Cleveland Clinic shows its support for local, minority-owned businesses with commitment pledge

As the largest employer in Cleveland and the state, the Cleveland Clinic has a long-time reputation for supporting diversity through the companies its does business with—especially its suppliers.

It even has a Supplier Diversity program in place to ensure the healthcare provider puts a priority on using businesses that are 51% owned and operated by minorities, women, veterans, or LGBTQ+.

“We’ve had our Supplier Diversity program for more than 10 years,” says Berlon Hamilton, Cleveland Clinic’s supplier diversity director. “In the past 10 years, Cleveland Clinic has spent more than $1.1 billion with diverse suppliers.”

Now, the Clinic is taking its commitment a step further when it joined with 11 U.S. health systems to sign an “Impact Purchasing Commitment,” designed by the Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN) in partnership with Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth.

The signing backs up the Clinic’s dedication to identifying and working with qualified diverse suppliers to increase opportunities to bid on and source products and services.

“There are unique challenges in the [supplier] space,” Hamilton says. “We find it beneficial to collaborate to pull our resources together as we’ve grown—to not only solve our own problems, but the nation’s problem with disparity in our work.”

The Clinic now aims to double its 2020 spend on minority businesses from $80 million to $160 million annually by 2025. Additionally, the Impact Purchasing Commitment includes increasing spending with minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs), as well as local and employee-owned, cooperatively owned, and nonprofit-owned enterprises, by at least $1 billion total over five years.  

“It’s about increasing the dollars in our community,” Hamilton explains. “From an economic perspective, we’re getting money to business owners that need it and giving jobs locally.”

Hamilton adds that the suppliers the Clinic uses are also required to focus on diversity when using their own vendors. “Our efforts don’t just extend to our own direct opportunities,” he says. “It’s in our supplier contracts that they have to work with local, diverse vendors as well.”

In addition to the HAN agreement, Hamilton says the Clinic also has its Mentor Protégé program to develop, train, and educate its suppliers, in part because many of the business are small and face challenges in their own diversity efforts.

Hamilton says the Clinic targets every spending category for diversity inclusion. “We encourage all suppliers to register with us that have an interest in doing business with us,” he says. “In addition to ensuring diverse suppliers have an opportunity to participate in our sourcing opportunities, we also do community outreach events to encourage suppliers to participate in our sourcing opportunities throughout the communities we serve.”

It’s all about supporting small- and minority-own businesses in Northeast Ohio and helping them to grow and thrive. “We position them for complete success,” Hamilton says. “They become an extension of our organization and our commitment around this work.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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