‘A place where everyone is valued’

Valuing diversity means creating an environment that respects and includes differences, recognizes unique contributions of individuals, and maximizes the potential of all employees. As a result of regularly demonstrating these values through its culture of inclusion, Great River Energy received a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2021 Corporate Equality Index (CEI).

Great River Energy employees raise a rainbow flag at Great River Energy’s Elk River headquarters in recognition of Pride Month. The cooperative also raised the flag at its Maple Grove headquarters.

The CEI is the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey and report measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality. Great River Energy joins the ranks of 767 major U.S. businesses that also earned top marks this year.

While not the first time Great River Energy has been ranked on the CEI, this is the first time it earned a perfect score due in large part to an increased focus on outreach, training and education.

“We have taken feedback from previous years’ marks to implement changes over time at Great River Energy as we continuously work toward building a fully inclusive, equitable workplace for all,” said Louy Theeuwen, director of the executive division at Great River Energy and sponsor of the cooperative’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council. “Great River Energy is a place where everyone is valued. That environment allows us to do the best work for our member-owners.”

Diversity, equity and inclusion
Values are the foundation of Great River Energy’s culture and, ultimately, its success. They define how the cooperative’s employees are expected to treat one another and conduct business. Among Great River Energy’s list of values is “inclusion” while diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded in many of its employee competencies. Leadership at Great River Energy believes a strong commitment to these topics drives innovation, engagement, collaboration and performance.

The cooperative’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council was created more than a decade ago to further expand awareness and understanding of these topics at Great River Energy, build supportive relationships and to identify and eliminate bias and inequities.

The council supports a growing community of employee resource groups (ERGs), including: Black, Indigenous, People of Color and Allies ERG; Mental Health and Well-Being ERG; Pride Alliance ERG; Today’s Family ERG; Veterans ERG; and Women’s ERG. They exist to foster inclusivity in the workplace by creating a space for employees who share a common interest or affinity to support one another and raise awareness. These groups facilitate difficult — but important — discussions in their meetings, and regularly work together to co-sponsor company-wide Listen & Learn educational sessions.

The ERGs collectively marked a number of accomplishments in 2020, including: assembling care packages for deployed military employees, flying the POW/MIA flag on six national observances, flying the rainbow flag at the cooperative’s Elk River and Maple Grove locations during Pride Month in June, launching a mentorship program and holding International Women’s Month activities.

“Our employee resource group meetings and events are where our company values come alive by generating thoughtful and transformative discussion among people from across the organization,” said David Ranallo, Great River Energy’s director of culture, communications, marketing and member services. “The lessons learned are invaluable as we apply them to better who we are as a company, which makes us stronger. This type of work is not ever ‘done,’ but is continuously ongoing.”