” says Michelle Micuda, President of Staples Professional Canada.

While supply chain plays a pivotal role in bringing an organization’s Reconciliation journey to fruition, it’s truly incumbent on senior C-suite leaders to facilitate and pave the way for a culture that puts Reconciliation at the core of strategic decisions.

According to CCAB’s research, as of 2016, Indigenous Peoples contributed over $30 billion annually to Canada’s GDP. In Canada, the Indigenous private economy alone contributes roughly $12 billion annually, and these numbers only continue to increase. This research clearly corroborates that Indigenous awareness is no longer a corporate social responsibility but a sound business decision for a stronger Canadian economy.

“The next phase in our roadmap to building Indigenous awareness is focused on senior C-suite business leaders, especially CSCOs, CPOs and COOs, who see the value in prioritizing Indigenous Reconciliation strategies and aligning their organizational goals. Our Executive Symposium, starting in January 2023, will address the knowledge gaps and provide necessary tools for the C-suite to start embedding Reconciliation Action Plans into the enterprise strategic framework. We’re looking for the right organizational partners who appreciate the opportunity and gravitas of elevating Indigenous business relations for a better future,” says Khalfan.

Organizations that recognize the opportunity to strengthen relationships with the Indigenous communities and build prosperity for all Canadians are the true trailblazers in building the pathway to a sustainable future for our beautiful homeland of Canada.

Al-Azhar Khalfan is President and CEO of the National Institute of Supply Chain Leaders (NISCL).

Email: [email protected]