NORFOLK, VA – Date TBD – Norfolk, Va.-based Sentara Healthcare has committed executive leadership and corporate resources toward a goal to increase diversity among the company’s suppliers. Sentara is an integrated not-for-profit system of 12 hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina, 300+ sites of care and 28,000 employees. The company spends about $2.4B on supply chain in a normal year. The pandemic has boosted that figure to more than $3B.
“We are committed to growing partnerships with local and regional suppliers and companies owned by women, people of color and veterans,” says Terrie Edwards, Sentara corporate vice president who oversees supply chain. “Sentara has a mission to improve health every day. One way to do that is using supply chain dollars to support local vendors and good-paying jobs with benefits.”
Sentara has appointed a Supplier Diversity Executive Council, chaired by Jennifer McPherren, vice president of supply chain. The executive council includes the health system’s director of diversity and inclusion, a vice president of government relations and representatives from the real estate and construction divisions to help grow contracts with diverse local and regional companies.
“We learned from the pandemic that there are local and regional vendors who can compete on quality, price and reliability,” says Jennifer McPherren. “We want to grow those relationships.”
Early in the pandemic, with PPE in short supply, Sentara contracted with two local companies to produce cloth masks and PPE. The system also contracted with a locally based global logistics firm, which made non-traditional business connections in China to produce and deliver 10 cargo planeloads of PPE for Sentara.
Sentara is currently hiring a manager of supply chain diversity, a new position reporting to the system’s director of strategic sourcing, who is tasked with broadening the overall supplier base to ensure adequate supplies are on hand or delivered when disruptions occur such as COVID-19 and the Suez Canal blockage.
“There are opportunities to use our buying power to invest in our local communities,” McPherren adds. “We will make it easier for smaller vendors to navigate our process so we can reduce dependence on a handful of mega suppliers.” Toward this goal, Sentara will provide quarterly education sessions for smaller suppliers to help them learn how to respond to requests for proposals and thrive as long-term partners. Also, Sentara recently joined several advocacy groups focused on the interests of businesses owned by women, people of color and veterans.
“We started this journey in 2017 and we have been intentional in broadening our reach in supplier diversity,” adds Terrie Edwards. “In the past year, we made significant strides to embed diversity as an integral part of our supply goals.
“We’re creating a welcoming environment for new business partners that grows jobs and prosperity in the communities we serve.”