WUSTL receives Institution of the Year award for its work with minority-owned businesses

Washington University in St. Louis recently secured a notable achievement: The St. Louis Minority Supplier Development Council (SLMSDC) named the school its Institution of the Year.

The council handed out the award at its annual Excellence Awards Gala on Nov. 30 at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis.

Alan Kuebler, the university’s assistant vice chancellor and executive director for Resource Management, who accepted the award, says it recognizes the university’s ongoing efforts to seek, and provide opportunities for, minority-owned businesses for campus projects.

“These kind of awards validate that our Supplier Diversity Initiative is working,” he says. “The award underscores our commitment to seeking competition from a diverse group of suppliers, which has a positive economic impact for the region.”

SLMSDC is one of 36 regional councils affiliated with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC).

The national business community and NMSDC members view the award as a significant honor given to government entities and institutions to recognize their use of certified minority business enterprises.

But it’s not an award the university pursued, Kuebler says. Rather, those certified businesses nominate organizations for the council’s award based on their own experiences, he says. Then, after reviewing organizations’ explanations of their use of, and support for, minority-owned businesses, a committee chooses the honorees.

It’s not the first time Washington University has been recognized for its efforts to ensure minority business involvement in both major and minor projects. The university also has won the award four times previously, most recently in 2010.

Kuebler also received the SLMSDC’s Chairman’s Award at its 2011 gala for support of the council and ongoing commitment to provide meaningful business opportunities for minority-owned companies.

Kuebler notes that the council’s Institution of the Year award provides a good reminder for those both inside and outside the WUSTL community about the university’s Supplier Diversity Initiative.

WUSTL’s policy when acquiring goods and services is to give diverse business interests a strong opportunity to compete for projects. For example, the university actively seeks out businesses owned by women and minorities when it is accepting bids for materials or services. The university does this while also maintaining its expectations for quality products, service and total value from its suppliers, Kuebler says.

While the university’s spending with women- and minority-owned businesses continues to increase, Kuebler says that the focus is not on numbers. Instead, the Supplier Diversity Initiative exists to provide routine and ongoing opportunities for those entities to compete for the university’s business.

“It has become a normal part of our culture to include diverse suppliers in our procurement process,” Kuebler says.

University leaders believe that awarding more projects to qualified and competitive minority- and women-owned businesses is valuable not only to the university, but also to local businesses and to the greater St. Louis community, according to the university’s Resource Management website.

Kuebler says that even in 2013, there remain people across the country who support providing opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses but believe the value they would receive from such firms is less than that from majority-owned companies.

“That myth continues today, but we have found the opposite to be true here at Washington University,” Kuebler says. “We have plenty of examples where MBEs and WBEs provide high-quality goods and services at pricing and service levels that are superior and where we sacrifice nothing. We take great pleasure in dispelling that antiquated myth.”

While receiving awards is appealing, there is more work to be done, Kuebler says.

“We will never be finished with the Supplier Diversity Initiative,” he says. “There will be an ongoing need to identify diverse firms with which the university can do business and to help those firms continue to develop into sustainable businesses that will benefit the region for many years.”

For more information, visit WUSTL’s Supplier Diversity Initiative website.