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Why Supplier Diversity Matters at Independence Blue Cross

Chuck Stefanosky in the Independence Blue Cross lobby.

Chuck Stefanosky is Supplier Diversity Director at Independence Blue Cross.

I have always admired and respected people who own their own businesses. It takes incredible strength to start something from the ground up, help it grow and flourish, and be willing to take that risk.

Owning a small business is even more challenging when the odds are stacked against you because of your race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or other factors.

That’s why I feel fortunate to play a small part in helping those business owners thrive through our supplier diversity program at Independence Blue Cross (Independence). One of the best ways we can support the community is by partnering with organizations that reflect the diversity of the communities and neighborhoods we serve.

I’m often asked why I think supplier diversity is important. There are many answers to that question, which is why I’m looking forward to sharing a series of personal stories from our suppliers in the coming months. But let me start by explaining how supplier diversity benefits our city.

1. It Builds the Economy

Knowing whether our business strategy is succeeding can be difficult, so measurement is critically important. We looked at the economic impact of the Supplier Diversity Program at Independence and our affiliates and found that over a four-year period, our organization’s hiring of diverse suppliers had significant impact. Our contribution to the national economy increased more than 50 percent in that time period.

Furthermore, in 2022 Independence spent $280 million with diverse suppliers, up 32 percent from 2021. And since 2018, Independence has spent nearly $1 billion with businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Incorporating a diverse and inclusive supply chain is an important factor in creating economic equity and benefits the local socioeconomic communities. We hope to move the needle from a diversity, equity, and inclusion perspective by seeking diverse suppliers organically and through diligent sourcing. Empowering diverse suppliers is directly correlated with the economic health of the community.

2. It Supports Minority-Owned Businesses

In 2020, Independence established an African American Supplier Mentoring Program with eight of our active suppliers. While it initially was meant as a chance for suppliers to network with and mentor each other, it grew into an opportunity to bring executives and thought leaders from community organizations into our meetings — expanding business opportunities not just for the suppliers, but also for the community.

In 2020 alone, the program increased supplier spending by $3 million. And as of 2022, that network has grown and increased spending across the region by $28 million. And this is just one example.

We also participate in the Philadelphia Anchors for Growth and Equity (PAGE) Initiative through the Economy League of Philadelphia and the Diverse Procurement Collaborative through the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Both programs promote mentorship and networking and strive for 10 percent spending increases with diverse suppliers in the area.

Initiatives like these are worth the investment. They create opportunities for the community by promoting new and innovative products and supporting local, diverse, inventive businesses.

3. It Encourages Other Organizations to Support Supplier Diversity

Practicing supplier diversity makes you a competitive leader in the marketplace, allowing for a more flexible and adaptive approach to meeting client needs and making businesses more resilient during times of market disruption.

Diverse suppliers support us in maintaining customer retention and encouraging growth. When other organizations can see the meaningful business impact it can have, it encourages them to follow these practices, too.

One of the most gratifying pieces of our work is supporting organizations as they develop their own best-in-class Supplier Diversity Programs. After more than three decades of focused effort, we have insight to share about key elements like setting financial goals and tracking, mentoring, and networking, and championing policies that advance diverse businesses.

Independence is a community leader in this space, and it’s rewarding to be both an ally and a consultant to businesses and community organizations alike.

Looking Forward to Even More and Better Outcomes

I am incredibly proud of all the work our team has done at Independence and the impact we have made on our communities. The most recent review of our program showed that we helped create 1,703 jobs paying $94.1 million in salaries and benefits and generating $30.1 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue.

Amidst this impact, I know there is still so much more we can do. From creating financial literacy resources to supporting access to capital, the opportunities are boundless.

And that extends to our peers. I truly believe that the more we can encourage regional collaboration, the more we all benefit. There are so many untapped opportunities to get our business community engaged in supplier diversity.

By helping one another on the how-to’s of developing this type of foundational programming, we can support suppliers from all industries and backgrounds. So, follow along as we share more supplier diversity stories throughout the year. And get inspired!

Chuck Stefanosky

Chuck Stefanosky is the Supplier Diversity Director at Independence Blue Cross. In this role, he develops and executes strategies to enrich Independence’s 30+ year commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. His work helps to create opportunities for growth among businesses that are owned and controlled by women, veterans, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Mr. Stefanosky is a sought-after advisor and speaker on best-in-class supplier diversity programs. He earned a master’s degree from Penn State and a bachelor’s degree from Gannon University.