Indigenous Suppliers: Driving Economic Growth Through Partnerships

Published on : 6/20/22
  • The journey to reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples is steep and requires true commitment from all to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

    In the corporate sector, there is a great opportunity to advance reconciliation by committing to drive economic growth and prosperity for Indigenous Nations through strong partnerships with businesses and suppliers.

    At Sodexo Canada, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises is a key part of our business model, and our values around diversity, equity and inclusion extend to our suppliers. Through an inclusive supply chain, we can further our mission to develop the local communities in which we operate. And in the Energy and Resources sector, this primarily means Indigenous communities across Canada.


    By the Numbers

    • Our procurement department has access to more than 84 registered Indigenous suppliers
    • Sodexo partners with 30 Indigenous communities across Canada
    • In 2021, $21 million was spent with Indigenous-owned suppliers
    • In the Energy and Resources sector, 22% of our total spend was with Indigenous-owned businesses

    These are just some of the ways we are supporting local economic development and building mutually beneficial partnerships.


    How We Do It

    In a recent national Leger survey, 69% of Canadians think companies doing business near First Nations, Inuit and Métis lands should obtain services from Indigenous businesses whenever possible.

    And that is a commitment we have made at Sodexo Canada.

    Our supply management team relies on internal and external databases to identify Indigenous goods and service providers and keeps all current and past suppliers in our national contract database.

    As we work closely with the communities in which we operate, we also encourage Indigenous suppliers to present offers and services. Indeed, we proactively contact prospective suppliers and encourage them to participate in our Requests for Proposals while working with them to ensure they can meet supply management standards and requirements.  Diverse organizations, including the Canadian Aboriginal & Minority Supplier Council, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce help support the certification process for Indigenous businesses.

    As our remote business grows in the Energy and Resources sector, so too does the opportunity to increase Indigenous spend. Whenever possible, we support the development of regional businesses, particularly those related to the service industry — food supplies, cleaning product supplies, laundry services and transportation — as well as construction companies and labour providers.

    Our commitment is to develop a legacy of economic independence that will last for many generations. Because our time in Indigenous communities is often brief — anywhere between 3 to 10 years — we focus on programming that offers sustainable prosperity.

    For more than two decades, Sodexo Canada has been promoting, reinforcing and nurturing business relationships with Indigenous communities and nations. These long-term partnerships have been recognized and celebrated throughout the years by the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business. We are proud to say that in 2019, we once again received the gold-level Progressive Aboriginal Relations certification, the highest level of recognition issued by the CCAB.


    Mentoring Opportunities

    Seven in ten Canadians believe that ongoing support for Indigenous companies, such as training and mentoring, should be a long-term strategy for Canadian corporations.

    At Sodexo, we do just that.

    Our dedicated supplier diversity manager, Elizabeth Auceda, provides informal training sessions to Indigenous vendors who are looking to take their business to the next level. These conversations, though informal in nature, are catered to each vendor’s needs. Are they looking to upgrade their distribution centres or their transportation logistics? Elizabeth is there to help guide them.

    Working with a large organization such as Sodexo implies not only the possibility of obtaining a new contract but also a chance of growing as a business. For small companies, being included in an RFP process is an opportunity to learn the language, commitments and requirements needed to leverage their product or services for large corporations.

    Being in contact with Sodexo can turn into a training tool and a way for these vendors to prepare for the next potential opportunity, with us and beyond.

    Elizabeth Auceda, Sodexo’s supply diversity manager for Canada, was awarded the CAMSC 2019 Procurement Business Advocate of the Year. This award is given to an individual who acts as a catalyst and is devoted to the promotion of supplier diversity through outreach efforts and activities and is respected by their peers for advocating supplier diversity in Canada.


    Supplier Highlight: Spirit Bear

    Spirit Bear Coffee Company is Canada’s first Indigenous-owned and operated coffee brand. We are proud to serve Spirit Bear coffee in Sodexo Canada’s Montreal and Burlington offices, as well as multiple sites across the country.

    The company is committed to 100% fair trade and certified organic coffee, which means they use the highest quality of sustainably grown beans, purchased at an equitable and ethical price. The company also supports several social and environmental causes, including The Ocean Alliance, Kamloops Wildlife Sanctuary and the Northern Lights Wildlife Society — sharing our values of protecting people and the environment.

    Paul Biglin, co-owner and co-president of Spirit Bear Coffee Company and 1 Nation Distribution, says:

    Spirit Bear Coffee Company is excited to continue to grow through the Sodexo Quality of Life offering. Sodexo shares our values about our growing Indigenous communities and cares about the value proposition in our Indigenous company. Naut’sa Mawt (Together working with an open mind and an open heart.)

    Supplier Highlight: Arctic Beverages

    Sodexo Canada has proudly worked with Arctic Beverages Ltd for more than 14 years. It is 100% aboriginally owned and represents 20 original bands in Northern Manitoba and northern Saskatchewan.

    Arctic Beverages has in-depth knowledge of the Northern Canadian market. They have developed the expertise in all forms of transportation alternatives — land, sea, air and rail — to meet the logistical challenges associated with the magnitude and diversity of the market.

    Not only do we purchase from the company, but we also work with them for their distribution services.


    Doing Our Part

    As a large organization, we play an important role in advancing reconciliation through economic growth.

    When provided with the right resources, the potential of Indigenous businesses is limitless. We believe it’s our duty to help these entrepreneurs innovate, grow and prosper. Our experience is that companies that have success engaging with Indigenous communities and businesses have two things in common: they base their relationships on respect for Indigenous culture and values and focus on constantly strengthening economic and business opportunities for their Indigenous partners. 

    Many businesses have flourished with our support throughout the years. And we will keep going forward.

    See all our commitments in action in our first-ever Indigenous Report.