The National Alliance for Black Business (NABB), co-founded by the National Business League (NBL) and National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), in partnership with the World Conference of Mayors (WCM) and the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA) has launched the nation’s first-ever Black Business Enterprise (BBE) certification and scorecard program.
The landmark BBE certification and scorecard program, designed and trademarked by the NBL, will certify businesses that are at least 51 percent Black-owned to be eligible for mainstream public, private, and philanthropic contracting and procurement opportunities.
The BBE certification was created to address the fact that 59 years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, less than 1 percent of the nation’s 3.2 million Black-owned businesses are certified as U.S. minority businesses according to a 2021 report published by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). Of 3.2 million Black-owned companies, only 5,881 Black businesses have an MBE certification.
Uncertified minority-owned companies are ineligible for U.S. government procurement equity programs, freezing them out of more than $100 billion in minority-designated U.S. government contracts according to data released by the White House. Also, less than 1 percent of Black-owned businesses are certified with any federal, public, private, or minority certification programs in the U.S., since the 1968 expansion of the Civil Rights Act.
The BBE certification is accompanied by the BBE scorecard, a groundbreaking digital accountability tool that will help organizations measure, publish, and improve participation and spend ratios with Black business, led by national Black business organizations. The scorecard will hold all sectors and industries accountable, including the 1,100 private U.S. corporations that pledged an estimated total of $200 billion to Black equity efforts after George Floyd’s murder in 2020, with those promises still mostly unfulfilled, according to a 2020 McKinsey & Company report.
“The BBE certification and scorecard are designed to offer Black-led solutions after decades of economic equity programs have failed Black people,” says Dr. Ken L. Harris, president, and CEO of the NBL and co-founder of the NABB. “The Black community can no longer depend on non-Black-led certification programs and non-Black-led business organizations that, in large part, have failed to produce the results necessary to change the economic conditions of Black people in America. Booker T. Washington had it right at the turn of the 20th century. It is time for the Black community to take ownership of their economic destiny, we are looking for ROI, a return on inclusion.”
Although the U.S. Civil Rights Act was a response to Black civil unrest, data shows that Black people have not economically benefited from these initiatives as much as other disadvantaged groups. Federal Reserve Data shows the wealth gap between Black and White communities has not materially changed since the years immediately following the U.S. Civil War and is unchanged since 1968 with the expansion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In 2021, White Americans had seven times the wealth of Black Americans, the widest wealth gap of any other minority group in the U.S., according to the Economic Policy Institute.
The BBE certification will address the barriers to certification unique to the Black business community and engage Black-owned businesses through established Black commerce channels, which broader diversity and minority certifications have failed to do.
“The illusion of inclusion is no longer an acceptable business model. Today, we unveil a powerful tool to clear the smoke and mirrors from minority business data and keep score on our own Black economic progress,” says Charles H. DeBow, III, president and CEO of the NBCC and co-founder of NABB. “NABB will be the organization of the future that delivers measurable results to the Black community, while mitigating the dilution of diversity and benign neglect approach to addressing Black economic inequity. Living the Black experience, we are the only ones who can define what equal market access and accountability look like for us, by us.”
The NABB will introduce the pilot BBE certification and scorecard program to several historically Black municipalities, including Grambling, Louisiana; Mound Bayou, Mississippi; Eatonville, Florida; Hobson City, Alabama; and Tuskegee, Alabama, and other cities with Black mayors, before launching the initiative on a national scale.