The Center for Economic Inclusion on Tuesday launched a new tool to help Minnesota companies analyze their racial diversity and inclusion programs.

The St. Paul nonprofit — whose sponsors include the McKnight Foundation, Target, U.S. Bank, 3M, Thrivent, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Mortenson and Best Buy — worked with and at the request of companies and business organizations to create the Minnesota Racial Equity Dividends Index.

Companies can register for the index online and assess their equity and inclusion progress against 37 "standards of excellence" used to build racially inclusive workplaces and supply chains.

Businesses participating in the new index will receive a score and a customized report detailing their performance and opportunities for growth.

"Our hope is that businesses will be particularly drawn to the index, both given their history of participating in comparable surveys on gender, disability and sexual orientation, but also given their significant role in the state's economy," said Tawanna Black, the center's chief executive.

Those who requested the index included the chambers of commerce in Minneapolis and St. Paul and the Itasca Project, an employer-led civic organization.

"Each expressed interest from their members in a tool from the center to help businesses measure the results of commitments made following George Floyd's murder and the uprisings demanding racial and economic justice," Black said.

Since then, businesses in the Center's own Anti-Racism and Economic Justice Trust expressed a need to understand their own diversity and equity performance and to benchmark themselves against peers by size and industry.

"This [index] is a good measuring stick to activate around rather than having lots of businesses use different tools," said Ling Becker, director of Workforce Solutions for Ramsey County.

Having one "collective tool" might help area businesses and the county identify equity gaps. The county could then address specific goals with public-private partnerships or new training or workforce programs.

"It would really help us if we were all using the same thermometer," she said.

The index is the latest of many efforts to address racial inequities across Minnesota since the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020. Following his death and nationwide protests and riots, many local companies boosted commitments to expand educational, training and hiring opportunities for people of color.

"Our experience shows an increasing interest among businesses to deepen their work and investments in building workplaces that lead to the liberation of Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and people of color, while also building economic prosperity," Black said. "We are leveraging business success measuring and addressing gender, age, disability and LGBTQ inclusion to help leaders apply similar discipline to corporate racial equity strategies to transforming communities across America."

So far diversity efforts have been all over the map.

Target Corp., for example, announced it will spend more than $2 billion through 2025 supporting Black-owned businesses, college scholarships, social justice grants and other equity-focused work. Best Buy said it would spend $1.2 billion by 2025 supporting businesses owned by people of color, including diversifying its supply chain and advertising buying.

U.S. Bank committed more than $100 million in grants and loans to support Black-owned businesses and companies hurt during riots that broke out after Floyd's murder.

Other firms such as Fredrikson & Byron created free legal clinics and grant programs designed to help firms owned by people of color hire workers, assist in rental payments and accounting and in some cases relocate.

Minnesota currently has one of the worst racial equity gaps when it comes to education and unemployment.

By 2044, people of color are projected to be a majority in the U.S. — and they will have significant economic clout, Black said.

A McKinsey research report noted that the spending power of Black consumers alone is expected to leapfrog from $910 billion in 2019 to $1.7 trillion by 2030.

The worry is that, left unattended, "deeply entrenched and widening racial and economic disparities that have been harming all of us will soon cripple our economic growth and prosperity," Black said.