NAACP Releases 12th Annual Economic Reciprocity Report Detailing Corporate Diversity Progress

After 12 years of tracking the diversity efforts of some of the nation's largest companies in five key industries, the NAACP reports measured progress toward the goal of addressing economic concerns of the African American consumer.

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The 2008 edition of the NAACP Consumer Choice Guide, part of the NAACP Economic Reciprocity Initiative (ERI), is now available. The latest guide provides African American consumers with empowerment tools that enable them to make informed choices when purchasing products and services from the surveyed companies.

African Americans infuse an estimated $700 billion into the American economy annually. “More than 40 companies participated in this year’s survey because they recognize the importance and necessity of implementing diversity strategies,” said NAACP Interim President & CEO Dennis Courtland Hayes.  “Our community wields a substantial block of economic power. African Americans want to experience a return on their consumer investment and challenge those who are taking their dollars for granted.”

In 1996, the NAACP launched the ERI as a sustained consumer movement to measure corporate America’s financial relationship with the African American community. Since then, the ERI has expanded its scope and has continued to annually highlight diversity efforts made in lodging, telecommunications, financial services, general merchandising and automotive industries.

“Fairness & Opportunity is a civil rights issue too,” said NAACP National Board of Directors Chairman Julian Bond. “African American consumers want fairness in the marketplace just as they do in all aspects of their lives. As we educate consumers on the value of their dollar, they will make more prudent spending decisions, ultimately holding businesses accountable for their practices, good or bad.”

Participating industries and companies are rated in employment, marketing/communications, charitable giving, supplier diversity and one industry-specific area. Information contained in the report is based on 2007 data provided by the participating companies. Survey questions are graded, weighted and assigned point values which are translated into a letter grade.

This year’s grade for the lodging industry is a C for its diversity-related activity. Their score is virtually unchanged from the previous year and 100 percent of the corporations participated in the ERI survey this year. The industry overall tends to be most responsive in the area of charitable giving; the greatest challenge is in the area of property ownership. Loews earned a B-; Marriott, Hyatt, Intercontinental and Omni received a C. Wyndham Worldwide earned a C- while. Starwood recorded a C+. Hilton and Carlson received a D+ and Choice a D.
Telecommunications—
This year’s grade for the telecommunications industry is B-. Despite mergers and acquisitions they continued to make strides in their diversity efforts. AT&T led the firms with a B followed by Alltel and Verizon each with a B- in the latest round of grading. Cox Communications and Comcast each received a C+ to Sprint’s C. A D+ went to Charter Communications and a D to Qwest Communications. Cablevision and T-Mobile each received an F for not responding.
Financial services--
The financial services industry received a B this year. The industry saw modest gains in the areas of employment, marketing/communications, and supplier diversity. Wachovia Corporation, Bank of America and SunTrust led the pack by earning a B while Wells Fargo Company received a B-. A C+ went to Key Corporation, U.S. Bancorp, Fifth Third Bank, PNC Financial, Regions Financial Corp. and Citigroup Inc. BB&T received a C. Citizens Financial Group earned a C-.
General merchandising--
The nation’s major retailers earned a C overall in this year’s report making the gains in community reinvestment. After four years of non-participation in the survey by Target, the Minnesota–based company has agreed to participate in the 2009 ERI survey.
In response to the fifth consecutive year of non-participation in the survey by Dillard’s, the NAACP will launch an online petition that will compel Dillard’s to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and appreciation for the African American dollars spent in their stores.  
This year, Wal-Mart held the top rank in the category with a C+ followed by Macy’s Incorporated C. A D+ was earned by Kohl’s Department Stores. Nordstrom Inc. received a D. J.C. Penny Company Inc., Sears Roebuck and Company and Dillard’s each earned an F for their lack of participation.
Automotive--
The automotive sector received a C. This industry showed marked improvement in supplier diversity. Top grade in this industry was a B- given to Chrysler LLC, Ford and Honda. General Motors got a C+ followed by Toyota’s C. C minuses went to Mitsubishi, Nissan and Hyundai. Volkswagen earned a D.
All the industries were most responsive in the charitable giving category.   
Complete details of the 2008 Consumer Choice Guide and NAACP Economic Reciprocity Initiative Report, including individual company scores, can be found at: www.naacp.org.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.  Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

Media Contact: Richard J. McIntire (410) 580-5787

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