The Biden administration awarded $2.8 billion this week to 20 companies after they pledged to honor Democratic goals like diversity, equity and inclusion as they hire people to build batteries and related components to be used in electric vehicles.
The conditional grants are the latest attempt by the Biden administration to push its diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) agenda into the private sector. Last month, DEIA leaders from several agencies met and agreed to extend their efforts in this area “across the federal government and our society.”
It is also part of a broader trend of companies following environment, social and governance (ESG) principles as a way of earning a “responsible” brand among investors.
On Wednesday, President Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced the $2.8 billion “investment” in EV battery companies and said explicitly that their decision to provide federal funding for these projects was conditioned on a promise to advance the DEIA agenda.
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“The companies submitted plans for engagement with local stakeholders, Tribal nations, environmental groups, and labor unions to ensure the funded projects create high-quality jobs; advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; and contribute meaningfully to the Justice40 initiative to provide 40% of the overall benefits of federal clean energy investments to disadvantaged and underrepresented communities,” the Department of Energy said.
Of the 20 companies that won awards, five said they would boost production in “disadvantaged communities,” and 13 agreed to negotiate workforce and community agreements aimed at engagement with “host communities, labor unions and/or Tribal entities to agree on community benefits and implementation plans.”
Fifteen of the companies said they would collaborate with “minority serving institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to hire and train workers.”
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Companies made a range of specific DEIA-related promises as a condition of receiving the federal funding.
For example, 6k Inc., which received $50 million, said, “Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility principles are incorporated into all aspects of the project.”
American Battery Technology Company received $57 million and promised to “foster local community improvements through an environment and equity focused micro-grants program.”
Amprius received $50 million from the government and said it is “committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.”
Applied Materials, Inc. received $100 million and promised “location-based action through equity-centered community engagement efforts.”
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Cirba Solutions received $75 million and said the “advancement of equity, environmental justice, and energy justice are woven into the framework of the organization.”
Group14 Technologies, Inc. received $100 million and committed itself to “worker engagement, job quality, diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and investments in clean energy to benefit disadvantaged communities throughout eastern Washington.”
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ICL-IP America, Inc. received $197 million and in turn said it would “abide by the Justice40 directive.”
Koura received $100 million and promised to “expand company activities in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) across the greater Baton Rouge region.”