While it’s easy to recognize the economic and social benefits that suppliers and their communities receive by doing business with a global biopharmaceutical company such as Pfizer, the benefits are far more mutual than they may seem. Applying innovative perspectives gained from working with suppliers that bring diversity, Pfizer is better able to improve patient care through these connections to a more inclusive group of communities, thus improving health for all.
One way Pfizer has worked to further company-wide and worldwide equity has been giving qualified suppliers more opportunities for business through the Supplier Diversity Program.1 Founded in the early 2000s, the program helps suppliers from underrepresented groups to thrive by providing not only business opportunities, but also opportunities for long-term relationships, mentorship, and development.1
There is certainly no shortage of businesses to draw from. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Annual Business Survey, about 18.3 percent of businesses in the United States today, for example, are minority-owned businesses.2 Of these approximately 1 million businesses, almost 125,000 have Black owners, and 28 percent of those are in the sector of healthcare and social assistance—more than any other minority group.1
“I think it says a lot about a company that's willing to not always do things the same way and to think differently, to use different types of suppliers, to support businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, disabled people, and LGBTQIA+ people,” says Ellen Jameson, Director of Supplier Diversity and Director of Sourcing Operations within Global Business Services. “By supporting diverse suppliers, we are tapping into diverse thought and innovation and also positively impacting society and communities."
Adds former Director of Supplier Diversity Ansa Yiadom, Vice President of Sourcing and Enterprise Services within Global Business Services at Pfizer, “We believe in thinking globally and acting locally. One of the things that we realized through the years is that our company should be as diverse as the communities we serve, but also the supply base that supports us should be as diverse as the patients we serve.”
Setting goals to promote supplier diversity
One of the ways Pfizer is delivering on that promise to promote equity is by setting clearly defined objectives for supplier diversity.
In 2020, Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla announced a series of goals to promote equity within the company and around the world. One of these goals is to increase supplier diversity spend by 50 percent by the year 2025.3
Yiadom, who leads a global team of over 700 colleagues and contractors toward operational, compliance, and quality excellence, has been pleased to see senior leadership stand behind efforts that he has been championing with other Sourcing & Enterprise Services colleagues for years at a grassroots level. After nearly two decades at Pfizer, Yiadom has witnessed the positive changes made over the years.
“I think we have done a great job with the groundswell and getting the program to a place where there is a strong base of diverse suppliers across Pfizer’s divisions,” says Yiadom. “Part of this journey was being a company that recognizes supplier diversity as a part of corporate diversity. And then when leadership like Albert [Bourla] draws a line in the sand and says by 2025 we will hit certain milestones, there's a force behind that that really catapults the program forward.”
Measuring the success of supplier diversity
So far, Pfizer is on track to achieve these goals. Early in 2021, Pfizer’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) strategy was refreshed to include a third pillar, the purpose of which is to Transform Society with External Partnerships. This pillar focuses on Supplier Diversity and includes key initiatives. “Through our partnership with DEI, for the first time, Supplier Diversity is an enterprise-wide imperative at Pfizer.”
According to Jameson, in 2020, Pfizer partnered with over 450 suppliers and added 44 qualified and capable small businesses that significantly increased diversity within the supply chain.3
From a business perspective for Pfizer, these efforts have led to improvements in manufacturing and expanded the supply chain network to meet global demand. “By working with diverse suppliers, we get fresh perspectives and different ways of doing things, which often leads to increased agility and innovation,” says Jameson. From a social perspective, these efforts contribute to Pfizer's commitment to prioritize diversity and inclusion throughout the company.
Benefiting communities and patients alike
By working with a diverse group of suppliers, Pfizer builds connections with people of underrepresented communities. “Diverse suppliers tend to have a diverse workforce,” says Jameson. “It’s a trickle-down effect that creates jobs and opportunities in local communities.”
Yiadom adds: “By having a strong supplier diversity program, we create an opportunity for individuals to participate in microeconomies, macroeconomies, and the global economy, all while we support the actual extension of wealth from the sphere that exists here to other spheres that have historically been disenfranchised.”
Supplier diversity also helps Pfizer better serve patients—from improving manufacturing with resources from clinical suppliers to partnering with advertisers and other media businesses that are tuned into an array of communities.
To have a truly inclusive and representative organization, the work does not stop once goals are achieved. In a world continually evolving, the hard work continues on.
“It's a very rewarding program to be a part of,” says Yiadom. “I'm very proud of the fact that Pfizer has not just a supplier diversity program in name, but a strong and flourishing one.”
Supplier diversity. Pfizer website. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.pfizer.com/people/workplace-diversity/supplier-diversity
U.S. Census Bureau. Annual Business Survey release provides data on minority-owned, veteran-owned and women-owned businesses [press release]. Published January 28, 2021. Accessed August 25, 2021. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2021/annual-business-survey.html
Aiming for equity: Assessing Pfizer’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion. Pfizer website. Available at: https://www.pfizer.com/news/hot-topics/aiming_for_equity_assessing_pfizer_s_ongoing_commitment_to_diversity_and_inclusion. Accessed 8/25/21.