It’s gotten so you can’t walk down most downtown streets in Toronto without spotting a flurry of those little rainbow stickers that tell you LGBT folks are welcomed with open arms (and cash registers). And hey, it’s nice to know our dollars are going to people who aren’t actively trying to quash our rights (Helloooo there, Chick-fil-A).
But just because a business’s door is festooned with our multicoloured signifier doesn’t mean it holds any actual affiliation with our community. Of course, it’s great to support our supporters, but the folks at the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) are working to help homo dollars find their way to queer businesses.
“We know that less than five percent in corporate spending in Canada can be identified as going to certified diverse suppliers,” says Justin Lafontaine, project manager for the CGLCC’s supplier diversity program. “The goal of supplier diversity is to level the playing field.”
The program is based on similar programs in the United States and Canada, where diverse businesses owned by women, minorities and aboriginal people are offered the chance to compete in a larger market.
“Our program matches LGBT businesses with corporations that are looking to diversify their supply chains,” Lafontaine says. “Many of these corporations already support our community with Pride events and employee programs. They understand that productivity comes from diversity.”
The program is a new venture here in Canada and offers membership to any business with 51 percent or larger queer ownership. There’s an application and certification process that, once completed, ensures a place in CLGCC’s data base, which is promoted to their growing list of interested buyers.
“There are also opportunities for networking between other businesses,” Lafontaine says. “They can buy from each other, supporting and keeping LGBT dollars within the community.”
It’s not just small businesses that qualify for membership. Lafontaine points out that any self-employed homo, be they the owner of a flower shop, an independent consultant or (ahem) freelance writer is eligible. So far, there are some pretty big guns lining up to support the venture, including TD Bank, IBM and the 2015 Pan Am Games.
The owners of Condo Fresh, a boutique agency that provides cleaning, organization and staging for condominium owners, have signed up for the supplier diversity program. Co-owner Jamie Moorhouse believes that partnership with the CGLCC will not only prove a benefit to his company’s ledger books, but also enhance its commitment to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community.
“I think that it’s good for minority-owned businesses like ourselves to be recognized and have an opportunity to network with other LGBT businesses,” Moorhouse says. “It gives us a presence and helps put us on an equal playing field.
“In Canada your diversity is seen as an advantage. A lot of large businesses cater to diverse clientele, and they want to know that their vendors are representative of the society in which they live. Supplier diversity opens up a whole network and puts us on the radar of larger companies.”