Rick Hughes will be leaving his distinguished career in procurement and supplier diversity on a high note as one of eight honorees for the 2014 National Minority Supplier Development Council Leadership Awards. He accepted the award on May 21, and about five weeks later, he will retire — talk about a fitting swan song.
Hughes, vice president of global purchases at The Procter & Gamble Co., is a modern day Renaissance man. He has an MBA. He practiced law. He is a caring family man. He served in the U.S. Army. And, for 30-plus years at P&G, he has been a champion of diversity.
“I’ve been fortunate that my strong belief in diversity in general has translated to my job in purchasing,” he said. “We need to do the right thing for everybody. It is important and fundamental to our values. If you look at history, veterans, the disabled, women and minorities have not gotten a fair shake.”
Today, thanks to Hughes, P&G now spends $2.5 billion globally with minority suppliers. The company has received numerous awards and accolades for procurement and was admitted to the elite Billion Dollar Roundtable in 2003.
Hughes is proud of P&G’s successes in supplier diversity and that he and other diversity champions before him have honed and improved the company’s program. He is especially pleased with its recent efforts to expand the supplier diversity program beyond North America to China and Europe. The company now has an impressive list of 82,000 suppliers and agencies operating in more than 70 countries.
And, while the traditional metric used in supplier diversity has been dollars spent with MWBE suppliers, Hughes says there are other meaningful measurements that one simply can’t put a price on, i.e. the positive impact from investing in small companies and communities.
“I’ve been excited to see P&G make a difference not only in the companies in our programs, but also in the lives of the employees who work at those companies,” he said. Hughes added he “got goose bumps” when he visited Alaska and Michigan and saw firsthand how two communities in those states were completely transformed and revitalized, thanks in part to P&G’s engagement and support of minority suppliers. “Touching and improving lives. That is what we do at P&G and in supplier diversity,” he said.
Matching minority-owned companies with majority companies has also been one of the highlights of his career, Hughes said. Both companies win from the strategic relationship. “It’s magic,” he said. “Rather than cutting the pie differently, we’re making the pie bigger, so both companies benefit.”
While Hughes is humble about how he and his employer have helped others, for now, he’s not sure what his own future plans will entail. He’s already been approached with several different opportunities, but does not plan to jump into anything right away and will take time to think through his options and see what unfolds.
One thing is for sure, even after he leaves P&G, Hughes will continue to be a friend and champion of NSMDC. “The way the world is going, and the way it is organized, companies have to support diversity,” he said. “Diversity is a fact of life, and supplier diversity is here to stay.”
BY GENNY HOM-FRANZEN