A more inclusive workplace leads to a more successful company.
In July, I had the honor of accepting an award from the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce (ILBCC) for championing diversity at Ameren Illinois. As the largest energy delivery company in downstate Illinois, we take seriously the role we play in growing and developing the communities we serve. Having a more inclusive workplace creates opportunities for our employees, suppliers and customers throughout our entire region—and leads to a more successful company.
On the employee side, our Employee Resource Groups (ERG)—cross-sectional groups of employees who work together to develop diversity and inclusion initiatives—consist of employees who share a common interest or background, or have concerns about some of the challenges/barriers and opportunities a particular group is facing. They provide an active forum for discussion and exploration of cultural differences, and offer avenues to welcome new employees, develop professional skills, expand networks, perform community outreach and assist the company in reaching our business goals. A few of the company-sponsored ERGs include the Ameren Military-Veteran Employees, Ameren Network of Minority Employees and Women Influencing Success in Energy.
On the business side, Ameren is a major purchaser of materials and services. A constructive regulatory environment in Illinois has enabled us to undertake a massive overhaul of the state’s electric and natural gas infrastructure. We’re busy installing advanced outage detection technology, stronger poles and wires, and an updated distribution grid. While these improvements have boosted reliability by 17 percent and saved customers more than $48 million, it has also created new opportunities for diverse suppliers to do business with the company. Here are a few of the strides we have made to promote diversity and inclusion in our core business practices:
- Since 2012, the value of goods and services Ameren Illinois has purchased from minority and woman-owned businesses increased by $76 million. To help maintain a steady pipeline of diverse suppliers, hundreds of entrepreneurs, business owners and Ameren procurement reps meet annually to network and identify buy-sell opportunities at Ameren’s supplier diversity symposiums.
- In communities throughout Illinois, Ameren partners with local community and not-for-profit organizations, community colleges and universities to host outreach events to identify potential new employees with diverse backgrounds.
- In June, Ameren Illinois joined four other utilities in announcing the formation of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council. This council is designed to grow business opportunities for diverse suppliers through closer collaboration, technical development and sharing of best practices.
- Ameren has developed a scholarship program for diverse business owners at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire.
Ameren’s success in diversity and inclusion has also gained national acclaim. In April, Ameren Corporation was named the number-one company on DiversityInc’s list of top utilities for diversity. This is the fifth consecutive year Ameren has been recognized among the top five utilities nationally for creating an inclusive workplace, reaching diverse customers and having strong supplier diversity. I’m proud to lead a company that truly lives the values of diversity and inclusion. J.D. Power just released the first-wave results of its business survey for 2015, and Ameren Illinois ranks number one in business customer satisfaction among large utilities in the Midwest. Clearly, diversity brings an added dimension to the way Ameren Illinois does business. It enriches our employees and our company, and most importantly, provides better service for our customers. iBi
Richard J. Mark is president of Ameren Illinois.