Diverse Suppliers: A Foundation of Innovation

When we embrace the strength in our differences, innovation is sure to follow. Never has this been clearer than in the outcomes of a diverse supply chain. Diverse suppliers consider the unique perspectives of people from all backgrounds, listening to new ideas, giving voice to different approaches, and ultimately gaining access to life-changing solutions that would otherwise have remained in the dark. As we’ll see in the following sections, diverse suppliers in healthcare offer a competitive advantage by enhancing creative potential and unlocking innovation.

Understanding Diversity in Healthcare

Supplier diversity is present when an organization’s contracts for goods and services feature businesses that are at least 51% owned, managed, or operated by minorities, women, veterans, or businesses defined as disadvantaged by the U.S. Small Business Administration, according to Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence.

Beyond complying with diversity initiatives, supplier diversity in the healthcare sector affords a breadth of benefits, including:

  • Improved quality of products and services: Successful partnerships between healthcare orgs and diverse suppliers are built on a foundation of trust, community, and a shared conviction to deliver exceptional healthcare.
  • Cost reduction and increased efficiency: When healthcare organizations strive for inclusivity and widen their scope of potential suppliers, healthy competition is promoted in the supply chain, motivating suppliers to improve product quality and lower costs.
  • Diversity and social impact: Pivoting from a mindset of pure cost savings to one that combines social value, sustainability, and cost savings generates long-term value. It’s about the ability to reduce socioeconomic inequality and create stronger, more stable communities together.

Enhancing Creativity through Diverse Suppliers

Even more notably, social diversity makes us smarter, according to research published in the Scientific American by Columbia Business School Professor Katherine Phillips. Problem solving, decision-making, and everyday processes are invigorated by fresh ideas informed by the unique information and experiences diversity brings to the table. A diverse, inclusive environment not only makes room for new voices and ideas to be heard, but also “jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not”, writes Professor Phillips. In the same article, Phillips cites research by fellow business professors studying the effect of both racial and gender diversity, finding that:

Increasing female representation in management led to an increase of $42 million in firm value
Companies saw greater financial gains overall when women were included in leadership
U.S. national banks with increased racial diversity also experienced enhanced financial performance

Cambridge Dictionary defines diversity as “many different types of people being included in something”. It is this definition—one centered around inclusion and belonging—that supplier diversity gets to the heart of. A welcoming, inclusive environment gives employees the space they need to be creative. And creativity breeds results.

Unlocking Innovation with Diverse Suppliers

Different perspectives, unique life experiences, and diversity of thought all serve to broaden our range of thinking and further extend the window of what’s possible.

For example, did you know that the first antifungal drug was developed by two women scientists? In 1950, microbiologist Elizabeth Lee Hazen and chemist Rachel Fuller Brown developed Nystatin, an antifungal antibiotic that helps patients receiving organ transplants, chemotherapy, and burn victims fight fungal infection.

By intentionally partnering with diverse suppliers, healthcare organizations can help innovation like this prosper, creating an unfettered path to breakthrough medical discoveries from people of all backgrounds.

Competitive Advantage for Healthcare Orgs

Creativity and innovation in the supply chain offer a unique competitive advantage. When healthcare organizations choose to partner with diverse suppliers, they come together to deliver quality products as a team. The relationship is built on a foundation of goodwill, of a conviction to do business with minority-owned businesses on the healthcare provider’s side, and a repayment of loyalty, lower costs, and better patient outcomes on the supplier side.

Additionally, when healthcare orgs widen their pool of potential suppliers, those suppliers must then compete with one another for business, resulting in competitive pricing and a race to offer the highest quality products for the lowest cost.

Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Opportunities

Although the benefits are many, partnering with a diverse supplier network is not without challenges. Here are a few common barriers to entry, along with potential solutions:

Challenge  Solution 
Diversity programs are sometimes treated as “token” or “nonessential”   Put your diversity program front and center. Make sure partners know it’s about impact—not optics 
Sourcing minority-owned businesses can prove difficult   Create a mentorship training program and partner with small suppliers in need of support, or join forces with local councils or chambers of commerce with similar support systems in place 
It can be hard to know if a diverse supplier is legitimate   Verify any federally contracted diversity program by checking if they meet federal acquisition regulations or the small-business-subcontracting requirements 

By embracing diversity, healthcare organizations can unlock the full potential of their supplier networks. The proof is all around us: from the achievements of women and minorities in the medical field, to the reduced costs and higher quality products diverse networks consistently provide. At SourceMark, diversity is at the heart of everything we do. We believe (and can tell you from experience!) that diversity of people, background, and experience breeds diversity in action—leading to unprecedented innovation and a thriving, competitive marketplace of unparalleled value.

We can help you deliver positive patient experiences and better clinical outcomes. Get in touch with us for more information.