By David Carter, President, Aqua America Illinois and Board Member, Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC)
At Aqua Illinois, our steadfast commitment to supplier diversity stems from our ability to foster diversity and inclusion in every facet of our operations. This approach to doing business ensures that our supplier base reflects the communities we serve while enabling us to be responsible corporate citizens. Additionally, by soliciting and incorporating diverse perspectives in addressing problems across the business, supplier diversity drives better outcomes.
At Aqua Illinois, we recognize that diversity is not just a value; it is a strategic imperative that fortifies our business resilience and contributes to the economic vitality of the communities we serve. Our dedication to supplier diversity is not merely a checkbox; it is an integral part of our long-term procurement and supply chain strategy. We view it as a means to enhance our supply chain through lower costs, improved response times, and higher levels of service to our customers, thereby providing a competitive advantage in building brand equity and expanding market share.
Our approach to supplier diversity is multi-faceted. We actively seek out partnerships with local vendors in the communities we serve, amplifying our impact on regional growth and economic well-being. Moreover, Aqua Illinois actively engages with prime suppliers, encouraging them to utilize diverse subcontractors and report their diverse spend through our automated Tier II reporting tool. We hold ourselves and our partners accountable to fair and transparent business practices. In doing so, we not only fulfill our corporate social responsibility but also align with Aqua’s core values of integrity, respect, and excellence.
Looking ahead, we are not resting on our laurels. Our supplier diversity goals for 2024 include enhancing our program and policies and expanding the use of our supplier diversity dashboard for real-time reporting. We are committed to continuous improvement, identifying new opportunities, and overcoming challenges to further diversify our supplier pool.
As we move forward, Aqua Illinois will continue to host Supplier Diversity Workshops, connecting prime suppliers with Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs), Women Business Enterprises (WBEs), and Veteran Business Enterprises (VBEs). And we continue to value our relationship and share ideas with the Illinois Utility Business Diversity Council (IUBDC). Through the IUBDC we are able to expand our base of diverse suppliers and learn from our committed IUBDC partners. These initiatives, along with our collaboration with local resource and regional partner organizations, will help us identify additional qualified and certified suppliers and foster relationships with Small Business Enterprises (SBEs).
I have seen, firsthand, the impact of a small business on the community from my father’s own auto repair business launched in 1975 with two people and little money. The business has grown and supported three generations of my family and dozens of employees in its nearly 50 years of operation. In addition, the business has supported numerous organizations and events in the local community. This impact is consistent with the positive community influence demonstrated by diverse and small businesses supported by Aqua Illinois.
As you can see, the importance of supplier diversity at Aqua Illinois is not just a corporate initiative; it is a reflection of our dedication to being a socially responsible corporate citizen. We are committed to fostering an environment where all voices are heard, and diverse perspectives contribute to our collective success.