LGBTQ-Owned Businesses Now Have a Seat at 'Billion Dollar' Table

Flag Day 'Raise the Rainbow' march
Attendees hold rainbow flags during a Flag Day 'Raise the Rainbow' march and rally, June 14, 2017 in New York City.Drew Angerer / Getty Images
By Medardo Perez

LGBTQ-owned businesses are being given a seat at the "Billion Dollar" table.

The Billion Dollar Roundtable (BDR), an organization that advocates for corporate supplier diversity, is expanding its membership criteria to recognize corporations that do business with LGBTQ-owned suppliers, along with those owned by veterans and people with disabilities. The organization announced the expanded criteria last week at its annual summit.

Founded in 2001, the BDR recognizes corporations that spend at least $1 billion annually with diverse suppliers. Prior to this latest announcement, the organization only considered businesses owned by women and ethnic minorities when determining whether a corporation has met this minimum annual spend.

"In the United States, LGBT-owned businesses are creating tens of thousands of jobs and adding over $1.7 trillion to the economy."

The BDR currently has 27 members — including Apple, Walmart and Comcast NBCUniversal (the parent company of NBC News) — with a consolidated diversity spend of $72 billion. In order to gain membership, a company must complete BDR's application process, and if inducted, commit to participating in BDR studies and activities around corporate supplier diversity.

The BDR did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), which advocates on behalf of LGBTQ-owned businesses, applauded the BDR's decision to expand its criteria.

"In the United States, LGBT-owned businesses are creating tens of thousands of jobs and adding over $1.7 trillion to the economy, much of that due to inclusion in corporate supply chains," NGLCC President Justin Nelson said in a statement. "We're proud to see our businesses included in the criteria that rewards corporate excellence in creating new opportunities for diverse-owned businesses to thrive."

In order to meet the BDR’s new membership criteria, LGBTQ-owned businesses must be certified as LGBT Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs) by the NGLCC. As of August 2017, the NGLCC has certified 983 businesses.

Deena Fidas, director of the Workplace Equality Program at LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said LGBTQ-owned suppliers are integral to business growth.

"It's not only equitable to engage LGBT business enterprises in these supplier diversity initiatives, it makes perfect business sense," Fidas said.

HRC publishes the annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI), which ranks companies based on their LGBTQ-related policies.

More than half of the top 20 Fortune-ranked businesses achieved a perfect 100 percent rating in the 2017 CEI. However, in 2019, HRC will only grant a perfect score to companies with proven track record of working with LGBTQ suppliers.

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