Big Lessons in Reconciliation From BGIS
Big Lessons in Reconciliation From BGIS
Big Lessons in Reconciliation From BGIS

This interview is extracted from the November 10, 2020 issue of Property Australia, and was authored by Karen Jamal, Journalist – Property Council of Australia

BGIS provides facility management and real estate services around the world. Headquartered in Canada, the organisation manages 30 million square metres of space across a massive 30,000 buildings. BGIS has grown its Indigenous workforce in Australia by 600% in four years. As we celebrate NAIDOC Week, we ask BGIS: What are your success secrets?

You’ve got to be dedicated and driven, and then back that up with a multi-pronged strategy. When it comes to reconciliation, all businesses have a crucial role to play. But when your organisation has a large footprint, like ours does, it is important to give back to the land and to communities,” says BGIS president and managing director for Asia Pacific, Dana Nelson.

Nelson joined BGIS in August 2019 and is championing reconciliation in action through a range of initiatives and partnerships. She’s currently leading the design of an industry engagement program for Indigenous people in facilities management, for example. “Throughout my career, reconciliation has been important to me. I believe in it because it’s the right thing to do, but also because I can see the business benefits,” she says.

So, what are Nelson’s top tips for reconciliation in action?

Procurement

BGIS spends more on Indigenous services than its peers, Nelson says proudly. “We have used 24 Indigenous supplier partners over the last 12 months and our spend is around 3.3 times greater than our peers in the facilities management sector.”

BGIS is a member of Supply Nation, which offers Australia’s largest database of verified Indigenous businesses, and increased its Indigenous spend by 143 per cent in 2018 (0.78% of total spend) and by 71 per cent (1.26% of total spend) in 2019.

“We have set a target that three per cent of BGIS contracts are awarded to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses,” Nelson explains. Targets are an important part of BGIS’ procurement strategy, as they help the procurement team maintain focus and track progress, she says.

Employment

BGIS’ partnership with CareerTrackers, a national non-profit that creates paid internship opportunities for Indigenous students, has supported 13 internships since 2018 alone. Nelson says BGIS offers a range of employment opportunities – from summer and winter internships through to apprenticeships.

Nelson also emphasises the importance of “grassroots” efforts to build education and employment opportunities for the next generation of Indigenous people. BGIS is a major sponsor of the Bennelong Cup, an annual touch footy day and luncheon that connects communities through sport and raises funds for the NRL’s Indigenous School to Work Program. BGIS offers five apprenticeships in technical services to the students in program.

“We continue to build on our Indigenous employee representation. In 2015, we had three employees that identified as Indigenous – we have 21 now. This is a 600 per cent increase and we want to see it grow further.”

Partnerships

BGIS manages 150 sites across New South Wales owned by the Department of Defence, and last year was recognised as the Defence contractor of the year, in part for a commitment to Indigenous engagement. BGIS engages an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business to provide workers for its cleaning services contract with Defence, for example, at a 43 per cent Indigenous employment rate.

“Reconciliation is important to our clients, like the Department of Defence. We are working hand-in-hand with our clients to find new ways to drive engagement and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, especially those in small business,” Nelson says.

This year BGIS established a partnership with the Clontarf Foundation, an organisation that assists in the education and employment of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

RAP committee

In March, BGIS released its second Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan – five years after establishing its RAP committee with just three members. Today, the number stands at 22, with an additional 11 sub-committee members “who help drive cultural change,” Nelson explains.

“We have committee members all around Australia, and they aren’t all in management roles. This makes it easier to drive our message than it would be if it was directed from a head office.”

BGIS employs an Indigenous engagement specialist who sits in the human resources, talent and recruitment team. “Rikki has been invaluable as we build our RAP and is someone who our Indigenous employees can talk to,” Nelson adds. “When you build a dedicated and passionate team, and embed that within your organisational culture, you can deliver on social responsibilities like reconciliation.”

Nelson says BGIS has the most “structured CSR focus” of any organisation she’s worked in. “BGIS has a fundamental belief in the importance of reconciliation and of strengthening relationships. It is cliched to say that ‘reconciliation has to be part of your DNA’ – but it really is true.”

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