WBENC Corporate Member, the American Cancer Society (ACS), stands as a beacon of hope in the fight against cancer, tirelessly working to ensure equitable access to cancer care and treatment for all. This noble endeavor extends beyond the medical interventions to address the complex web of social determinants that impact cancer outcomes. One such critical area of focus is the ACS’s commitment to supplier diversity, a strategic effort that not only champions economic inclusion but also directly influences the landscape of health equity.
Since 2021, ACS has nearly tripled spending with diverse-owned businesses. Join us in exploring how the American Cancer Society bridges the gap between economic inclusion and health equity, while paving the way for a future where the fight against cancer is fortified by the strength of diverse and empowered communities.
Cancer is a disease that can affect anyone, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally. Health disparities can affect every step of cancer care—from prevention and screening to the quality of life during and after cancer treatment. Many barriers can impact a person’s ability to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer, with racism and discrimination making it even more difficult to address social determinants of health. A person’s quality of life and cancer outcomes can be determined by their zip code, education, income, access to healthcare and healthy and affordable foods, and other variables outside their control. These barriers are deeply rooted, long-standing inequities at all levels of society will take an intentional effort to address for equitable cancer outcomes.
The American Cancer Society (ACS), and its non-profit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN℠), believe all people should have a fair and just opportunity to live a longer, healthier life free from cancer regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status, or where they live.
ACS uses eight health equity principles to guide our work, foster a culture that embraces health equity, and express our commitment to making health equity a strategic priority. These principles fall within the domains of people, places, and partnerships and are:
- Help people with the greatest need.
- Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion. – honoring, respecting, and valuing populations that are marginalized.
- Value community expertise. – engage communities in creating, planning, delivering, and evaluating ACS’ and ACS CAN’s work.
- Understand the community’s historical, social, cultural, and economic context.
- Address the structural and social detriments of health.
- Implement sustainable community solutions.
- Leverage the power of volunteers.
- Prevent and address unintended consequences.
Supplier diversity is a proactive business approach which encourages the use of diverse-owned and other historically underutilized business. It is about being a good corporate citizen, and therefore a social contract with the communities in which we live and operate. The origins of supplier diversity programs in the U.S. can be traced back to the Civil Rights Movement. Following race riots in Detroit in 1968, General Motors set up what is regarded as one of the first supplier diversity programs, and much of the American auto industry followed suit. Under the Nixon and Carter administrations, various Executive Orders and Laws were instituted to support minority-owned, small, and woman-owned businesses. Today, many US companies have established their own programs and have placed greater emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts within their supplier base.
Supplier Diversity Programs Influence Health Equity
When a company invests in inclusive procurement and intentionally seeks to foster economic growth in a community, it helps to address the underlying factors affecting health equity. Ultimately, supply chain professionals and supplier diversity experts support access to healthcare via supplier diversity programs.
Limited household income can affect health in a negative way. This in turn contributes to large-scale racial and ethnic disparities In a recent conference held by HR Dive (2023), a representative from McKinsey, a consulting firm, noted that, according to research by the Federal Reserve, the total wealth of the average Black American family is $17,600, which is about one-tenth the wealth of the average White American family – $171,000. Also, Black Americans are almost twice as likely to live in the counties at highest risk of health and economic disruption.
Racial discrimination limits opportunities to be as healthy as possible and causes health disparities. As reported by the Hospital Association of Southern California (2023), in California, Native American and Alaskan Native, as well as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, are less likely to report having a checkup within the past year as compared to other racial ethnic groups.
Healthcare institutions can make deeper impacts to ensure that all people receive equitable, high-quality care. Within their communities, they must address social determinants as well as health related social needs that significantly affect health risks and outcomes, like housing instability, access to healthy foods, and community violence. The Health Research and Educational Trust (2015) noted that by adopting a Supplier Diversity program, hospitals, and health care systems “can support minority-owned businesses and communities while obtaining products and services of competitively high quality and value.”
Supporting diverse-owned businesses is often a critical linkage between a company’s supply chain and health equity. Money spent with local, diverse-owned businesses can have a ripple effect, multiplying the economic impact through additional spending in the community by those businesses and their employees.
American Cancer Society and Supplier Diversity
The American Cancer Society (ACS) believes that we will not reach our mission if we are not inclusive of every community touched by cancer, actively working towards ending cancer as we know it for everyone. We acknowledge there is still much work to be done in partnership with communities that have been disproportionately burdened by cancer and who experience greater obstacles to cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and survival.
The Supplier Diversity program at ACS seeks to ensure that its investments generate economic opportunities for historically excluded and disenfranchised communities. ACS has demonstrated its commitment to inclusive buying habits by instituting policies and procedures to increase the number of diverse suppliers the organization uses. ACS and ACS CAN are providing opportunities to businesses that are majority owned by these eight diversity classifications: women; Black and African Americans; Hispanic Americans; Asians and Pacific Islanders; Native Americans or Indigenous people; Military Veterans; people with disabilities; and LGBTQ+ people.
To support our program’s success internally, various sources of influence, including communications, success stories, and management reporting are required. Partnerships with organizations including National Minority Supplier Development Council, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Committee, among others, have provided information and sources of potential diverse-owned businesses. Since the program’s inception in 2020, ACS has nearly tripled its investments in diverse-owned businesses/suppliers.
Brian Kyle, vice president of Supply Chain and Accounts Payable for the American Cancer Society noted, “While we’re happy with the progress of our program so far, we have much work to do. Influencing behavior change and identifying appropriate diverse-owned businesses to compete for our business requires constant focus and effort. We know there are more opportunities out there. Cancer doesn’t rest, so neither will we.”
In addition, Tracy Wiedt, managing director of health equity for the American Cancer Society added, “At ACS, we are more intentionally focusing on our actions to advance health equity and ensuring that we are not contributing to health disparities. The enhancements to our supplier diversity program demonstrates we are intentionally investing in communities who may be overlooked. It also allows us to step back and put suppliers who are also community members with lived experiences in the driver’s seat, leading and developing solutions that work for their unique needs.”
Diverse-owned businesses can express their interest to becoming a supplier with the American Cancer Society on our website, cancer.org.
ACS is bridging the gap in healthcare treatment, prevention, and cure in historically marginalized communities in many ways, including through inclusive procurement. We believe that our investments have the potential for financial empowerment and social change that will positively impact populations experiencing a disproportionate burden of cancer. By elevating the voices and involvement of diverse-owned businesses, we create economic opportunities, foster job growth, enhance local economies and, ultimately, contribute to the well-being of the communities that we serve.
Learn more at cancer.org.