Ramping Up Inclusion for Two-Spirit-LGBTQ-Run Businesses Will Drive Lasting Change

With $22 billion a year in economic activity, becoming intentional about strengthening the supplier diversity of 2SLGBTQ+ businesses just makes sense
By Zachary Pendley, CGLCC
We know that Canada is home to more than 28,000 Two-Spirit and LGBTQ-owned and -operated businesses, which generate more than $22 billion in economic activity. Despite the tremendous economic and social boost that these businesses create, many continue to face discrimination and prejudice. Whatever your industry, however you’re focused, it’s time to extend inclusion through supplier diversity programs.
By leveraging existing networks and tapping into the community, Patrick Hunter Art & Design is expanding his business by taking advantage of corporate supplier diversity programs. An Ojibway artist, graphic designer and entrepreneur who identifies as Two-Spirit, Patrick works with the intent of creating a broader awareness of Indigenous culture and iconography.
He believes that by collaborating publicly with Canadian companies, he can create more mainstream visibility for Indigenous people. Today, Patrick is making a name for himself in the corporate world, working with major banks, NHL teams, media conglomerates and national organizations – like ours through the EY Entrepreneur Access Network.1Patrick often says, “If you can see it, you can be it.” I couldn’t agree more.
Becoming more deliberate about the way our organizations procure services by seeking out businesses like Patrick’s can help drive the kind of systemic change that makes a meaningful and measurable impact, long after Pride month wraps up.
When we intentionally draw vendors and suppliers from a more diverse talent pool, we transform the trajectory of historically underrepresented businesses and their leaders. What does that look like? Socioeconomic progress and entrepreneurial growth; professional networks that are more accessible to more Canadians; increasingly resilient and agile supply chains2bolstered by diverse perspectives; innovative ideas and new solutions, born of fresh thinking.
All of this is good for people, communities and businesses. What’s more, becoming intentional about 2SLGBTQ+ supplier diversity strengthens trust with employees, customers, investors, regulators and communities. This matters a great deal in a market where stakeholders expect businesses to generate a new kind of long-term value3– one grounded in the positive impact we make on the world.
We know that supplier diversity programs transform the working world for the better by cultivating inclusion. The real question is, how do we dig in to deliver on that promise?


Businesses have already woven inclusion into the very fabric of their culture, 4and that’s a great thing. With that foundation in place, the next best step is to build on what you’re already doing internally to create a procurement policy that specifically addresses 2SLGBTQ+ businesses.


Intentions are only as good as the policies and frameworks that back them up. At EY, we’re always evaluating our procurement strategy to ensure it aligns directly with our purpose of building a better working world. We use precise language about our commitment to seek suppliers certified as 51-per-cent minority owned and specify 2SLGBTQ+ within those minority groups. This helps us extend the internal sense of belonging we foster among our own people out into the broader network of professionals we rely on to help our business run best. So outline the impact you hope to make, and then reinforce that objective with an operational structure to support success.


Actions and words work in concert to make a difference. People – whether internal or external – need to understand why your supplier diversity program is important. Communicating clearly about the outcomes you hope to create through a supplier diversity program is important. It rallies folks to the cause and makes yours a collaborative mission for 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion. At EY, we’ve implemented a diverse supplier database and sponsored groups like Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) and the Canadian Aboriginal Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC). Because you’ve got to let people know how you’re taking action, and why, to create lasting momentum.


Chances are, programs you already run are rich with diverse talent, including 2SLGBTQ+ business owners. Consider where you can expand the reach of your existing programs to broaden your supplier diversity commitments. At EY, we’re proudly working with Patrick Hunter Art & Design through our Entrepreneurial Access Network. This is one way we can help him connect with and reach a broader business audience, and walk with him on the path to growth. Look at where you’re already making an impact and explore how you might evolve the initiative to be more inclusive of 2SLGBTQ+ suppliers, while also finding opportunities to help diverse-owned businesses develop the tools they need to do business with corporate Canada. At EY, we have created a pitch competition and mentorship program to help young 2SLGBTQ+ entrepreneurs build the skills and confidence they need to grow their business.
There’s no finish line on 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion. It’s a living, breathing commitment. It means continuously making more room at the table for anyone who may be underrepresented in our organizations and communities. When we do this at a foundational level through channels like procurement, we can maximize our impact and drive lasting change.
Zachary Pendley is a partner in the EY Canada strategy and transactions practice and the National Transaction Real Estate Leader.
He also sits on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.