Friends, please forgive my tardiness in writing further about NGLCC’s newly-ended relationship with Wal-Mart. My original post is here. I left on vacation the day after I posted, and to be honest, I didn’t really expect Justin Nelson, co-founder and president of the organization to write back. Well, to his credit, he did write back, and his response is here:
Much appreciation for your note about NGLCC and Wal-Mart. I would just open with a statement that it would be easy to work with companies that are 100 percent on our issues 100 percent of the time. Unfortunately, if that were the case, the universe of companies with whom we work would get awfully small awfully quick and progress on our issues would not progress. As a business advocacy organization – and I would offer as any organization that represents all or part of the LGBT segment — it is our responsibility to continually push corporations to do better, to respect their LGBT employees, customers and of course, suppliers. We have had much success in this arena – millions of dollars are now being spent with companies that are LGBT owned as part of corporate supplier diversity programs that was not previously the case. By this I mean that LGBT owned companies are now part of many corporate diverse supply chains, much as ethnic minorities, women owned businesses, service disabled veterans and other diverse groups. This is all good news for the community.
Our partnership with Wal-Mart was an effort to bring their company up to speed with regard to their corporate practices and how they affect our community. A year later, admittedly, reviews are mixed. They are working on benefits for their LGBT employees, although not quickly enough. There are LGBT owned companies that are now major suppliers to Wal-Mart, although not enough. When we made our agreement it was based on what I considered to be a series of benchmarks that needed to be met throughout the course of the last year for the partnership to be extended. Simply put, they didn’t meet them, and they did not pay their corporate membership dues – both of which we felt were grounds for not renewing membership.
It is my job to ensure opportunities for LGBT companies to compete in the marketplace, make connections to grow their businesses and constantly think about how more dollars can be spent with our community enterprises. I will not always be right, but rest assured, I will always be right in my reasons for pursuing a partnership, pushing companies that need to be pushed and doing everything I and the NGLCC can do to adequately educate decision makers about our community.
Again, I appreciate your note. As a fellow westerner (I was born and raised in Wyoming and LOVE Colorado), I am pleased to know of your interest in what we are doing and the work you do to educate our community about issues of importance.
As gracious and open-minded as he was to engage (I did let him know I’d be publishing his responses), his response left me with more questions. Here’s what I wrote back:
Again, thanks for the reply, and sorry for the delay. It was a great trip.
I suppose what confuses me and some of our readers is what it means to be a member of your Corporate Advisory Council. As of today, your website lists members of that organization as representatives from Wyndham International Resorts and Hotels, JPMorgan Chase, IBM, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (oddly), Cisco Systems, American Airlines, AVIS,
Motorola, Intel Corporation, Wells Fargo & Company, and Cendant. Of these corporations, only AVIS and Cendant (and Wal-Mart) didn’t receive a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2006 Corporate Equality Index (AVIS wasn’t rated, and Cendant scored a 75%).
Now, I recognize that your organization is not affiliated with (nor beholden to, thank Heavens) HRC. Still, it seems curious that Wal-Mart would find itself in such company (when its score was in the 60s). Especially curious is your reasoning for affiliating yourself with Wal-Mart in the first place: “[In] an effort to bring their company up to speed with regard to their corporate practices and how they affect our community.” It almost seems a habilitative relationship. But is that the same relationship you have with the other members of the CAC? I can’t imagine so.
Why would you place the representative from what seems, based on your response to have been a probationary (“a series of benchmarks that needed to be met throughout the course of the last year for the partnership to be extended “) corporation in such a high place of honor? How, I wonder, were they received by the other, well-established groups in that Council? Is this common practice? When in the past have you named a corporation to the CAC with such a poor record on gay-rights in hopes, it seems, that they’d come around?
Also, your original press-release (for some reason, now missing from your website, but cached here on ours), made no mention whatsoever of these “benchmarks”, nor their ties to continuation of the relationship. And why not mention that in the press release wherein you announce the end of your relationship?
I’ll go ahead and call it as I see it, Justin: Given that Wal-Mart had (as you concede), made headway (“although not enough”), it would seem to me that such a collosas which suffered onslaught from their usual supporters on your (and our) behalf is entitled to something more gracious, especially considering the gains they did make. Don’t you think? How likely is Wal-Mart to continue its move toward our community after how they’ve been portrayed? How are other corporations willing to reach out to our community to read the curt way in which this relationship was ended? Do you feel this will encourage other businesses to help our community?
I appreciate your honesty and willingness (and guts) to share your insights with our readers, and am looking forward to hearing back,
And I do look forward to (and anticipate) his reply. Justin seems a straight-shooter, and deserves the benefit of the doubt. However, as a self-declared representative of our community, he also should be held to these questions. More soon, I’m sure….