Monday, October 10, 2005

If you'll be my dixie chicken...

I'm still curious about the relationship between Tyson Foods and the Arkansas Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (ARMSDC), who named Tyson "Corporation of the Year." Seems odd while Tyson is encumbered with a class-action lawsuit about discrimination in the workplace, See our previous posts here and here.

Let's take another look at ARMSDC. First, in addition to the oddities about their web site we noticed before, we find the heading on the home page: "Arkansas Regional Supplier Devlopment (sic) Council". Again, seems pretty shoddy for a national organization. And there's still the curious matter of their Corporate Awards Dinner page:
??Need some general verabage on this event.... Such This is a annual event to recognize businesses & corporate sponsors.... This event is held in the fall... check the event calendar for date... yada yada yada??
Very wierd. Reminds me of the David Spade Capitol One TV commercial, except, not so funny.

ARMSDC is an affiliate of the (surprise!) National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. (NMSDC), Here's their "Who We Are" statement:
Providing a direct link between corporate America and minority-owned businesses is the primary objective of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, one of the country's leading business membership organizations. It was chartered in 1972 to provide increased procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes.

The NMSDC Network includes a National Office in New York and 39 regional councils across the country. There are 3,500 corporate members throughout the network, including most of America's largest publicly-owned, privately-owned and foreign-owned companies, as well as universities, hospitals and other buying institutions. The regional councils certify and match more than 15,000 minority owned businesses (Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American) with member corporations which want to purchase goods and services.

Sounds fairly safe, so far. Here's one item from their Programs & Services:
Referrals to corporate buyers of minority suppliers capable of providing quality goods and services at competitive prices, and in a timely fashion;

Now that starts to make sense; it's really a shakedown organization to milk minority owned companies and Fortune 500 companies for money in exchange for contacts and bona fides such as the award given to Tyson.

Not surprisingly, we find these upstanding citizens on the list of Members:
The Coca-Cola Company &
Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc.

A little research turns up this about Coke from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility:
COKE SETTLES RACIAL DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT
16 November, 2000

On November 16th, The Coca-Cola Company agreed to pay more than $192 million in cash and equity payments in the largest racial discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history. The settlement resolved a federal class action lawsuit brought by African American employees against the company in April of 1999 and mandates major changes unprecedented in corporate history.

Earlier the same year we have this from Coke:
Atlanta, May 16, 2000 - Doug Daft, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, today made a five-year $1 billion commitment to diversity in a comprehensive empowerment and entrepreneurship program for the U.S.

"This is a logical extension of our 'think local, act local' strategy and our desire to become a model citizen in the communities we serve," said Daft. " To do that, The Coca-Cola Company must continue to strengthen local economies through the way we invest, the way we allocate our procurement dollars, the partners we choose to help us market and distribute our brands, and the way we build our system."

"This Company was built on a tradition of shared success. I commissioned a disciplined and rigorous inventory of our operations to determine where we could do more to extend that tradition. 'Everyone who touches Coca-Cola should benefit' was one of this Company's early business principles. This program reflects the results of that recently completed review to help us take that principle into the 21st century."

The program announced today includes:

1. Increased spending with minority- and women-owned businesses and a commitment to foster a climate of entrepreneurial opportunity through targeted minority supplier identification and a new supplier mentoring program;
2. Increased Company investments in local economies through urban economic partnerships, including a 50-community expansion of the Urban Customer Partner program and increased marketing investments to strengthen local retailers and entrepreneurs;
3. Increased opportunities for minority financial institutions and businesses through the Company's financial strategies and investments;
4. Creation of a task force headed by Jack Stahl, president and COO, to determine by first quarter 2001 specific opportunities for minorities for equity and ownership in the Cola-Cola value chain;
5. Increased community contributions and support for organizations focused on education, mentoring, economic opportunity and neighborhood revitalization.

5 years later we have this:
With The Coca-Cola Company’s five-year pledge to spend $800 million with minority- and women-owned businesses winding down, Chairman and CEO Neville Isdell recently confirmed his commitment to supplier diversity at the fourth-annual “Partners in the Promise” awards celebration in Atlanta.

“As a consumer products company, our success depends on our ability to listen to consumers and customers, and to respond rapidly to changes in the marketplace,” Isdell told the audience of supplier diversity partners and supporters at the April 7 event. “If The Coca-Cola Company is going to continue to be a leader in the marketplace, we must also be a leader in supplier diversity. Tonight, I’m honored to share with you my personal commitment to this imperative.”



So clearly Coke embarked on this minority PR campaign as penance for the impending settlement of the discrimination lawsuit. And Coke milked it for all it was worth, after, of course, the humiliation of the settlement.

Oh, wait a minute, what humiliation? That's pretty impressive performance. Maybe they deserve the award from the NMSDC for biggest contribution from a member successfully litigated against. Unless Tyson has beaten them to the punch.

The NMSDC member list is long; we'll look at some more later, after my stomach settles.