Recently, Ameren Illinois President Richard J. Mark was recognized by the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce for his efforts to champion diversity and inclusion at Ameren Illinois. As a leader of the largest energy delivery company in downstate Illinois, Mark is keenly aware of the role the company plays in growing and developing the communities it serves.
“A more inclusive workplace creates more opportunities for our employees, suppliers and customers,” Mark said. ”Our culture at Ameren Illinois encourages diversity in thought and action and it’s a major reason why we’re a successful company today.”
Ameren Illinois’ Employee Resource Groups (ERG) – cross-sectional groups of employees who work together to develop diversity and inclusion initiatives – consist of employees who share a common interest or background, or have concerns about some of the challenges/barriers and opportunities a particular group is facing. They provide an active forum for discussion and exploration of cultural differences, and offer avenues to welcome new employees, develop professional skills, expand networks, perform community outreach and assist Ameren Illinois in reaching its business goals. A few of the company-sponsored ERGs include the Ameren Military-Veteran Employees, Ameren Network of Minority Employees, and Women Influencing Success in Energy.
On the business side, a constructive regulatory model has enabled Ameren Illinois to undertake a massive overhaul of the state’s electric and natural gas infrastructure and open the door for diverse companies to participate in the supply chain.
“We’re installing advanced outage detection technology, stronger poles and wires, and more than 750,000 advanced meters throughout downstate Illinois,” Mark says. “Contractors and suppliers play a key role by providing the materials and services we need to build a smarter grid. These improvements have already boosted reliability by 17 percent and saved our customers more than $48 million.”
Under Mark’s direction, Ameren Illinois has taken a number of steps to further its position as a leader in diversity and inclusion:
- Since 2012, the value of goods and services Ameren Illinois has purchased from minority- and woman-owned businesses increased by $76 million. To help maintain a steady pipeline of diverse suppliers, hundreds of entrepreneurs, business owners and Ameren procurement reps meet annually to network and identify buy-sell opportunities at Ameren’s Supplier Diversity Symposiums.
- Diversity outreach events. In communities throughout Illinois, Ameren partners with local organizations to host outreach events to identify potential new employees with diverse backgrounds.
- Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council. In May 2015, Ameren Illinois joined four other Illinois utilities in announcing the formation of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council, where Mark will serve as vice chairman. This council is designed to grow business opportunities for diverse suppliers through closer collaboration, technical development and sharing of best practices.
“Richard Mark was an easy choice for the 2015 Outstanding Corporate Leadership Award,” said Larry Ivory, president and CEO of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, which honored Mark at a dinner attended by business and political leaders from throughout Illinois. “He is accessible, committed, and always working to positively impact the community.”
Since starting his career with Ameren in 2002, Mark has been focused on giving back to the community, from starting energy-assistance programs for low-income customers to making millions of dollars in charitable contributions to help local non-profit organizations. And, as president of Ameren Illinois, he is positioning the company for long-term success as technological advances change the future of the energy industry.
“It’s exciting to think that the energy infrastructure we’re building today will meet the needs of what our grandkids will be using tomorrow,” Mark said.