Apple’s Impact Accelerator Program

By Gloria Romano-Barrera

Designed to support equity and opportunity in the environmental sector for Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Indigenous-owned businesses on the cutting edge of green technology and clean energy, Apple’s Impact Accelerator program, launched in 2020, aims to combat systemic barriers to opportunity, while also advancing innovative solutions for the communities most impacted by climate change.

“Across our supply chain, we aim to work with partners with deep expertise and who share our commitment to always putting people and the planet first,” shares Alisha Johnson, Director of Apple’s Environment, Policy & Social Initiatives. “The Impact Accelerator program participants receive customized training and coaching that provides them with access to Apple experts and an expanding alumni community to support their companies as they achieve their next stage of development. We’re thrilled to be working with several businesses and founders from our first class as part of our company’s supply chain network.”

Open to environmental solution and service providers headquartered in the United States that are at least 51 percent owned, operated, and controlled by an African American, Hispanic/Latinx American, or Indigenous American individual, validated by their Supplier Diversity certification. Today, Maria Castellon, founder and CEO of Bench-Tek Solutions and Beatriz Manetta, Founder, President, and CEO of Argent Associates, are providing solutions or services that are aligned with Apple’s environmental priorities.

“Our team and I found the program very impactful,” shares Castellon. “We were provided with a lot of information and suggestions on how to improve our company practices and policies to be in alignment with Apple’s supplier diversity model and environmental goals. We improved internal processes for manufacturing and developed a roadmap for solar energy use through the purchase of more energy-efficient manufacturing equipment.”

Bench-Tek Solutions is a Silicon Valley-based manufacturing company specializing in making laboratory and industrial workbenches. They focus on building ergonomic and environmentally friendly furniture for different types of workspaces. Castellon founded the company in 2002 after immigrating to the US from Mexico for college. She found work as a janitor at IBM, which led her to launch her career at a workbench manufacturing company and ultimately start her own business. Today, Bench-Tek operates with a diverse workforce, serves a vast clientele, and maintains a strong standing in the manufacturing industry. Today, Castellon has had more opportunities to work with Apple as a diverse supplier. Above it all, it has helped her company be ready for challenges, anticipate them, and have things in place to continually scale the business.

“Our company has practices, processes, and policies in place today that had previously been part of our long-term goals,” she shares. “We’re still working towards implementing more policies to stay ahead of the curve. Any company will receive massive benefits from participating. As a result of the changes that they themselves make, they will contribute to the environmental objectives that we are all working on collectively to improve our planet.”

Beatriz (Betty) Manetta, CEO of Argent Associates, founded the business in 1998 as a Value-Added Reseller (VAR) primarily focused on the telecommunications industry. Today she describes her experience with the program as nothing more than amazing.

“The team is super knowledgeable and had programs that spanned across key business issues,” she shares. “The most important part is the collaboration and networking with fellow MBEs. The unfortunate part is not being there in person to enjoy the full experience, but the staff and instructors were great and very patient with those of us with connectivity challenges. Kudos to a program well done, especially in a new launch.”

According to Manetta, Argent has benefited from this program on various fronts. The keen focus on energy savings and sustainability innovation; cyber security readiness, which is now being requested by most corporations; and lastly, new business with Apple.

“We have already recommended this program to several other MBEs,” she shares. “The reason why I recommended this program to others is the ability to grow your business not just with Apple, but the program helps you tell your story. The coaching and guidance we received from our mentor and the extended team contributed to our continued success with other corporations. The publicity and exposure was also a contributing factor. Lastly, we are now doing business with other Cohort MBEs as we need to demonstrate that programs like this do add value to the eco-system for diversity and inclusion.”

According to Johnson, Apple believes all businesses have a role to play in building a carbon-neutral future. “We want to ensure that our work to protect the planet also helps advance equity and access to opportunity,” shares Johnson. “Decades of research have shown that climate change and pollution disproportionately hurt underfunded communities and communities of color, deepening inequality in the U.S. and around the world. As we work to create an inclusive future for all, the Impact Accelerator program helps tackle systemic barriers to economic opportunity and makes considerable strides in the communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

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