What are the key considerations of business inclusion and development?JENNIFER:
The business case considers how a project will benefit the local workforce with possible job opportunities. The economic case focuses on how a certain project and associated team living in that area will boost the local economy. It’s not just about the transfer of money for the end product or service. Then there’s the social impact case. The topic of supplier diversity came about during a time when people of color had a hard time shopping, let alone creating revenue. It’s our responsibility to provide every qualified business an opportunity, overcoming some of those deep-rooted and somewhat lingering injustices that took shape hundreds of years ago.
What is happening today to further promote business diversity?MICHELLE:
Many of our clients are plugged into their communities and are addressing some of the difficult questions by renewing their focus on corporate and social responsibility. They appreciate that their customer base is not limited to one segment of the population and understand that opportunities to work on their projects should not be limited, either. By establishing diverse business utilization goals, our clients are compelling prime contractors to practice a culture of inclusion within their procurement and subcontracting process. For large, majority-owned companies, this is one method that helps extend opportunities to business classifications that otherwise might not have a chance to compete for and provide products or services that will be subcontracted.
How is California leading the charge, and what lessons can it offer other regions?JENNIFER:
California is one of the most diverse states in the U.S. Having that type of population, people want and expect access to jobs, and for businesses to have an equal footing. I think that’s why equity, in addition to diversity, is such a big word for us here in California. Coincidentally, this year marks the 30th anniversary of our state taking a stance on the topic of business diversity, bridging the nondiverse spending gap through a supplier diversity program known as General Order 156. The largest California energy utilities have not only complied with this state-imposed recommendation but also have doubled the original diverse spend goal of 21.5% and regularly meet or exceed 40% diverse business utilization.
Creating a supplier diversity committee, one like we have that draws engagement from all business groups and leaders, is a good starting point for others who want to expand upon their diversity initiatives. Also, our firm hosts community engagement events and activities to bring all people, including community members and business partners, together for a good cause.
What efforts do you see gaining traction throughout California?JENNIFER:
In addition to consistently exceeding spend goals, California utilities also have implemented capacity building programs to support diverse businesses. In 2017, we partnered with San Diego Gas & Electric to create a mentor/protégé program that encourages diverse business growth and participation. The program covers four phases: discovering certified and noncertified diverse-owned businesses; developing diverse businesses to prepare for procurement opportunities including certification; growing and strengthening diverse business partnerships by providing one-on-one mentorships and workshops on topics such as safety, marketing and legal; and sustaining diverse business partners for the next generation with succession planning and community engagement that focuses on developing the next pipeline of diverse business entrepreneurs.
On the municipal side, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the agency governing the Los Angeles International Airport, is fully committed to business and community inclusion. Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAWA CEO Deborah Flint have implemented a Business, Jobs and Social Responsibility division to identify how to leverage local funding to enhance the community. Similarly, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has implemented a series of programs that strengthen supplier diversity and workforce development through its Diversity and Economic Opportunity Department.
What’s your plan to continue increasing awareness?JENNIFER:
This year our Orange County, California, office hosted the first-ever Community of Inclusion and Equity Symposium, focusing on reimagining supplier diversity. We understand that only a handful or less of our regional offices have a diversity and inclusion or business diversity program, so this was a way for us to share knowledge and spread awareness with them, including training regional office leadership and representatives on business diversity basics. On day two, we invited project owners, clients and advocacy groups to participate in and lead candid, genuine conversations about the intricacies of supplier diversity and help identify what is working and what can be done to promote equity and diversity within procurement.
What’s the one thing people should take away from this conversation?MICHELLE:
There’s an ongoing debate as to whether or not Babe Ruth is the best baseball player of all time, because not everyone was allowed to play the game. The same concept applies to diverse business representation. Reaching out to a diverse supplier field increases the probability of receiving the best value for products and services. It’s as straightforward as that. Our goal with every project is to leave the community better than we found it. One way we can accomplish this is by demonstrating to community stakeholders and businesses that we are equitable, thoughtful and professional in our project decisions. Equity and corporate responsibility help us improve the quality of life for people. All people.