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As part of its Wall Street Economic Initiative, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, an organization founded by the Rev. Jess Jackson to help level the economic and educational playing fields for minorities, has purchased stock in the top 25 food and beverage industry companies. Among the businesses are such well-known names as A&P, Albertsons, Costco, Delhaize Group, Dollar General, Kroger, Supervalu, Publix, Safeway, Treehouse Foods, YUM Brands and Winn-Dixie.
The initiative’s aim, according to the coalition, “is to break down walls of separation and open up new windows of economic opportunity.” “We want to bring added value to the food and beverage industry,” explained Jackson, who is president of Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH. “We represent underserved markets, underutilized talent and untapped capital. Forging and expanding partnerships between major food and beverage corporations and minority businesses leads to growth, and everybody wins,”
Rainbow PUSH Coalition will send an inclusion/diversity survey to the companies as a way to evaluate their performance in these areas. “Do food industry corporations have significant minority representation on their boards of directors, and in the ranks of their top executives? Do they implement inclusive policies -- vertically and horizontally -- in … hiring, development and promotions programs?” asked Jackson. “In short, do food companies ‘look’ like their consumer base? Our corporate inclusion survey will provide an objective snapshot of the inclusion/diversity policies and profile of the food industry.”
The organization will additionally challenge the industry to open up and expand economic opportunities for minority businesses and communities. “We want to forge strategic business partnerships between major corporations and African-American and minority food and beverage companies in all areas of procurement, and in financial and professional services,” noted Jackson. “Even in this economic downturn, we have high expectations that food companies will locate stores in accessible urban areas, and will expand franchise opportunities for qualified minority entrepreneurs.”
Since, as Jackson pointed out, many food companies hold government contracts and receive considerable federal subsidies, “[t]hey must honor the laws and high standards of minority inclusion and participation. They should have a plan for inclusion and value-added minority participation.”
He added that Rainbow PUSH would “seek meetings with corporate leaders and strategically attend stockholder meetings to advance our mission of expanding minority participation and inclusion in the food and beverage industry. This is vital to job creation, small business and investment that our communities need.”