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A commitment to diverse businesses

Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s partnerships with small- and medium-sized diverse businesses help sustain equitable communities.

Joe Blackstone, CEO of Blackstone Consulting, started his business more than 30 years ago with just one employee.

Today, the company employs 8,000 employees worldwide who provide security, janitorial, and food services to a variety of companies from J.P. Morgan Chase to Apple to the U.S. military.

At the heart of Blackstone’s business is diversity. More than 78% of his employees represent minority communities while 57% of his senior leadership do as well.  

“We are proud to look like the United Nations,” said Blackstone, a Chicago native. “We are completely devoted to helping women, the LGBTQ community, veterans, and people of color, and strive to always be a change agent in how we do business.”

Joe Blackstone

Recognizing Blackstone’s commitment to supporting underrepresented groups, Kaiser Permanente partnered with his business in 2012 to supply its security services. It was the consulting company’s largest contract at the time, helping it eventually grow to being a major player in the security and services sectors. Now Blackstone supplies Kaiser Permanente with more than 3,200 security guards at its medical centers in 8 states and Washington, D.C.

Blackstone consulting is one of thousands of diverse suppliers, which is defined as a business owned by women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups, that Kaiser Permanente partners with.

“Blackstone and Kaiser Permanente uphold our values of equity and inclusion by having people who work for us and those we work with look like the communities we serve,” Blackstone said.

Committed to lifting up communities

For many decades, Kaiser Permanente Northern California has deliberately chosen diverse-owned and operated suppliers with which to partner as part of its mission to address economic, racial, and environmental disparities that impact community health.

“In working with local diverse suppliers, we are bolstering the upstream health of the communities we serve,” said Ernie Flores, supplier diversity and inclusion manager for Kaiser Permanente. “There is a direct correlation with the suppliers we do business with and their hiring of diverse people.”

In 2021, Kaiser Permanente did business with 4,056 diverse suppliers, 1,102 of which were in Northern California. In total, $2.97 billion was spent with diverse suppliers nationwide. Year-to-date 2022 that number has increased by $656,000 at the national level and by $299,000 or 30% in Northern California.

“We wouldn’t be in business if not for Kaiser Permanente. A lot of the other corporations speak to diversity, but there is often not a lot of muscle behind it. Kaiser Permanente is at the forefront of truly helping small businesses function in a very large market.” — Jeff Herzog 

Additionally, Kaiser Permanente prioritizes environmental protection in its contracts through sustainable sourcing. Suppliers it collaborates with are often committed to adopting sustainable procurement goals toward purchasing goods and services that minimize damage to health and the environment.

‘Critical’ to their success  

For female-owned and operated Herzog Surgical, Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s contract has been “critical,” said Jeff Herzog, vice president of sales and marketing for the small business that distributes surgical instruments from laparoscopic tools to ophthalmic knives and blades.

“We wouldn’t be in business if not for Kaiser Permanente,” Herzog said. “A lot of the other corporations speak to diversity, but there is often not a lot of muscle behind it. Kaiser Permanente is at the forefront of truly helping small businesses function in a very large market.”

His mother, Margi, was a nurse at the time she started the company with her husband, who was a surgical technician. They eventually certified their 46-employee company based in Sacramento as a majority-female owned and operated company, a status that needs to meet annual requirements to maintain certification.

“Kaiser Permanente is our customer and our company’s primary care provider, and we are proud to work with its facilities over the past 43 years,” said Margi Herzog. “The impact that the relationship has had on our company is very significant. To be in a partnership as a vendor, customer, and patient is unique and speaks to the importance of partnering with those in the community in which we work.”

Learn more about how Kaiser Permanente uses its purchasing power for a more equitable society.


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