Advantus Health Partners Supplier Diversity Initiative Surpasses Goal of Increased Spend with Minority-Owned Businesses

African American Woman leading a meeting.

As a leading supply chain organization, it is the immediate goal of Advantus Health Partners to reduce health care costs in the United States by providing the right products, services and business intelligence at the right time and place. However, it is our ultimate mission to improve people’s lives. During the pandemic, many businesses suffered losses or were forced to close their doors. Small businesses were hit particularly hard, specifically minority-owned businesses, which experienced disproportionate impacts far greater than non-minority owners.

Sourcing supplies for Bon Secours Mercy Health, one of the largest health care systems in the U.S., is an enormous responsibility that brings with it the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. Beyond improving healthcare, we have the chance to improve the communities in which we serve by partnering with local businesses for the products and services we source for Bon Secours Mercy Health’s locations of care across the country. Doing so brings dollars home to our communities and allows everyone an equal seat at the table.

That’s why we are proud to be a participant in the “Impact Purchasing Commitment,” which formalizes our commitment to increasing spending with minority- and women-owned businesses, particularly those that are locally based, employee-owned, cooperatively owned, or nonprofit.

While our work to increase the diversity of our supplier network began well before signing the commitment, we formalized our participation toward the end of 2020. At this point, we set a baseline for the average amount of funds previously spent each year with minority- and women-owned suppliers (~ $80M), as well as a goal to increase the percentage of total spend over the next year by 0.5%. We then partnered with Versatex, a minority-owned vendor relations management company, to help identify where to focus our efforts for the most impact. By working with Versatex, Bon Secours Mercy Health was able to apply community health needs assessment information that identified ZIP codes of concern, and target the businesses headquartered in these ZIP codes for partnership and growth opportunities.

Today, many Advantus suppliers are realizing an exponential growth in revenue due to our supplier diversity initiative. Guy Brown is a nationally recognized Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) that supplies office products and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) equipment consolidation. Because of its partnership with Advantus, Guy Brown sees the potential to triple the size of its MRO operation.

“Advantus has a significant commitment to supplier diversity,” said Guy Brown CEO, Jay Chawan. “A lot of companies talk about it, but when it comes to transactional items, they pick the lowest bidder. Advantus finds suppliers to work with who are diverse and then collaborates with them. They look at our strengths and work to make of the opportunity for us.”

Transworld Supply Network is another of the many beneficiaries of our supplier diversity initiative. Advantus leadership approached the company, which specializes in sourcing and distribution of supplies, products and equipment for several industries, to investigate opportunities to grow the diversity of its supplier network in 2020. Because of the ensuing relationship, company president and CEO, Christopher Che, experienced great organic growth and was able to pass along opportunities to other small minority-owned suppliers.

“The Advantus program is not a handout, just looking for companies who can compete at the current level but need some support,” said Che. “The challenge for small minority-owned businesses is access to these large organizations. I am blessed that I now have that opportunity, and we are now forming partnerships and alliances with other minority-owned businesses. I’m able to give these other companies a chance.” 

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