Special Corporate Feature

EY's Collaborative Journey to Empower Indigenous Futures

EY leaders and employees are champions of Indigenous and minority businesses, supporting Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation process. This journey is filled with opportunities and successes, inspiring all who join the effort.

As a global business management and tax consulting organization, EY has a powerful platform of influence for change. The company uses this platform to do more than simply talk about the company’s values. EY’s leaders and employees live them in explicit, open, and brave ways.

In 2024, EY is celebrating 20 years of commitment to supporting diverse-owned businesses. Globally, EY has impacted 100,000 diverse- owned businesses through $2 billion in spend and one million hours of high-impact programming supporting the acceleration and development of diverse-owned businesses. Considered a champion of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation commitment, EY is a leader in driving real change in the Indigenous business community through partnerships with Canadian advocacy organizations, high-impact programming, and the creation of opportunities for Indigenous business growth.


To elevate its role as a procurement champion for diverse-owned businesses, EY is a corporate partner with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC). In support of Canada’s focus on growing Indigenous and minority businesses, in 2021, EY committed to a 3% spend target from addressable spend by 2025.

As part of this journey, EY has been strengthening global procurement policies, standardizing playbooks, templates and portals, and enhancing technology platforms, tools, analytics and reporting, and simplifying the process of partnering with Indigenous suppliers.

At the helm of these efforts is Lindsay Swanson, the Canadian Leader for Environmental, Social and Governance Services (ESGS) and Supplier Diversity. Reflecting the clients and communities served, she leads a team in developing diverse suppliers through mentoring, education and networking to accelerate growth and knowledge, and providing scholarships for diverse businesses to attend executive leadership programs. This work feeds into the EY Supplier Portal, which provides enhanced visibility into the diverse supplier base, supports efforts to build relationships with suppliers who reflect the clients and communities served, and is integral to procurement activities.

The myriad of networking and learning opportunities for the next generation of Indigenous business leaders is a testament to EY’s commitment to driving measurable change. But the commitment to diverse suppliers, including indigenous businesses, doesn’t end with the Supplier Diversity program. The EY Entrepreneurs Access Network (EAN) aligns visible minority and Indigenous entrepreneurs with a dedicated EY Relationship Ambassador who helps scale the business over a year-long program. Since the program’s inception in 2022, 15 Indigenous entrepreneurs and 13 Indigenous-led organizations have been engaged.

Another notable program is the Pitch Competition, which is conducted in partnership with the CCAB. In each annual pitch competition, 10-12 Indigenous business owners compete for 4 finalist positions. Each finalist is paired with an EY mentor who coaches and provides feedback as the finalist hones their pitch for the finale. The pitch competition winner receives a scholarship to the Tuck School of Business entrepreneurship program. But beyond the first place prize, the EY network that is opened up to the participants is immeasurable in value.

Anthony Wingham, co-founder of Nuez Acres, a previous winner of the CCAB EY Pitch competition, was selected to join the EY EAN program in the following year. Wingham said: Participating in the EY CCAB Pitch competition was a game-changer for my business. It provided me with an opportunity to receive feedback and tools that helped me refine my business idea and increase my confidence. My mentor, EY Partner Greg Nobel, played a crucial role in guiding me toward success. With his guidance, I not only gained a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind a successful business, but more importantly, it opened my eyes to the larger impact of business beyond just my own personal success.

Indigenous respect for nature allows Swanson to simultaneously pursue sustainability and diverse supplier inclusion goals. For example, Nuez Acres is eco-conscious and committed to water conservation by offering a completely water-free beauty line.

Swanson explains, “In my role as Canadian leader for Supplier Diversity, I focus everything I do around our commitment to ESG. My goals include increasing our supplier spend with Indigenous businesses and supporting them with the resources, expertise, mentorship, and opportunities that EY offers. As a corporate leader in our Canadian economy, EY can lead by example, inspire growth and push others to further their efforts in Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous communities.”

EY also celebrates the vision, insight and determination of entrepreneurs through the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® program. The program takes a mindful approach to diversity, while celebrating the vision, insight and determination of unstoppable entrepreneurs. In recent years, five Indigenous entrepreneurs have competed for the overall Canadian award.

“We are doing everything possible to open our doors, resources, and people to support diverse businesses. EY is also dedicated to providing our people with opportunities to combine their skills, knowledge and experience to positively impact individuals in our community,” says Swanson. “EY Ripples is our corporate responsibility program, designed to mobilize the business skills, knowledge and experience of EY’s 300,000 people around the world, to support entrepreneurs, underserved groups, youth, and sustainability. Last year in Canada, the EY Ripples program mobilized over 3,100 people to impact 1.5 million lives across our Canadian network of over 200 organizations. Within this impact were opportunities that directly supported indigenous communities – and I am proud to say that members of our EY family donated over 570 hours to indigenous community initiatives.”


EY supports Recommendation #92 of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission by engaging in meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and providing equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities for Indigenous people. EY is dedicated to providing education and learning opportunities to its staff from coast to coast on the unique cultures of Indigenous People, including their contributions to life in Canada, as well as injustices, abuses, and the historical relationship between Indigenous People and settlers. The goal is to break down systemic barriers to opportunities in business by fostering mutually productive relationships. EY is committed to all 94 of the recommendations issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

As a proud CCAB member, EY invests significant time and effort in building relationships with Indigenous communities, adopting a community-centric and legacy approach to economic prosperity and cultural alignment for betterment of the firm and those that work within it — for the benefit of both the Indigenous communities, as well as the broader business community.

Swanson says, “We’re on a journey to reconciliation, and it’s not a short journey. We’re committed to staying the course and putting in the work required to strive towards equality and inclusion. That means constantly looking at where we are going, what we want to achieve, and where we must adjust our path.”

In October 2023, EY received CCAB’s Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) Silver Level certification. The PAR program plays an important role in EY’s accountability for efforts to support Indigenous businesses and communities. The PAR certification gives EY the information it needs to know where it stands among peers, and what it needs to do to meet the diverse and changing needs of Indigenous communities both in Canada and abroad.

As Jad Shimaly, Chair, CEO, Chief Inclusiveness Officer and PAR Executive Sponsor explains, “The PAR program drives long-overdue accountability and action. We’re proud to work alongside the CCAB to drive change and are committed to making amends, making progress, and making equity an expectation for all. We submitted for a Bronze certification and were thrilled to receive Silver, but the journey does not end there – we are committed to ongoing improvement and ensuring our impact will continue to be felt in the years to come.”

Massimo Marinelli, Talent Managing Partner says of the PAR Silver certification: “It speaks not only to the work our people are doing towards reconciliation, but also to their passion for doing the right thing. The past few years have opened our eyes to so many opportunities to make things more equal for all, but especially Indigenous communities. The creative approaches we’re employing are making a difference. The journey ahead will continue to challenge us to think differently and come up with bespoke solutions that move the needle forward, one initiative at a time.”


As the Supplier Diversity Leader, Swanson leverages corporate partnerships with CCAB and CAMSC to support Indigenous entrepreneurs. She builds relationships by creating and participating in opportunities for connecting Indigenous business leaders and advocates through networking, impact programming, and the pitch competition.

Swanson prefers the term “supplier diversity and inclusion,” believing it is a more apt title for her role at EY.

“I think it's more and more prevalent that business owners – like all individuals – have an identity that is a myriad of different demographics and a reflection of their lived experience. People don’t fit into one box. I’m passionate about creating opportunities that reflect intersectional identities,” Swanson explains.

She believes diversity should not be addressed as if it exists in silos, sharing, “ultimately, every diverse business owner has experienced obstacles. It may not be an identical obstacle to their peers, but it's still an obstacle. So I think we all have to work together to acknowledge all these obstacles and work to overcome them, together.”


In Canada’s corporate world, EY is a strong leader in turning Truth and Reconciliation into sustainable, goal-driven actions for empowering people. This leadership is made possible by the way all of its members are invited to join the journey and support each other as they strive for equality and inclusion.

“I might be the Canadian leader for ESG and Supplier Diversity, but I also need an army of advocates who are equally invested and passionate about ESG” says Swanson. “If I don't have people engaged on all of our goals around ESG, then I won't be able to accomplish what I have set out to achieve.” Thankfully, this army of advocates does exist, and its getting stronger every day.

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