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BMO partners with Indigenous small businesses as we support our frontline staff

During the COVID-19 crisis, it’s more important than ever for us to support small, local and diverse businesses. Recently, BMO was able to partner with a company that fits all three of those criteria – while also working to keep our employees safe.

Many BMO employees are continuing to go to work every day in our branches and customer contact centers, and we need personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them protected. To help ensure their safety, in March 2020, BMO bought 25,000 face masks and 10,000 pairs of nitrile gloves from Anish Branding, an Indigenous-owned small business based in Ottawa with a satellite office in Toronto.

Anish is a BMO client and branding partner on our Indigenous strategy. They create promotional products for a variety of clients, branding everything from baseball caps to pens to hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer has become a valuable commodity recently – and that was the product that made Anish realize they could help out their clients in a whole new way.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Anish pivoted; their clients didn’t need branded products, but many of them – construction workers, hospitals, essential workers – were looking for PPE. Through Anish’s work creating branded medical materials for trade shows, they know the PPE manufacturers they can rely on to supply high-quality products that are properly certified – and they were able to get those supplies quickly thanks to the longstanding relationships they’ve built with them.

Indeed, Anish makes it a priority to build and maintain good relationships with their clients and business partners. “Many people who have gotten their safety products from us are just people we have great relationships with,” says Shawn Rivers, President of Anish. “I know people could be buying from lots of other places. So creating strong relationships over time helps, and we are really seeing the results of that now.”

BMO seeks to cultivate strong relationships, too – in fact, we were first introduced to Anish through the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, an organization that works to connect Indigenous businesses with the broader Canadian business community.

We were thrilled when Anish reached out to us to let us know they could supply BMO with PPE. Supplier diversity is one of our key priorities. It’s aligned with our corporate values and commitment to diversity and inclusion. And it’s not just the right thing to do – it’s good business. Supplier diversity promotes economic viability in local communities, creating more vibrant markets where we work – and it contributes to supply chain excellence by promoting innovation.

“When we can support Indigenous suppliers, small businesses and local workers – it’s such a win for us,” says James McKay, Senior Advisor, Inclusion. “Our supplier diversity strategy is aimed at working with a variety of vendors, and we’re committed to building long-term relationships with those suppliers.”

“It makes us a stronger and more innovative company. We want to work with diverse suppliers not just to get products, but also from an intellectual capital perspective,” says Andrew Cieslak, Global Chief Procurement Officer, with a nod to the branding work we are pursuing with Anish. “There’s so much to be gained by working with Indigenous businesses.”

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, Shawn is thinking about what comes next. “For the next six months or so, what would have been a small portion of what we do – safety products – will become our primary focus. As more and more people go back to work, we want them to feel confident that their PPE will help keep them safe,” he says. And he’s looking forward to continuing to work with us as well.

“BMO has been so supportive of who we are and what we are trying to do,” says Shawn. “They’ve been wonderful to deal with, very professional and receptive to our ideas.”

As this situation continues to unfold, many small businesses are facing a different future than the one they’d planned for just a couple months ago. At BMO, we’re committed to helping and working with those businesses – in as many different ways as possible. If we can keep our colleagues safe, while also supporting an Indigenous small business and adhering to our supplier diversity principles, then we know we’re succeeding in that commitment – on multiple levels.

During these unprecedented times, BMO is living our Purpose to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life, and going above and beyond to help those who are being affected by COVID-19.

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