By Melissa J. Anderson

The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility has released its 2011 Corporate Inclusion Index. The CII measures Hispanic inclusion on behalf of companies by measuring the attraction, retention, and promotion of Hispanic employees, procurement practices, community outreach, and governance.

The 16 board directors of the HACR praised the steps corporations have taken over the past few years toward the inclusion of Hispanic individuals. They wrote, “The last three years have seen an increase in participation, better reporting, and overall a clearer, more transparent sense of what corporations are doing in terms of diversity best practices.”

But, they continued, companies have significant work to do. “Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S. and we have the largest buying power of any minority group. Yet, Hispanics are the most underrepresented group in Corporate America.”

Corporations that are ignoring a group whose buying power is projected to reach 1$.5 trillion by 2015 are doing their stakeholders a disservice, they suggested. Carlos F. Ota, President and CEO of the HACR pointed out that the Hispanic market is 50 million consumers strong. He added, “market reciprocity dictates that we should be represented across all levels of a corporation, from internships all the way to the corporate boardrooms. But we are not, and that needs to change.”

Hispanic representation on corporate boards by participating companies increased from 6.46% in 2010 to 8.33% in 2011. But the percentage of C-Suite Hispanics decreased from 8% in 2010 to 7% in 2011. Ota noted that participating companies generally improved their ratings, as well as improved the quality of reporting. But, he said, “the results still pointed out the gap between our goals for diversity and inclusion and what is really taking place inside Corporate America.”

CII Survey Findings

According to the survey, 72 percent of CII participants had an internship program to recruit Hispanic employees. On average, 11 percent of new hires by survey participants were Hispanic individuals. Finally, every survey participant reported that their Hispanic employee resource group had an executive champion.

And executive participation is important, the HACR said.

“Having an executive champion is key for every corporation that is serious about taking positive steps to change their own employment practices. Having this type of supporter within executive management allows the company to create effective retention strategies, employee engagement and a positive environment.”

The HACR was critical of the procurement efforts of participating companies. Hispanics in represent 44 percent of small business growth in the US, the study said. Yet only have of the respondents had goals above 2.6 percent of the total procurement dollars to allocate to Hispanic-run businesses.

The survey said, “There is a missed opportunity to leveraging a positive return on investment (ROI) with Hispanic-owned businesses. There should be a concerted effort to engage and do business with Hispanic suppliers thus, diversifying the overall pool of suppliers. The potential ROI is not something that corporations who seek to grow can afford to ignore.”

According to the study 70% of participants had philanthropic outreach initiatives focused on the Hispanic community. Regarding governance, 98% of participants had a full-time executive responsible for diversity. Half of the participants had at least one Hispanic board member. The report said, “Although more and more companies are making a concerted effort to create change, the data shows that bolder initiatives and more action need to happen to have real impact in the boardroom and the C-Suite.”

Top Companies for Hispanics

The two top companies on the Index were AT&T and Citigroup. Both companies scored 95 out of 100 possible points.

AT&T was praised for its commitment to diversity policy – as a result, 12 percent of its total workforce is made up of Hispanic employees. The company was also praised for its supplier diversity program, which, according to the company, has set a goal to spend 21.5 percent of procurement dollars with diverse suppliers.

“We are honored by HACR’s recognition of our holistic approach to diversity and inclusion,” said Debbie Storey, AT&T senior vice president of Talent Development and chief diversity officer. “At AT&T, diversity and inclusion are woven into all our business strategies and are key in achieving our business goals.”

Citi also dedicates significant resources toward Hispanic inclusion, for example by supporting its Hispanic Heritage employee resource group.