Making it our business: BCA members see mutual benefit in Indigenous engagement
More than 2,000 Indigenous employees have been hired and more than 700 Indigenous traineeships created through Business Council of Australia member company efforts in the past 12 months, efforts which are now impacting across diverse parts of the economy.
The results are included in the Business Council’s 2012 Indigenous Engagement Survey, launched today by President Tony Shepherd.
The fourth annual survey conducted by the Business Council shows significant growth in the collective Indigenous workforce among members companies and the important influence staff and shareholder expectations have on Indigenous engagement activities.
The 2012 survey attracted a record 81 per cent response rate from member companies (up from 74 per cent last year), with 76 per cent of respondents reporting they had formal Indigenous engagement strategies in place.
“While the mining and financial services sectors have been trailblazers in this area, the survey shows that companies from diverse parts of the economy are now involved in this effort,” Mr Shepherd said.
“Indigenous engagement is fast becoming an essential aspect of business practice among Australia’s large companies,” he said.
“Employers see it as a practical way of contributing to significant social change that simultaneously makes them better businesses, and employees are starting to really value and expect it in the workplace.”
Key findings from the 2012 survey include:
- a huge increase in Indigenous employees and Indigenous trainees created in the past 12 months
- the expectations of customers and staff are the most important drivers of Indigenous engagement activities
- almost a third of respondents reported having more than 50 Indigenous employees, with at least eight companies employing more than 500 Indigenous Australians
- more than 48,500 hours of unpaid work provided by Business Council member companies in Indigenous engagement activities, much of this directed at enhancing the capacity of Indigenous organisations
- most companies with Indigenous engagement activities provided employment and traineeship opportunities and undertook cultural awareness activities
- there are qualitative benefits of Indigenous engagement which are also important to companies, in particular its ability to improve corporate culture and staff morale.
The aims of BCA’s Indigenous Engagement Survey are to:
- raise awareness about what businesses can do to help improve opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous Australians
- share information about what’s working
- encourage more businesses to get involved
- promote collaboration.
“Responses this year show a growing sophistication in engagement strategies. Employment is clearly seen as an important contribution but it is one of many ways business is contributing to Indigenous economic development,” Mr Shepherd said.
“Forging partnerships with communities, procuring Indigenous contracts and pro bono contributions to strengthen capacity in Indigenous organisations are also making an impact.”
“One of the survey’s main purposes is to encourage our member companies to find ways they can contribute that line up with their business objectives.
“While there were many positives this year, it also reminds us that there is still plenty of work do, for government and for the business community.
“The Business Council and its members want to see all Australians experiencing the benefits of economic prosperity.
“We believe it is very important that individuals and groups don’t face intergenerational barriers that prevent them from contributing to the economy and being part of our nation’s growth story,” Mr Shepherd said.
Among member companies quoted in the survey, the National Australia Bank said: “Our commitment to work in partnership with Indigenous Australia is for the long term to help build sustainable communities.”
The Boston Consulting Group said: “Making our skills available to Indigenous organisations seems to have a material impact on their success, and definitely has a material impact on the development of our staff.”
Of those who reported they did not have Indigenous engagement activities in place most cited either a lack of resources or lack of expertise as the main barriers.