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Monday, September 25, 2023

Supporting Black Business: a company-wide commitment

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During the summer of 2020, when racial tensions reached a tipping point in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Indy businesses were called to act. Through Business Equity for Indy’s Procurement and Participation Task Force, we have been able to align our sights on increasing the launch, growth and successes of Black Business Enterprises — and the first thing we ask our companies to acknowledge is that a diversity goal must be elevated beyond executive leadership or business unit and instead set a vision for the entire organization.

Companies that have signed up for the Procurement Roundtable, an ongoing workshop hosted by the Procurement and Participation Task Force, have made a commitment to adopt eight national best practices to increase supplier diversity. While all eight of those best practices play a critical role in supporting Black businesses, there is one that has the potential to transform a goal of equity into a valued, company-wide commitment to diversity: Prioritization of diversity goals and metrics on the highest level of corporate scorecards.

In response to the summer of 2020, we have seen many companies add new roles that oversee diversity, equity, inclusion, or some combination of the three. While this approach acknowledges that greater resources are needed, singlehandedly, it does not reflect a spirit of equity or demonstrate a true priority. When done right, companies who invest in inclusive practices are those that are committed to improving their business to ensure all employees, and the enterprises they do business with, have the same access to resources, training, support and success. Furthermore, companies that make a substantial and sustainable commitment to equity often experience an improvement in key metrics that can include:

  • Recruitment of greater, more qualified, and more diverse talent.
  • Access into diverse markets.
  • An increased bottom line across the organization.

An investment in equity is not to be taken lightly. The Procurement Roundtable was created to support companies interested in developing a robust supplier diversity program regardless of the inroads they have made to date. If we are to be genuine and authentic as advocates on the road to equity, we must invest in demonstrating that commitment. After George Floyd was murdered, companies came out with all kinds of public statements about their support for diversity, equity and inclusion. Still, the most important statements are those that demonstrate an investment in people, communities and strategic business partners. The upcoming Procurement Roundtable, free for businesses to attend, helps participants gain tools, coaching and exposure to national expertise to help begin building a program that fits your company’s needs.

Reggie Williams

Having coined the phrase “supplier diversity” in 1985, Reggie Williams, CEO, Procurement Resources Inc., comes alongside Procurement Roundtable participants with a focus on collaborative engagement. A fundamental element of this expertise is his ability to generate a broad-based consensus that engages internal stakeholders. With three decades of exposure to best practices across various industries, Williams leverages lessons learned to guide the development of your company’s strategy on supplier diversity.

As Williams often advises, there are many ways companies can demonstrate a commitment to supplier diversity, not the least of which is funding a process that seeks to make change by creating opportunity and competitive access.

Supplier diversity will only be effective when there is an investment in the outcome of the process. Companies that join BEI can demonstrate this not just by participating but by investing. An investment might look like:

A. Implementation of supplier development and mentorship. Companies can mentor two or three suppliers annually and create greater capacity among minority suppliers — particularly in procurement categories that they purchase.

B. Assist suppliers in generating joint venture opportunities for minorities to buy from minorities and for minorities to invest in their communities.

C. Finally, we must collectively double down on our investment to a brighter, more diverse tomorrow because of initiatives like BEI. This is a foundation to realize better business, better opportunities and a better tomorrow for all members of a community. Additional funding of BEI will result in opportunities for small, minority, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American and women-owned businesses to participate in the economy that they have played a pivotal role in creating.

If you represent an Indy business interested in making an investment in equity, we invite you to learn more and register on the Business Equity for Indy website.

Stacia Murphy is director of equity, outreach and strategic partnerships at Indy Chamber, and Reggie Williams is CEO of Procurement Resources Inc.

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