Creating opportunity

With a core focus on diversity, Fulton Hogan is building on its commitment to provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers within its business across a broad range of infrastructure projects. With a core focus on diversity, Fulton Hogan is building on its commitment to provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers within its business across a broad range of infrastructure projects. 

As Australian businesses focus more attention on the drive for sustainability, an American proverb is as relevant now as when it was first written 50 years ago: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

It’s a message that resonates at Fulton Hogan, a family-owned business which has been making its mark for 85 years as a successful, enduring infrastructure company. The principles that support this vision include: care for the wellbeing and development of each other, take a long-term intergenerational view and people responsible for making a difference with integrity, always.

So it has not been a huge leap for the business to encourage staff to become sustainability leaders by valuing diversity, minimising the company’s environmental footprint and sharing its sustainability achievements with customers and stakeholders.

“Our approach to sustainability aligns well with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include the need for responsible consumption and production, improve social equity and maintain strict governance systems,” National Sustainability Manager Rory Bracken says. “We understand that we have a duty and the ability to positively influence our people and the communities in which we work.”

Some of the social priorities that Fulton Hogan is pursuing include integration of ISO 20400 Sustainable Procurement into purchasing strategies, development of a Reconciliation Action Plan and increased Indigenous engagement.

To move towards achieving these social priorities, Fulton Hogan is making steps to provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers within its business.

There are four strands to the company’s commitment: partnerships (building relationships with Indigenous stakeholders such as traditional landowners), participation (direct employment), procurement and philanthropy (see sidebar).

This year, the business has adopted an Indigenous Participation Strategy that has set objectives such as improving retention rates of Indigenous people, increasing cross-cultural awareness among all employees and ensuring a consistent Indigenous engagement policy is used for tenders and procurement activities.

Fulton Hogan has several relationships already in place with Aboriginal-owned enterprises. These partnerships have gone beyond the goal of achieving target hours and have become business-as-usual functions that benefit both parties economically. One example is its engagement with the Ngarrindjeri People, the traditional landowners of the Murray Bridge area within South Australia.

NBN rollout leads to ongoing relationship 

When looking to roll out the National Broadband Network in the region in 2014, Fulton Hogan suggested that instead of hiring Ngarrindjeri people as cultural monitors for a few weeks, they could join the workforce in long-term roles and also act as advisers on any cultural sensitivities.

The partnership, which was formalised recently with the signing of an agreement, has been extended to an ongoing commitment to train more Ngarrindjeri people for the construction and telecommunications industries and help to enhance their existing businesses. In turn, they are training Fulton Hogan staff in cultural awareness.

Fulton Hogan HR Manager Simon Johnson says the NBN contracts, which have spread to other regions, have opened up many opportunities. “Potential candidates are supported through the recruitment process and training programs while Fulton Hogan foremen and other staff are also supported so they can better understand the different cultural values each member of the team brings to the business,” he says.

Some of Fulton Hogan’s Indigenous workers were filmed for a video for NBN last year. They described the project’s benefits as: “helping our remote communities gain access to knowledge,” “reinforcing our cultural values and bringing them into the global technological environment”, helps with “self-belief, self-respect, skills and knowledge” and “opens up pathways that will help our kids”.

Before the NBN work started, a partnership also began with Zancott Recruitment, which has recruited more than 800 people including 63 Indigenous placements for Fulton Hogan. The relationship has been mutually beneficial, providing Zancott with the opportunity to grow into being the first national Indigenous-owned company with offices in four states (Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland).

“Zancott has been very supportive of our company’s need for quality labour hire staff, often in short periods of time, and has gone above and beyond a commercial style relationship. Similarly, we have supported them through consistency and foresight of work to grow their business,” Lee Revell, Chief Operating Officer for Fulton Hogan Utilities, says.

Both businesses were named recently as joint finalists in Supply Nation’s Supplier Diversity Partnership award category.

Looking to the future, Fulton Hogan, Zancott and the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority (NGA) have discussed forming an Indigenous business (in joint venture) to take advantage of Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) opportunities, while preparing for the future of meeting revised Federal Government targets.

In North Queensland, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up 12 per cent of Fulton Hogan’s construction division’s workforce and 14 per cent for infrastructure services, a cadet programme has brought six Indigenous school leavers into the business recently. Nicole Zwoerner, Workforce Development Manager, says staff support has been an important element.

“The success of this programme partly depends on senior managers and other staff who share their knowledge through mentoring and buddying the cadets. We had an overwhelming response from people within the business wanting to undertake these roles.”

Growth in social procurement 

Social procurement is another area where Fulton Hogan is gaining momentum. Ramon Dobb, Group Procurement Manager, says the spend trajectory shows the impact the business is making. “Six years ago we spent $250,000 with Indigenous suppliers. In the current financial year we are on track to spend around $20 million,” he says.

Building strong relationships with key organisations such as Supply Nation has been vital. Fulton Hogan is a founding member of the national government-supported organisation which connects business and government buyers with Indigenous companies.

Fulton Hogan’s track record and commitment to supplier diversity has resulted in an invitation to join Supply Nation’s Buyer Leadership Roundtable. “It’s an honour for our business and a chance for us to play a bigger part in discussing innovative solutions to further enhance the growth of the Indigenous business sector,” Mr. Dobb says. He says increasingly government and other clients have policies around social procurement targets which they pass on to the contractors they work with. “We are striving to meet and exceed these targets to deliver social outcomes as part of our overall value proposition. Previously, like many companies, our procurement policies were built up over many years and we would keep going back to the same providers. Now we can see the benefits of having a more diverse range.”

Mr. Dobb says Fulton Hogan also supports the work of Social Traders, which creates jobs for disadvantaged Australians, including disabled people, long-term unemployed and migrants, by linking business and government buyers with social enterprises. “We are a member because we support Social Traders in unlocking some of the untapped potential that exists in many communities.”

In another example of corporate responsibility, staff in Melbourne benefit from the work of another social enterprise, the Fruit2Work scheme. It creates second-chance jobs, hiring former prisoners to collect, pack and deliver boxes of fresh fruit to businesses. Recognising the high recidivist rate – 44 per cent of former inmates reoffend within two years – scheme organisers provide opportunities and support.

Initiatives such as these help Fulton Hogan contribute to the communities in which it operates as it embarks on its next 85 years. It has recognised the importance of the principles of sustainability and is committed to integrating them into the business and the projects, services and products that it provides to customers.

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