The Business Case for DEI
In September 2020, during some of the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the massive Creek Fire devastated the community around Southern California Edison’s Big Creek hydroelectric facility. In response, SCE created a tent city for more than 1,500 recovery workers, including electrical crews, vegetation management teams and virus testing personnel. To complicate matters, a key supplier was unable to meet the project’s demands. What now?
“The only reason we were able to successfully respond to that was the diversity of our supplier base,” recalled Jim Niemiec, SCE vice president of Operational Services and chief procurement officer. “We needed things that we don’t typically buy, like tent city services. Sure enough, we happened to learn about an LGBTQ-certified supplier who could deliver what we needed in such an emergency. It was just the power and strength of the relationships in our diverse supplier community."
Niemiec delivered that anecdote during a panel discussion at the Edison Electric Insititute’s Business Diversity Conference in Los Angeles, which SCE hosted. EEI President Tom Kuhn moderated the discussion, which included Marlon Merritt of Entergy Corp., Johnny Howze of Southern Company and Jaspreet Singh of DTE Energy. Niemiec also highlighted how SCE is transforming its procurement approach to attract diverse bidders. That commitment drew loud applause from the gathering of energy industry executives from around the country who met with potential suppliers and stressed the need for diversity, equity and inclusion to respond to an unprecedented set of challenges, from climate change to rising energy costs to supply chain disruptions.
"Our supply chain partners, which include diverse business enterprises, are vital to all of the work that we do. Diverse suppliers are supporting us with the installation of covered conductor, with the design and construction of electric vehicle chargers and with vegetation management,” said Steve Powell, SCE president & CEO. “Partnerships with diverse businesses provide us a competitive and sustainable supply base.”
"I'm meeting with every executive in the organization and having a conversation about how to be inclusive leaders," said Eric Watson, who celebrated his one-year anniversary as SCE’s director of diversity and inclusion during the conference. "Culture matters, so if you want the best talent, you have to have a culture that's going to embrace what the population is asking for. If you’re not exposed to different people, if you don’t experience different people, if you don't get immersed in a different culture, we cannot become culturally competent."
Last year, SCE spent $2.44 billion with more than 620 diverse suppliers and contractors, about 38% of the company’s total spending with third parties. The company also invested $1.3 million in technical assistance and mentoring programs and contributes nearly $20 million of shareholder funds annually to diverse and underserved communities. The economic impact of SCE’s contracting with diverse firms: more than $3.5 billion and 23,000 jobs in 2020 alone.
In recognition of its commitment to African American businesses, SCE was honored as the “Utility Company of the Year” by the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce at its annual economic awards dinner May 19.
“Just as we want our workforce and our executives and our board to reflect the communities that we serve we also need vendors and suppliers who represent the vast diversity of our Southern California home,” said Pedro J. Pizarro, president and CEO of Edison International and vice chairman of EEI in his welcome address to conferees.
"When I look at all the things we're doing, we know that we need the support from our diverse suppliers to help lead the transition to a clean energy future," Pizarro said.
To learn more about SCE's diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, visit The Power of Diversity at Edison International.