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June/July 2014

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Supplier Diversity

CVS Caremark: an active supplier diversity program

Diverse suppliers are encouraged to register with the supplier database, then follow up. New construction and a focus on small and medium M/WBEs means opportunities


CVS Caremark (Woonsocket, RI) is the largest pharmacy healthcare provider in the United States. In addition to the services offered at its CVS/pharmacy stores, the company has a mail-order and specialty pharmacy division and a retail-based medical clinic subsidiary.

The supplier diversity program was established in 2000, says Raul Suarez-Rodriquez, manager of supplier diversity and strategic procurement. “Demographics were changing, and we felt the need to provide small and medium-sized minority and women-owned businesses the opportunity to participate in procurement activities within CVS Caremark,” he says.

Supplier diversity is a component of CVS Caremark’s overall corporate diversity strategy.

The company also addresses corporate development and outreach, workplace diversity, and multicultural markets and products, Suarez- Rodriquez points out. “We want to make sure we are well represented in all aspects of our diversity initiatives,” he says.

Strengthening the supplier base
To find diverse suppliers, CVS Caremark is active in the diversity community, attending or sponsoring more than a dozen trade and business expos throughout the year. The company is represented at events hosted by the South Florida Minority Supplier Development Council, the California Disabled Veteran Business Alliance, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the United States Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and for the first time this year, the U.S. Business Leadership Network.

Diverse suppliers can access the company’s supplier database at cvssuppliers.com/supplier-diversity-registration. Using an online tool, suppliers can create a company profile, provide their financial capabilities, capacity and references, and upload their certifications.

“We look at the opportunities up for bid and proactively seek out suppliers in the database that fit the requirements of that particular project,” Suarez-Rodriquez says. “If nobody in the database is a fit, we reach out to our diversity council partners.”

There are about 5,000 certified suppliers in the CVS Caremark database. However, Suarez-Rodriquez notes, “Only fifteen percent of suppliers follow up once they register. We recommend they check in with us periodically to find out if there is anything available and let us know they are ready with their support. Simple contacts like that can really make a difference.”

This year, CVS Caremark is launching a web-based training program for suppliers. “What makes this launch so exciting and powerful is that the new e-learning module was created by one of our minority business suppliers,” Suarez-Rodriquez says.

The company encourages its prime suppliers to create their own supplier diversity programs, he says. CVS Caremark is now designing a training program to guide its prime suppliers on that path. “It will educate them on such things as how to build a database and how to vet suppliers for subcontracting opportunities.”

Forging ahead in new communities
“Our supplier diversity program provides value to our company through the suppliers that bring new ideas to the table. They give us a competitive edge,” says Suarez-Rodriquez. “We support the economy by providing opportunities for suppliers, which in turn creates jobs.”

CVS Caremark has more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores nationwide. That means the company is often involved in remodeling and new construction, Suarez-Rodriquez says.

“Last year, we hosted events for diverse construction companies in Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. We brought in our key decision maker and our prime suppliers to sit down at the table with suppliers in the construction space,” he explains. “We facilitated business matchmaking and set the agenda for the next eighteen months.

“We’re going to continue to host these events throughout the year, not only in construction but also in other areas of the company,” he adds.


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