An initiative that will see some of Australia’s biggest brands spend over $3 billion with Indigenous suppliers is an important step for Indigenous business, but over in adland it is a pertinent reminder of the work that needs to be done.
The Business Council of Australia this week launched the Raising the Bar initiative, which will see the likes of BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals, Qantas, Lendlease, Westpac and CBA collectively spend $3 billion with Indigenous suppliers over the next five years.
The procurement will be facilitated by Indigenous supplier diversity organisation, Supply Nation.
For a food supplier like Dreamtime Tuka, which currently works with Qantas, the new deal is a massive boost for business.
But for the advertising industry, the agreement takes on a slightly different importance.
“How it [the initiative] translates to adland is all determined on what adland wants to do and is prepared to do to work with the companies to make sure they’re ready to hire Indigenous people,” said Pluto Media CEO Peter Kirk (feature image).
Kirk has previously been critical of the advertising industry’s efforts in creating diverse teams that incorporate Indigenous creatives.
He said that while the Raising the Bar initiative will be effective in other industries at helping Indigenous businesses to grow through procurement targets, in the media and advertising industry it will be about creating change.
“For our industry, there’s really no process set up for this [procurement] because we’re behind,” he said.
“If agencies can demonstrate that they’re actually doing something to connect with the Indigenous community and work with the Indigenous community, they will actually be able to go to these companies and say ‘this is what we’re doing, we would like to talk to you in regards to obtaining work’.”
He said work with the community could include scholarships, internships or any other efforts to work with and hire Indigenous people, which “will be looked upon favourably by these businesses”.
Kirk anticipated businesses would soon be following the government’s lead and asking agencies to disclose their Indigenous headcount when negotiating work.
He was also particularly praiseworthy of Coles’ and Facebook’s work in this space, although neither two companies are directly involved with the Raising the Bar initiative.
“If you are an agency and you start to demonstrate that you have developed pathways and initiatives to work with Indigenous people, you’re going to be looked upon more favourably by the businesses that are in the Business Council,” he said.
“This means these businesses marketing departments will have to make agencies more accountable for Indigenous headcount.”