Procurement sounds like a fun job.

You get to shop for all the services and products your business needs.

But it isn’t as easy as scrolling through the web for a new outfit for that big day out at the races you have coming up.

There are so many requirements you must fulfill, so much information to wade through, and, of course, managers & boards to please.

You’re expected to shop local, get the best quality, and it should be owned and operated by whatever minority group your business is targeting at the moment.

Value, not box-ticking, must be at core of Indigenous procurement

Is it female businesses, Aboriginal businesses, or LGBTIQ+ this month? Oh, and you have to stay within budget.

The government has a policy in place, does your business?

Mandated back in 2018, the Aboriginal Procurement Policy created progressive targets for the awarding of contracts by the WA government to Aboriginal-owned businesses, with the aim of stimulating entrepreneurship in Aboriginal communities.

Over the past three years, the APP has been making good progress towards this ultimate goal, awarding no less than 697 government contracts to aboriginal-owned businesses since then, with the number of awarded contracts steadily growing each financial year.

However, if the improvement brought to the Aboriginal business sector is already commendable, there is also room for fair criticism when we look at the total value of these contracts, which has dropped by $40 million.

That being said, the fact remains that prior to 2018 there was no such policy, and its positive impact cannot be ignored.

It is better to meet obstacles on the road to inclusivity than to not travel it at all.

Which brings us to the question: Has your business been taking steps towards procuring Aboriginal-owned businesses?

And why should it?

Procuring Aboriginal-owned businesses is more than just good PR, it offers access to a series of benefits and incentives that can represent a significant strategic advantage to your enterprise:

ESG: Standing for Environmental, Social and Governance, ESG is a set of criteria widely used by investors to screen the potential of a company in which they wish to invest.

As you can imagine, working with legitimate Indigenous-owned businesses is one way to make sure you are complying with your company’s ESG.

That is, of course, not to mention how having a diverse team debating their ideas, each from their own perspective, is a great way to foster innovation.

Reconciliation Action Plan: If your business is willing to do more than just lip service for reconciliation, cooperating with Indigenous businesses should be at the top of your priority list.

This means engaging in genuine communication and including these businesses in conversations as partners.

There are some amazing indigenous businesses out there, and you can quickly fact check online if they are legitimate or not.

Good for the Economy: If our society is going to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, significant efforts should be made toward a strong, diverse, and self-supporting Indigenous business sector.

Indigenous business owners, their families, and communities should be put in the driver’s seat of economic development and their voices should be heard in every conversation.

Indigenous businesses are not just a source of wealth for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but also a source of pride, fostering social and economic empowerment, and helping Indigenous families break out of the cycle of poverty.

According to a report released by the University of Melbourne, the Indigenous business sector is already responsible for bringing $4.9m into the national economy, and we haven’t even begun to trap their full potential.

In a time when companies are being called to step away from the unethical practices of the past, it can be easy for business owners to fall for the false dichotomy that they have to choose between social progress and profitability.

However, the only reason why that would ever be true is that there were no policies in place that rewarded inclusivity and made it a sound business practice in the first place.

Of course, the inclusion of Indigenous communities in the broader market should not just be about pursuing a commercial advantage, but it would be a mistake not to acknowledge all that they have to offer.

Through the innovation that comes from hearing voices that were previously silenced, we can open a new pathway toward prosperity.

  • Wes Chapman is Kuuwa’s managing director