Distributor’s Perspective of Supplier Diversity

Supplier diversity is a goal not only for supply chain executives, but for their distributors as well.

“It is our policy to ensure meaningful inclusion of large and small businesses owned by ethnic minorities, women and veterans in our procurement process,” says Abigail Kofete, manager of supplier diversity at Cardinal Health. “For our organization, maintaining a diverse supplier base spurs competition, generates innovative thinking and facilitates the exchange of ideas that have the potential to produce value-added solutions. Partnering with best-in-class diverse suppliers is essential to our work.”

Cardinal Health mentors and coaches suppliers on a formal and informal basis, says Kofete. “Our mentoring activities are driven by the federal government, corporate customers and organizations that promote supplier diversity. Our mentoring programs encourage true partnerships for learning, growth and sustainability, and have enabled us to contribute to the development of diverse supplier capabilities and operational excellence.

“Additionally, we deliver training internally to our sourcing organization and those who influence the sourcing process. Externally, we provide learning opportunities for diverse suppliers that focus on understanding the sourcing process at Cardinal Health and developing the tools needed to successfully navigate an RFx process.

“Lastly, we provide informational sessions to our corporate customers as they seek to understand how our supplier diversity program is a differentiating strength as we work to service their contract and build a lasting relationship.”

Building and maintaining a supplier diversity program comes with challenges, says Kofete. “The most prevailing challenge we face is locating medical manufacturers of scale to do business with who are also headquartered in the United States. There are a wealth of suppliers who support the business operations of Cardinal Health; however, there are fewer suppliers in manufacturing and other customer-facing sourcing categories.”

Even so, the future looks bright for diverse suppliers in healthcare.

“More and more, healthcare companies are promoting the idea of supplier diversity as a means to impact their organization and the community,” says Kofete. “Ten years ago, supplier diversity was not as prevalent in healthcare. Diverse suppliers are understanding the opportunities within the healthcare space and are seeking information and guidance as they navigate the complexities of this industry. Additionally, we are seeing more formal business training programs add a healthcare component as a means to provide this information.

“We truly feel this is an exciting time in healthcare for supplier diversity.”