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Active Inclusivity and Diversity as it Relates to Business

July 22, 2020

By Erick Stewart, Co-Owner and President of STEWART Industries LLC

In the past weeks, we have witnessed a long-overdue shift toward the need for inclusion and diversity as it relates to our society. We are beginning to witness forward progress towards eliminating or diminishing inequities.

You need simply look to the increased awareness of systemic racism and the initial steps to address this within police departments and government sectors to see the beginnings of change. It’s only further underscored by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace. There is tangible, essential change, but we still have a lot to do.

As a business owner, it is my job to support the prosperity of my community, its people, and the other businesses. It’s not just within my best interests, but it’s also in the best interest of the whole. Supporting each other allows us all to evolve and move forward together.

Diversity Matters

The ever-present news cycle has shown us that there are many people working to change our world for the better. We, as an American society, are recognizing the discrepancies and disparities that exist within our country and taking a stand to correct them.

Inclusivity as a concept is not new, and it is rarely debated. However, actively inclusive practices or systems to actively address systemic inequities have been a more contentious topic.

Inclusivity and diversity promote better social practices and more opportunities for people who are given inequitable opportunities. The steps to make this a reality have repeatedly been upheld by courts. We can look to the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Affirmative Action so many years ago. They argued that it promotes equality and also creates a better and more successful world.

Bringing together a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities and perspectives results in a far more developed, empathetic and productive society. It’s good for business, good for the community, and it’s good for humankind as a whole to continue to make strides toward inclusivity and diversity.

When all members of society actively think about diversity and inclusion first, rather than as an afterthought, positive change can be made for our communities.

Diversity in Supply Chains

As the president of a diverse business, it’s easy for me to speak on how diverse businesses can positively impact the community.

These past months, though trying, have created a wealth of opportunity that we as a society need in order to move forward. This is the time to leverage businesses of color in your community. Promote diversity and advocate for equal treatment alongside them. Amplify their work and their voices with yours, but do not overshadow them.

There is opportunity here. Businesses of color are incredibly strong assets. We are resilient and resourceful. We offer a network of relationships and resources that can help expand the capabilities of your business beyond your current efforts. After all, as we’ve shown, when facets of society work together, when we are intentionally and actively striving towards diversity and inclusion, everyone benefits.

As a business owner, you want to be as successful and efficient as possible. Yet often, business owners struggle to leverage all the assets within their community in achieving that goal. By leveraging businesses of color, your business and community as a whole will, in turn, provide greater opportunities for communities of color. This will improve the lives of those who have been disproportionately kept from success and will exponentially increase the quality of life in your community.

STEWART Industries recently opened a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) in Battle Creek because we realized there was a lack of resources for businesses in the area. We knew that opening the FTZ would help provide jobs for people of color in our community, as well as support other businesses of color in our economy. Now, whenever a company works with STEWART, it’s not just their company that benefits. They’re helping to boost Battle Creek as a whole, too.

Let’s Be Better

Although we are seeing great strides and opportunities in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, there is still room to grow. Our society suffers from a deeply ingrained systemic racism problem. It affects the people in our communities, and in turn, diverse business owners and businesses, as well.

As a business owner, there have been many times I have been faced with an implicit bias. For example, people are often shocked by how nice the facilities are at STEWART Industries, for no other reason than because it’s a business of color. I have found myself discriminated against when seeking exposure or equal opportunities for business contracts.

The problem of inequities within our country runs deep. No social issue is isolated. In fact, they all bleed into our economy. Why? Because the people who make up the economy are the same people who create our society as a whole. They are personifications of our population, not exclusive demographics. It’s essential for us to continue making strides toward equity and inclusion in our communities, because in the end, it will impact the effectiveness and the success of our economies, people and businesses as a whole.

As Co-Owner and President of STEWART Industries LLC, Erick is proud to be part of a growing team that provides next-level contract services including Assembly and Quality Inspection. Erick serves his community by being active on multiple boards, committees and  chambers of commerce. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Southern University, Agricultural & Mechanical College at Baton Rouge. Find out more about STEWART Industries at

*Originally featured in Focus Magazine

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