Businesses owned by individuals who describe themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) are finding a place at the supplier diversity table. In fact, for some in the supplier diversity field, the term has become known as a “next frontier” in the field.
Though the LGBTQ designation is still relatively new among diverse suppliers, corporate supply chains are increasingly making business opportunities available. DiversityInc, for instance, in a recent article applauded nine major, LGBT-friendly corporations, including those with a percentage of procurement spend going to certified LGBT vendors.
Business advocacy groups are also expanding outreach to LGBTQ business owners so they understand the array of resources available to help them grow their businesses.
The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) is a organization with the greatest breadth to assist LGBT-owned business enterprises. Founded in 2002, it offers a number of services, including an all-important role of certifying LGBTQ firms. As with more established diverse business categories, such as for businesses owned by women, African Americans, Hispanics or Asian Americans, certification is vital because it substantiates that the company is at least 51 percent LGBT owned.
NGLCC began certifying LGBTQ-owned firms in 2004 through its Supplier Diversity Initiative. It credits many major firms, such as IBM, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Motorola, Intel, American Airlines, American Express and Ernst & Young, with founding support for the initiative.
According to the NGLCC, its certification process was inspired by the work of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), two major certifying organizations primarily serving women- and minority-owned businesses, respectively.
Benefits of NGLCC Certification
NGLCC considers certification of LGBTQ-owned businesses a key marketing opportunity to provide differentiation between competitors. It not only offers the potential of providing these firms with new opportunities to compete for large contracts in corporate supply chains, but it also places them in the crosshairs for sourcing goods and services and support with more than 140 NGLCC corporate-partners that support LGBTQ-certified firms.
Moreover, NGLCC certification opens up opportunities for mentorship, corporate partnerships, matchmaking events, webinars, business development tools, leadership training, executive education, and corporate scholarship opportunities. In addition, a NGLCC database allows corporations to search for LGBTQ-certified firms.
Furthermore, the NGLCC holds an annual National Business & Leadership Conference, which brings together some 700 certified LGBTQ-suppliers with business leaders in corporate America and government. The event helps create business connections and foster networking as well as featuring discussions of key issues through expert panels, keynote speeches, and educational sessions.
Lastly, the NGLCC has 52 affiliate chambers throughout the United States and the world. It works directly with regional organizations supporting LGBTQ firms, including the Golden Gate Business Association, which was the nation's first LGBT Chamber of Commerce and boasts more than 400 members in the San Francisco Bay area, and the Rainbow Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California.
Government Initiatives Benefiting LGBTQ Businesses
In September 2014, the state of California, for instance, enacted laws extending supplier-diversity initiatives of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to LGBTQ-owned businesses. Utilities participating in the CPUC supplier diversity program are large companies with at least $25 million in annual revenue that have as a goal to spend 15 percent of procurement dollars working with certified minority-owned business enterprises; LGBTQ-owned business enterprises have been added. Later on in 2015, Massachusetts, through an executive order issued by its governor, became the first state in the nation to include LGBTQ-owned businesses in its own state supplier diversity program.
It is clear that corporate America is serious about bringing LGBTQ-owned firms into their supply chains, and that momentum is expected to accelerate going forward.