Featuring Michael Barlow, Jahna Cedar & Dwayne Good
Thursday 1 July 2021
CBRE acknowledges the traditional owners of the land we have recorded this podcast on, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to the elders past, present, emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
Hello and welcome to Talking Property with CBRE. A podcast where you can hear the latest from industry leading experts on trends shaping the property industry. My name is Michael Barlow, Head of Global Workplace Solutions in the Pacific, and I'm your host for today's special NAIDOC week episode.
As a business leader, NAIDOC week is important to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in a focused and meaningful way. It provides a pathway to ensuring this focus extends across the remaining 51 weeks of the year and ultimately raises awareness of our First Peoples huge contributions to society and most importantly, country.
This year's theme is Heal Country. To truly understand what this means to the indigenous community, I feel we really need to speak with our indigenous friends, colleagues and in a work sense, indigenous business leaders. I've been fortunate enough to engage with CBRE’s Indigenous Centre of Excellence partners and listen to their definition of what country means to them, it's extremely moving. It isn't necessarily related to renewable energy company reporting or even conservation and while companies like CBRE are proud, to have our innovate RAP endorsed recently to help guide actions as a business, I feel insights are best provided by those that are proud Indigenous people.
So without further ado, I'm delighted to be joined by our special guests Dwayne Good, Founder of InTravel Group, and Jahna Cedar, Executive Director of ISP Management Consultants, to explore the importance of supply chain diversity, the value it brings to organisations through diverse and innovative thinking and how it translates at a community level. Our CBRE Indigenous Centre of Excellence Partners have active community engagement initiatives and CBRE, is delighted to assist with providing access to business partners and clients with aligned thinking to drive community level improvements through business transactions. Thanks for joining me, Dwayne and Jahna.
JC & DG:
So supplier diversity seems to be the front of mind for many organisations at the moment, it can bring a broad spectrum of benefits to organisations and individuals alike. I'm keen to hear from our guests as to what some of these benefits are. So let's start with the first question to you Dwayne.
Corporates and privates are making big commitments around spending with growing awareness and action in the supply chain diversity space. What kind of value does this bring toe organisations beyond social?
Thanks Michael for the introduction.
I think it supply diversity is a critical part of the nation moving forward when it comes to reconciliation. The indigenous business sector is an emerging sector. Aboriginal people were excluded from the economy for a very, very long time in this country and so supplier diversity is a way to change that and get as many Aboriginal and Torres Strait business owners as we can to contribute to the economy from a business ownership point of view and so for me, I think that's one of the important parts of supplier diversity and so supplier diversity, if it's done correctly, can increase economic independence for Indigenous Australians. In turn, we as Aboriginal business owners, Torres Strait business owners can increase our social footprint as well, so through things like employment, training and development, passing on of skills and knowledge to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait people. So supplier diversity from a value point of view to your original question, I think is, the country needs reconciliation. Supplier diversity, being one of the channels or pillars to that. So a large business that is venturing into supplier diversity, that my opinion is a way, to help the country improve. We've got a pocket of Australian citizens who are still somewhat sort of on the edge of, I don't know if excluded is the right word, but are living different lifestyles, then non-Indigenous Australians and so if we can help that Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities' live better lives, then the country's a better place. So, from a value point of view, corporations should be proud of their commitment to supplier diversity to help other Australians improve their lives.
The other aspects of the supplier diversity adding value to large corporations or any corporation because there's plenty of small business is doing great things around suppler diversity as well is that the generation of workers employees are only getting younger, and so younger Australians, they want to work inside a place that has more purpose. As the generations of workers get younger, this is a challenge for corporations to try and create some form of purpose for the staff to feel part of, to contribute to. So to increase retention, a diverse workforce is a huge help towards increasing retention for that younger generation coming through. It also increases value to any business. So the more and more corporates are getting behind corporate social responsibility. Your clients, your suppliers, your networks are achieving CSR. If you're not achieving CSR, then you're devaluing your business and you're perceived as a company...you’ll fall behind. A company that doesn't achieve corporate social responsibility, it might be, might be falling behind when it comes to the future. So I think CSR is a way of staying in the race when it comes to value. Diverse businesses are just so much more innovative diversity across gender, cultural backgrounds as well, those types of business are just so much more innovative and proven to be more successful.
Yeah, I couldn't agree more, Dwayne and I've got to say, as I mentioned before, listening to yourself and some of the other partners of our Centre of Excellence, it's been a great education for me as well in terms of getting to understand, I guess from a firsthand account some of the stuff that the indigenous folk can bring to the business, which is great.
Just expanding on what you've said there, Dwayne, how do we maximise the impact of these processes and work practises to really benefit some of our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities? You sort of touched on it. But maybe if we could go a little bit deeper on that,
As I was saying before the indigenous business sector it's emerging, Aboriginal businesses are fairly new to the market, so we're only really, probably at a humble size. When you're a big organisation and you're trying to purchase from these smaller businesses then there is a level of perceived risk. I'll say perceived risk, because on paper we might not look as competitive as our competitors, who have probably been in the industry for a lot longer than us. So, as I said before, Indigenous businesses have been excluded from the economy and therefore we're a little bit behind the mark when it comes to competition, so supplier diversity is meant to change that. So the only way a big business can get over the perceived risk aspect is have more flexibility in and around their procurement processes. So I would suggest comparing the businesses on paper is probably not going to achieve any supply diversity outcomes. So there has to be an element of risk for big businesses with risk averse processes and policies, that's tough, that's a challenge.
So I think fundamentally processes and perceived risk is an area that any business needs to look at when they don't want to increase the supplier diversity. But that only comes if you are supported by the leaders of your business. So you need a top down approach to have that flexibility. So you as a business or a procurement person or a buyer, you're about to make this decision on a supply that is on paper, not as good as its competition, but it achieves social impact outcomes and probably will deliver the contract. Your leaders need to support you as a buyer to be able to take that leap to increase that social impact in your supply chain, so that's a top-down approach. That's the second thing that I think needs to happen. If you are wanting to increase your supplier diversity, everyone in the organisation needs to be a supporter of supplier diversity and not just saying they want to do it, but actually supporting their procurement people to go and do it.
It's a good point, Dwayne and do you think sort of building on that a little bit, do you think some of that also comes down to the way in which we engage? So, you know, as you say not just sitting there looking at the outcomes of a written procurement process but actually sitting down having a discussion with the business owners to to see how we might be around those perceived risks as you say?
Yep, absolutely. The best wins that we've ever had is when the buyer has intent to increase supplier diversity. So we're sitting down at the table, we know there's intent from both sides, we're always, we're intent to win the business, but is the buyer intent to have a little bit more flexibility when you do that paper comparison or on paper comparison. So then, then the conversation is so much more fluid so you can have a conversation about “Jeez, we might be off on this particular solution or service. How do we make this work?” And we're business owners were pretty innovative; we'll make it work. So having that conversation with us that will increase supplier diversity because we can then make it work, we will go away and make it work. Give us a couple of days to work out that solution to that problem. So if you're having these conversations and engaging positively with a level of intent, the outcomes, they're going to be so much better.
Yeah, that’s great Dwayne. Thanks for that. I haven't forgotten about Jahna but I've got one more question for you, Dwayne. It dives a little deeper, I suppose, on what we've already spoken about, where do you think are the biggest gaps and opportunities for organisations to contribute towards a healing of our country and people?
Yep, this is an easy one for me. The Indigenous business sector has grown and emerged over the last period, so let's call it last 10 years. But it's created a bit of hype, everyone's jumping on the bandwagon all the big buyers. It can be, to a degree somewhat superficial and tokenistic. However, that is a huge challenge for us at the moment. We need to push through that challenge together and it needs to go past tokenism and superficial talk because the more we sit in the zone of superficial tokenism, there's no outcomes on the ground. So there's no employment growth, there is no economic independence, no wealth creation for Indigenous communities. So we think that we're achieving the goals and we think we're doing a good job and we're talking about it and that everyone else is talking about it, then there must be some good things happening. But sadly, there is not that many good things happening on the ground. So we need to push past the talk and turn that into action. Everything that I just spoke about before flexibility and procurement, top-down approach. We need to increase supplier diversity and reverse engineer it. So look at the community outcomes that you're trying to achieve is a business, and your supplier diversity programme is that helping you achieve those community outcomes on the ground? I can say now that we've still got so much more work to do. There's so much more work that we need to do on the ground for communities who are still challenged with lifestyles that we spoke about before that and that's not of choice. Aboriginal and Torres Strait people have been shepherded to this position over the last couple of 100 years. Now It's time that the country moves forward and makes really serious change and we need the corporate sector, the corporate and government sector can really help make that change by having genuine intent to get stuck into it.
That's great Dwayne, thank you very much and clearly very passionate. So, thank you. We might just switch gears here a little bit. So supplier diversity is certainly one piece of the puzzle and thanks to you for your input there but supporting and growing, the Indigenous business network needs a holistic view and multi-faceted approach that also focuses on community.
Jahna, the theme of NAIDOC week this year is Heal Country and talks to sustaining and protecting First Nations culture, heritage and sacred lands. Creating employment opportunities for aboriginal people is one small part of that puzzle. How big of a role do you think this has towards healing and reconciliation?
Yes, thank you and as you said, you know, Healing Country is the theme this year, and for us, that's about embracing First Nation's cultural knowledge and understanding of country as part of our Australian national heritage.
We're all looking for that significant and sustainable change aspect, and so employment and business procurement is almost one spoke in the wheel for that change. The overall framework needs to be broader than that. It needs to look at truth telling, respect, recognition, cultural heritage, creating these important pillars as such alongside employment and procurement so they can lead to that economic independence that is so much needed in this space. The buzzword of self-determination. Well, healing comes with self-determination and authenticity. You know, it comes with having that voice we want to be included in decision making, being spoken with, not spoken too, being empowered through co-design processes potentially but really owning the space and being proud of our existence and our resilience as First Nations people.
So do you think a vibrant business sector and thriving communities can coexist? What do you think of the biggest enablers for this if it is possible.
I think it's possible. One thing that I really push for is the alignment of corporate and cultural governance. You know, the Indigenous business sector, we’re constantly driving for those healthy outcomes for our communities. We’re wanting to break the cycle of poverty and welfare dependence and in that I guess provide hope and purpose for the future. As businesses, you know, we provide not only leadership, but we also create that foundation for economic independence that I spoke about just previously. So Indigenous businesses, I guess you know, we're constantly driving for healthy communities and we do that through the authentic work that we produce. But more importantly, it's that role modelling. You can't be what you can't see and so you know, we're wanting to break poverty and welfare cycles and dependence, we’re wanting to create that hope and purpose of our next generation through succession planning and role modelling, and to be the leaders to push for economic independence. We can do this as I said, we're providing jobs and the procurement aspects but more important, we can also do it through re-investing money in training and community projects. That's one thing that you get when you buy from an Indigenous businesses we’re always wanting to give back to community because that's where we come from, that's who were accountable to. The Aboriginal business approach should be supported, though, by a procurement system that understands and recognises our capabilities as Aboriginal businesses. You know that we're innovative in than the way that we work and I guess the packages, the work packages that are released should be tailored to that by removing some of the barriers that are there at the moment to engage aboriginal businesses. Be a little bit more flexible in payment terms, be flexible in waiting's towards Aboriginal businesses through by-local programmes. Look at how you can mitigate potential unconscious biases within workplaces because we as Aboriginal businesses are the SME’s in our space but we can also bring it to mainstream. You know, we are highly competitive and can deliver exceptional results so really just give us a go.
Coming back to community, you know, there's so much entrepreneurial passion within our communities and we're wanting to build those thriving businesses. We just need that opportunity because with opportunity comes prosperity and as I said, that's our chance, really to role model to those that may not have seen outside of small communities what is actually out there.
Yeah, that's great. Jahna and I've had it before by some of the other Centre of Excellence Partners that while we are talking about Indigenous businesses here and providing an opportunity to promote opportunities for those businesses, I think almost without exception, the partners that we've got want to compete just in the open environment. So, yes, if that includes providing some assistance because it is an Indigenous business, at this point in time, you generally want to compete in the open market and prove yourselves up against in the other business.
Yeah, exactly. I mean, we don't need to be pigeon holed - because we are an Aboriginal business, we can only provide the Aboriginal people or we can only deliver Aboriginal based works. No, no, no, we are SME’s and experts in our day-to-day jobs. We have the bonus blessing off being a part of the world's oldest living culture. That's an additional skill set through lived experience that we bring and therefore, you know, taking it to mainstream really you're getting two massive skill sets for the price of one.
Yeah, and I've seen some wonderful examples as well of where Indigenous businesses also engaged many more, percentage wise Indigenous employees and that's really to Dwayne’s earlier point that's really where you start to see that sort of flow through to their communities I take it?
Finally Jahna, on a more personal note what does NAIDOC Week mean to you?
Good question. You know, we've obviously not long ago had Reconciliation Week going into NAIDOC Week. What it means to me is that we need to stop and reflect. As Dwayne said earlier, what happens for the other 51 weeks? It's something that we should celebrate and recognise daily, it’s a lifelong cultural confidence journey, but also, you know, just take time to think as a country, acknowledge and appreciate our First Nations People. We’ve withstood many challenges, I said earlier we are the oldest living culture, but from that comes richness, success, strength and resilience. Use that to educate society really about our culture and to bring people on that journey and teach people truth. It's a chance really to come together in harmony and celebrate our Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people, respectfully.
That's fantastic. I guess in closing, so much good stuff has come out of that discussion. I really, really appreciate your time. Some of the simple things I guess I took it out of it - you can't be what you can't see, procurement is just that one sort of spoke in the wheel and to Dwayne's earlier point there's been a lot of discussion in a lot of different businesses, a lot of different government organisations around what can be achieved in this space. It’s now time to execute on that, to see that wealth effect, if you like that, start to flow through the community.
So, Dwayne and Jahna, thank you so much for your time today. It's really appreciated and thank you to our listeners for tuning into this episode of Talking Property with CBRE. If you like the show and want to check out some of your other conversations visit cbre.com.au/talking-property or subscribe through Apple Podcasts or Spotify, where you'll find episodes on Placemaking, Market Outlooks, Facilities Management and more.
Until next time, goodbye.