Power and renewables

Creating a diverse supplier database: tangible pursuit of energy equity, one consultant at a time

Diverse people in a meeting

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Bridget McEwen

Bridget McEwen

Program Manager

DNV’s Markets & Risk team is pursuing a goal to consciously consider engaging diverse suppliers in every service it provides to its customers.

In 2021, I was looking to fill a position. Through a connection on LinkedIn, I thought I had found my person. From the looks of her profile, Elizabeth Silleck La Rue had every qualification I was looking for. Her expertise transcended the industries DNV cares about. Her qualifications were supported by her educational and professional experiences, and, even more admirably, she was driven by her lived experiences as a mostly white woman in a multiracial family. I spoke with her, and she described the crossroad she was at in her life, deciding between expanding her own business or re-joining a responsible company like DNV. Ultimately, she realized the several opportunities before her were best achieved through her own business venture, reminding me, however, that she could still help us. We never lost touch. 

Through the course of several conversations with women entrepreneurs during the following months, I realized there was more I could do to support them, and not the reverse, which is the way I’d first approached my conversation with Elizabeth. For more than 20 years, this realization was staring me in the face, and I was too busy in my own career development to see it knocking on my front door. You see, my partner is a minority business owner. During our 20-year relationship, I have seen the struggle he has endured as a Black business owner to confront prejudices and persevere through them, while his spirit was knocked down and hurt. Entrepreneurship can be very isolating. Starting your own business is tough, being the face of a company, with all its prejudices attached, is very tough; layer on identity-based discrimination, and the challenge is exponential. The opportunities are there for women and minority owned businesses, but the barriers are high.1

It is like community solar. An industry that for years has made it difficult for residential customers to participate because they had to prove a sufficient credit score, even if they had spent years paying their utility bills on time - because of massive historical inequities, this barrier is more likely to impact those who face discrimination. Attitudes toward small businesses are the same, and the financial industry does not provide small business owners commensurate opportunity to succeed. In fact, disproportionately low participation of women across race and historically marginalized minority groups – especially Black professionals – in the energy industry has been identified as one of the manifestations of energy injustice. The specific creation of entrepreneurship opportunities for women and Black, Latino and Indigenous business owners is a large part of the conversation around the just transition to clean energy in the US, evident in state legislation and executive initiatives at the state and federal levels. This is why DNV’s Markets & Risk service team is pursuing a goal to consciously consider engaging diverse suppliers in every service it provides to its customers. Why should we be recruiting entrepreneurs, like Elizabeth Silleck La Rue, when we can partner together with Silleck Consulting Services to provide energy stakeholders stronger solutions, while helping to grow her business? Why shouldn’t we transform our needs for excellent talent into opportunities that help advance a more equitable clean energy economy, utilizing the expertise of business owners who have traditionally been overlooked or undervalued by the energy sector?

A few months later, DNV did hire Silleck Consulting Services as a consultant. Her company is helping DNV build its own portfolio of diverse suppliers across the United States, a country which overflows with diverse talent, increasingly in the form of newly launched businesses by women and minority professionals, who have joined what has been called “The Great Resignation”. Elizabeth is not only aligning DNV with diverse suppliers registered through state and federal agencies, but she is also reaching out through her own industry connections to identify minority- and women-owned businesses that are not certified disadvantaged businesses (XBE) either due to inadequate longevity of their businesses (which must be in operation for at least two years for most certification programs) or administrative burdens and costs associated with certification. All the suppliers we identify are verified for operation, supplying services, and/or personally contacted, if web-based research is insufficient.

“I love this project because it’s tangible,” Elizabeth explained. “When we talk about a just transition, I want to see dirty power in Black and Latino communities taken offline. I want to see real decision-making power ceded to disproportionately impacted people. And I want to see equitable economic opportunities for those who have been locked out of the energy sector being created – this, definitely, applies to women across the board, and Black, Latino and Indigenous communities most heavily. That last piece – business opportunity - is what this project is all about. High-value clients (which may have historically only been accessible by well-established firms owned and run by white men) are essential and can mean the difference between success and failure for XBE businesses.”

If you are a business owner from a disadvantaged group and have expertise in analytics, data science, utility program support, socio-economic analysis, strategic planning, grant writing and/or stakeholder engagement, and are interested in being included in our supplier database, please reach out to Elizabeth at elizabeth@silleckconsultingservices.com. If you are interested in access to DNV’s database of diverse suppliers, please contact me, Bridget McEwen.


1Green America, reporting contributed by Silleck Consulting Services

Contact us:

Bridget McEwen

Bridget McEwen

Program Manager