First annual ICC report finds diverse spending up more than $2B among Illinois’ Big 5 public utilities

Published on March 04, 2021 by Chris Galford

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In its first annual report, the Illinois Commerce Commission’s (ICC) Office of Diversity and Community Affairs this week noted that the state’s largest investor-owned utilities have increased diverse yearly spending to more than $2 billion over the past five years.

By the end of 2019, diversity spending accounted for an average of 40 percent of the state’s five largest utilities’ total procurement funds. These utilities include Ameren Illinois, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), Illinois American Water, Northern Illinois Gas Company (Nicor), Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company/North Shore Gas Company (Peoples Gas/North Shore). Illinois is one of the few states to require reporting of supplier diversity spending and goals.

“Five years of relationship building and collaboration with the utilities, not-for-profits, and other government agencies has proven successful in helping to level the playing field for diverse suppliers,” Jeanine Robinson, director of the Office of Diversity and Community Affairs, said. “While tremendous progress has been made over a relatively short period of time, more important work remains.”

Diverse suppliers include minority-, women-, veteran-owned, and small business operations.

The ICC has been focused on increasing spending by utilities on professional services, as well as businesses that tend to require professional licensure or degrees. It has also sought diverse spending data for Illinois-based businesses, in addition to their total diverse spending.

This began in 2014 when the Public Utilities Act was passed and instituted annual reporting requirements for investor-owned utilities’ supplier diversity outreach and inclusion by the ICC. In 2017, Illinois became the first state to require wind and solar suppliers to report supply chain diversification efforts as well. A system of reporting is still being developed but is expected to be completed this year.

“Over the past five years, the ICC has led a robust supplier diversity effort,” ICC Chairman Carrie Zalewski said. “This past year, the coronavirus pandemic has presented new challenges that have impacted diverse suppliers in our state. We remain committed to increasing diverse spending here in Illinois, and we look forward to addressing the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”