After 30 years, parting ways with the Institute for Supply Management

In 1990, I made a major career change, after being a hospital pharmacy technician for ten years.  It took me some time to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I decided to go into the field of industrial Purchasing, and enrolled in a community college with a 2-year degree in Purchasing Management.  Just after enrolling, I joined the purchasing professional association, then called the National Association of Purchasing Management, or NAPM, as a student member. I figured that if I joined, I would be able to do some networking to be able to get a job when I finished my schooling.

At my very first dinner meeting of the Western Washington chapter of NAPM (NAPM-WW), I met a number of buyers at various companies in the vicinity, and made friendships that would endure throughout my purchasing career.  I got my very first purchasing job from a connection made in the evening class on Purchasing Management (the instructor had a friend whose company needed a buyer).  I have remained an active member until now.  In 1999, in order to do something to contribute to the local chapter, I took over the Business Survey from the previous Business Survey Chairman who was retiring, and I have been the Business Survey Chairman until this year.  That volunteer gig has been perhaps the most fulfilling job I have done in my working life; I made a name for myself in the local chapter, earning an award for service.  I increased the reach and influence of our local business survey, adding 40+ new recipients of our monthly data. [for readers who might be interested, you can go to Web site, and view the survey data for many years]

In 2001, NAPM transformed itself into the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), because they decided that the field had expanded enough to move away from the transactional “Purchasing”, to the more-executive “Supply Management”, which was becoming a more high-level role, especially in large organizations.  To me and many of my colleagues, this looked like the national organization was abandoning those of us whose job title was still Buyer or Purchasing Agent, in pursuit of higher-level aspirations.  There was a nation-wide vote on the name and mission change.  We in our local chapter, almost to a person, voted “No”, but the change passed anyway.  Later, we discovered that, when National tallied the votes, members who did NOT vote were counted as having voted “Yes”, in absentia.  We thought, and still think, that it was unethical for the national organization to do that, but the vote and change went through.

I have always known that the Federal Government had many rules and regulations around purchasing for government contracts.  Government contractors are required by federal regulation to give their company’s business to a certain percentage of small businesses, and “woman-or-minority-owned” suppliers.  If your government contract (any Purchase Order/PO) is worth a certain amount of money, you are required to document your suppliers’ status as a small or minority-owned business.  What this means is that, when choosing suppliers to your company, you are essentially forced to consider attributes of those suppliers or their owners, that have no relation to their ability to perform the work, or their suitability as a supplier.  You might have to engage a supplier who, in the absence of that government customer, you might not necessarily choose.  These Federal requirements serve a totally “social”, and not a “business” need, and have done since the 1960s.

ISM, for many years, has been very much attached to the “Supplier Diversity” concept.  They firmly believe that companies who have a “diverse” supply base are more successful than companies that do not have a “diverse” base of suppliers whose owners are women, black, or otherwise “disadvantaged” in the marketplace.  They have, since their beginnings, been firmly behind the concept of “Diversity is our strength”, even if ensuring that diversity of suppliers costs them significant funds to document and support.  Personally, I have never believed that the skin color or sex of my suppliers has one bit of influence on the capability of those suppliers.

Last year, with the ongoing riots around the deaths of black men at the hands of police, has caused an increase focus on “supplier diversity”, especially with the rise of the Marxist organization called “Black Lives Matter”.  Numerous large businesses, both industrial and financial, have bowed down to BLM, committing themselves to demonstrations of “anti-racism” by hiring more minority employees, and requiring their purchasing organizations to concentrate more on minority suppliers, perhaps to the detriment of their bottom lines.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by their frequent contributor Joseph Epstein.  The title of that article was “The Tyranny of Diversity”, and here is a collection of short quotes from that article:

In government [and now in all business], the value of diversity is often in conflict with the value of true merit, or of the real abilities of the people chosen to perform their jobs.  …  In contemporary higher education, diversity competes with intellectual authority, based on scholarly or scientific accomplishment.  These days, diversity is all but victorious, and intellectual authority well in retreat. … [in our national politics] In choices for cabinet and sub cabinet positions, under identity politics the desire for–some might say the tyranny of–diversity generally trumps past performance.

The final straw for me this year was the email I received from ISM National, describing their new Diversity and Inclusion Pledge.  Here is the important part of that email.


Hi Member:

ISM has confronted issues of fairness, equity, and inclusion in its own past. That led us as an organization to address inequality head on, in programming for supplier diversity, diversity and inclusion in the workforce, engagement with HBCUs, even the composition of the ISM Board, to cite but a few examples. We’re proud of our history in leading positive change for the profession and remain committed to that vision for supply management today and into the future.

To continue to advance the profession, we are excited to announce the launch of the ISM Diversity and Inclusion Pledge.

This pledge focuses on:

  • Uniting our community through individual and corporate commitment to 4 actions around developing and supporting a diverse and inclusive supplier network and work environment
  • Providing continual support to those who take the pledge with regular delivery of tools, education, research and inspiration
  • Making a collective stand on our position and commitment to the importance of diversity and inclusion and stepping up in our commitment to providing education, research and content to advance the profession
  • Leading by example, by living the pledge commitments in our own business and supplier environments 


We ask you to join us. Together, we can all make a difference.


Your ISM Team


Please note the bolded statement above. This tells me that ISM is confessing that it has been a racist institution. They are admitting that their own ranks have not been “diverse” enough in the past, and that they are going to be more “diverse” in the future. And they want all their members to subscribe to the same sort of abject admission of past racist actions. Why would I want to support an organization that sees itself as having had racist inclinations?

I’m afraid that I cannot accept the very concept of “diversity and inclusion” as relates to Supply Management, and I certainly deny that I personally have ever been racist. I have never cared a whit about the color of any supplier’s skin, and see any concentration on that immutable attribute as taking my eye off the ball when looking for suppliers for my company, who will provide great products, on time and on budget.

In just this past couple of weeks, I have also received email from the National Business Survey group, asking me to respond to their “Talent Diversity Study”. I’m afraid that I cannot participate in such a study, since I am retired, and even when I was working I was never a manager who had any responsibility for hiring decisions. And even if I were a hiring manager, the color of an applicant’s skin would be of absolutely no interest to me. So my responses to such a survey would not matter, aside from the fact that I would reject any consideration of minority status whatsoever in the choice of an employee for my company.

Therefore, I will not be renewing my ISM National and local membership this year. Unfortunately, I cannot be a member of the local Western Washington chapter without being a National member, and that is not a comfortable feeling. I will be resigning from an organization to which I have contributed 21 years of hard work on the Business Survey, and made lifelong friendships and colleague relationships. But I believe that I cannot be a member of a National organization that has made the decision to go along with a program that I see as detrimental to the profession of Supply Management, and destructive of human relationships. They have seen fit to abandon the seminal teaching of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who dreamed that someday his children and all black people would be judged by the “Content of their Character”, and not the color of their skin.

3 thoughts on “After 30 years, parting ways with the Institute for Supply Management

  1. accordion2ray

    I see this as a very common example of corporate mentality. Any vague insinuation of improper (but especially racial) discrimination alleged toward a company is accepted, and dealt with by encouraging or compelling people to take a pledge regarding their personal behavior. As if any individual action of an employee could achieve any real effective discrimination without the full backing of company management. If individuals could have been responsible, they would have been dealt with individually. What they do is transfer responsibilty to individuals who likely already demonstrate good character by virtue of providing employable services. This illustrates White Guilt in action. It is little more than a strategic negotiating where a corporation gives some token lip service in exchange for being left alone. But unlike the situation that existed prior to the 70’s, large swaths of America is on board in accepting allegations that they are guilty for generations of past sins against minorities by virtue of their own skin color. I don’t buy this argument. I’ve always been uncomfortable around people once I become aware of them acting with racial animus.

  2. kayofmt

    One of my first jobs in Los Angeles in the early 60’s was with the L.A. Dept of Social Services. The woman who hired me, and another who was my supervisor, were Black, and I never thought about it. We also had Asian and Hispanics in the department. This racial crap has all been since Obama was in office.

    During the Watts’ riots, one of my co-workers was Black, told me she was afraid to go home, as those dumb nuts were setting things on fire. So she and her little daughter came home with me, and stayed until the riots were over. I lived in San Fernando Valley at the time.

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