Corporate Social Responsibility

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Warren Buffett

Reputations are hard won and easily lost. For mom and pop businesses, it’s not difficult to ensure that the words and actions of the company representatives aligned with the company philosophy. But for larger corporations that may have many branch operations nationally and internationally, divisions within divisions, and a whole host of contractors working on their behalf, it can be a challenge to ensure absolutely everyone upholds the corporate philosophy.

There are actually several companies in the Kansas City area that because of representative actions, there is little chance my input concerning these companies would be a positive one. For instance, I just happened to be on one of the Reservations to meet with Tribal council members several days ago (December 16th) and voiced my dismay when I recognized one of those companies doing business there, not one member of the council understood how that particular business obtained the contract and had no knowledge of what the contractor was doing.

Should you be concerned? If your not, then you should be, you as an American Indian owned business are competing with a variety of contractors that have very little to absolutely no American Indian blood quantum what so ever, but use loop holes that occur when State and City officials misinterpret qualifications such as “Community Recognition” and are doing the qualification / certification for both State and Federal Enterprise certification then there are contractors that “front” for business owners and claim they are 51% owner of a company when in fact they are not. We are familiar with several companies that either front as an owner, part owner, or are not American Indian at all and yet are MBE AND DBE certified.

As an American Indian working in Kansas City you are already at a social disadvantage not just due to the fact that you are American Indian but as a result of that combined with the disparity of American Indian growth when compared to other races. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2007 Survey of Business Owners, Preliminary Estimates of Business Ownership by Gender, Ethnicity, Race, and Veteran Status – Released July 13, 2010 that in the State of Missouri there was substantial growth for African American businesses that realized a growth from 22.3 to 60.5%, for Hispanic businesses in Missouri it went from 43.7 to 91.4%, Asian businesses in Missouri realized a growth from 27.5 to 40.7% growth, American Indian businesses had a growth of -24.1 to -11.5%.  So I’ll say it again, given those figures, you should be concerned.

In terms of Indigenous relations, companies should realize that there are serious risks associated with hiring contractors who are not in alignment with the company mandates and philosophies – it just takes one contractor who lacks cultural competency to do or say something offensive and a company can kiss goodbye carefully nurtured and fostered Indigenous relations. The company could also face project delays due to lack of support for permitting processes, blockades, lost revenues, tarnished investor relations, and long term reputational damage.

This potential pitfall can be addressed by writing into all Requests for Proposals (RFP) that all contractors must be able to demonstrate that they and their employees have taken Indigenous awareness and cultural competency training. State clearly in the RFP that preference will be given to firms who can demonstrate they have a culturally competent workforce.

Is it necessary for the training to be systemic? Yes. Window dressing simply won’t cut it anymore. Anyone and everyone involved in:

  • human resources
  • procurement
  • communications
  • management
  • government relations
  • laborers
  • equipment operators
  • engineering

We are in an era of increased awareness about and respect for Indigenous People.

“Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large.”