By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Contributing Writer
For the nation’s automakers, diversity is measured in colors and it’s better to be a solid green than a token yellow or a non-existent red.
The recently released Rainbow PUSH Automotive Project, an initiative of the Citizenship Education Fund (CEF), revealed a multi-topic assessment scorecard of diversity in the auto industry.
The scorecard provides consumers, investors and industry experts a snapshot of each automotive manufacturer’s ability to build and sustain ethnic diversity as a driver of marketplace competitiveness, according to a release from the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
“The only way to achieve a meaningful return on investment for the dollars we spend with auto companies is to measure our progress on fair trade, because what is measured is what matters,” said Jackson, the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
Those who received a green certification reflect best practices for ethnic diversity while those with a yellow mark showed some indication of diversity evident goals, initiatives and accountability, according to the ranking system.
Red indicated that diversity initiatives and investments were non-existent, not disclosed or that the company did not provide enough relevant information for scoring or they didn’t submit a completed survey.
The release of the diversity scorecard highlighted the Rainbow PUSH Global Automotive Summit in Detroit where auto executives, suppliers, dealers and government officials gathered to discuss ways to strengthen and create opportunities in the industry for minorities.
“Minority companies need a short-term plan for survival and a long-term critical path to success with measurable goals, targets and timetables,” Jackson said.
Of the 12 automotive companies to participate in the scorecard, Ford Motor Co. received the top ratings, including green marks in five of six categories.
BMW and Mercedes Benz were the only companies to receive red indicators in each of the categories which included employment, advertising, marketing, procurement, minority dealer development and philanthropy.
Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Donna Boland told Automotive News that the company’s ratings were the result of an “unusual situation” in which the company was moving its U.S. headquarters from Montvale, N.J., to Atlanta as the survey was conducted.
As a result, the automaker was unable to know the composition of its work force since it knew many of its workers would not move with the company, Boland said.
“Unfortunately, the scorecard reflects red when data is not available,” Boland said. “We’ll have to live with that, but it in no way reflects our commitment or accomplishment in this area.”
Boland said the company spoke with Jackson in February to discuss its situation.
“We have had conversations with Reverend Jackson and his team since then and we will be meeting with him before the end of the year to take him through where we are in a variety of areas,” Boland said.
Rainbow/PUSH also criticized Mercedes-Benz in 2013 for not replying to its survey.
Rainbow/PUSH officials said Jackson and Executive Director Glenda Gill will meet with automakers to discuss the results of the survey and to develop a “road map for progress in diversity and inclusion.”
Ford received green marks for employment, procurement, minority dealer development and philanthropy.
“At Ford, we are proud of our inclusive business practices, and we recognize diversity as strength,” said Ford spokeswoman Becky Sanch.
“Diversity and inclusion strategies are an integral part of our business and we recognize how valuable they are to drive innovation, compete in the marketplace and serve the greater community,” Sanch said.
Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Nissan and Honda received green for employment while Honda and Hyundai each received green respectively for procurement and minority dealer development.
Green marks for philanthropy also went to General Motors, FCA, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen.
While they didn’t fair as well as officials thought they may have, General Motors has continued to build a strong diversity track record.
“Our diversity and inclusion efforts are something we take seriously,” said Leslie Gordon, senior manager of diversity communications at General Motors, who garnered green marks for employment, procurement, and philanthropy.
General Motors works with more than 200 certified minority and women-owned businesses in the United States and Canada.
In 1968, the company became the first automotive original equipment manufacturer to establish a formal supplier diversity program and, as a result, General Motors’ affirmation of their commitment is visible among minority and women-owned businesses where the company has spent more $70 billion since the program’s inception, according to GM officials.
The scorecard awarded General Motors yellow for advertising, marketing and minority dealer development.
“We plan to meet with Rev. Jackson and we are working closely with Rainbow PUSH on programs that speak to financial education,” said Gordon, who noted that important information that could have raised GM’s score did not make it into the scorecard.
Also, Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Chevrolet – a General Motors company – are jointly hosting a series of workshops to educate African-American consumers on financial literacy and assist participants in developing concrete steps toward financial security.
The workshops, Rainbow PUSH Money Matters sponsored by Chevrolet, are scheduled in Detroit, Atlanta and Chicago, with the goal of helping demystify the complexities of college financing, credit, and the benefits of long-term money management.
“For over forty years, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition has been committed to leveling the social and economic playing field in this country and around the world,” Jackson said.
Jackson continued: “The next phase of this movement will involve a comprehensive, national empowerment campaign aimed at helping to improve the quality of financial health. This exciting partnership with Chevrolet will help us get there.”