In June, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice announced a nearly $4 million partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to encourage and support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender business owners and entrepreneurs in developing countries. This unprecedented agreement is the latest in a string of accomplishments for NGLCC founders Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell as they look ahead to a global, long-term vision for LGBT business equality.
Engaging corporate support NGLCC is currently advocating for a bill in the California state senate which, if signed into law, would require public utilities — cable, internet service providers, gas and electric — to use LGBT and other diverse suppliers, and report back to the Public Utilities Commission on that utilization. AT&T and Southern California Edison are vocal supporters of this legislation, providing crucial backing as corporations that will have to adhere to the new regulations if the bill passes.
Policy achievements like this law would not be possible without private sector adoption and advocacy, Nelson said. “I don’t know that we would be where we are today with the California bill, if we hadn’t already done a lot of groundwork and building of support with major corporations, like GM, IBM, Google and Wells Fargo,” he said. “These are not fringe corporations. These are some of the biggest names in corporate America who understand that their supply chains need to look like their customer and employee base.”
Integrating supplier diversity To facilitate matchmaking between companies and diverse suppliers, NGLCC recently launched MyNGLCC, a data-rich web portal that Nelson described as a “face for business connections.” Through MyNGLCC, companies can apply for and maintain LGBT business enterprise certification, manage their unique profiles, search for certified businesses and corporate partners, build relationships and pursue business opportunities with greater knowledge about each other than with a generic database search.
In addition to aiding LGBTBEs, the Washington, D.C.-based organization assists corporations with integrating LGBT owned companies into their existing supply chains through corporate outreach. For instance, NGLCC is working with Shell to bring in some Tier I contractors and help diversify their supply chains, ensuring integration from the top down.
“A strong, diverse, integrated supply chain is critical to Shell’s commitment to becoming the world’s most innovative energy company,” said Brian Hall, supplier diversity and diversity outreach specialist at Shell. “That is why Shell diversity has implemented programming actions that engage our key supply-chain primes in our external supplier matchmaking and business expo activities. We believe that connecting diverse suppliers — specifically LGBT business enterprises — to those corporations that we are strategically connected to is a clear value-add in order to foster inclusion.”
Engagement on the rise Participation on both sides of the table is steadily increasing.Over the past year, itchell has seen a significant increase in the number of corporations that want to engage NGLCC and the LGBT community in supplier diversity initiatives.
NGLCC continues to add a record number of corporations that are committed to buying back into the community by using LGBTBE certified suppliers. More than one-third of the Fortune 500 now recognize NGLCC as the exclusive third-party certifying body for LGBT-owned businesses.
“We have an incredible pool of talented businesses that can provide goods and services to major corporations,” Mitchell said. “I think corporations are wanting to incorporate that kind of diversity and inclusion into their supply chains. This [need for diversity and inclusion] means more dollars being spent and invested in the LGBT community, which is a great thing for us all.”
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. & Affiliated Cos., a company with a firm commitment to LGBT supplier diversity, joined NGLCC as a corporate partner in early 2014. The company’s membership and continued participation with NGLCC is fully supported by members of its senior executive leadership team, one of whom serves as the lead executive sponsor of Nationwide’s internal associate resource group for LGBT associates, PRIDE. Nationwide Director of Supplier Diversity and Development Frantz Tiffeau Jr. serves as the chair of the NGLCC Procurement Council and is leading change across corporate America by encouraging contracting with certified LGBTBEs, as well as providing education and development opportunities for LGBT suppliers.
“Nationwide is built on the belief that we can do more together than we can alone, hence the commitment Nationwide has to the LGBT community,” said Andrew Walker, senior vice president, information technology chief financial officer and chief procurement officer.
“Our partnership with NGLCC is anchored in a mutual drive to advance economic development in our communities.”The organization has also seen an increase in conference attendance — 25 percent in 2013 over 2012, and July’s National Business & Leadership Conference in Las Vegas is on target to add another 20 to 25 percent increase in participants. Unique events like “walk-and-talks” that promote a healthy lifestyle, along with building relationships, are popular among the companies and suppliers who come together at the conference.Looking ahead to global equality Nelson and Mitchell are planning now for a future when equality is standard for LGBT Americans. They ask themselves what their value-add will be once that happens; how will the relationships they are building and cultivating with new and potential partners now benefit their members when equality is achieved?
“There will always be LGBT business owners; there will always be a need for corporations to engage them as suppliers, as customers, as strategic partners,” Nelson said. “Continuing to refine that model is something that we’re taking great strides at doing now, so that if and when and how and where those corporations engage,NGLCC stays top of mind.”
NGLCC’s partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development is part of a larger trend for companies that are looking at not just what’s happening in the U.S., but what’s happening around the world. Looking ahead to the next 10 to 20 years of opportunities for members, the organization is actively laying groundwork for global expansion through NGLCC Global™, a division of NGLCC promoting the growth of small businesses and providing the quickest and most effective path to broad-based economic advancement and empowerment of the global LGBT community .
In October, NGLCC and its Colombia LGBT chamber affiliate will co-host WE Trade, a bilateral trade and strategic partnership between LGBT-owned businesses in the U.S. and Colombia. The organization has seen its Colombia affiliate grow exponentially, welcoming more than 200 members in less than two years. Argentina’s affiliate has support from that country’s president, as does Mexico where an NGLCC affiliate will launch in September.
“Prepping our [member] businesses for these opportunities is something we’re spending quite a lot of time, energy and resources doing,” Nelson said. “We’re living in an increasingly global economy, and we want to make sure that our members are at the forefront of those opportunities.”