How building indigenous employment goals into the supply chain has won business success – and awards
Winya means ‘sit now’ in the dialect of the Wiradjuri people of Australia’s New South Wales. But this furniture business is anything but sedentary. With a bold mission – to design Australia’s most socially inclusive business – the majority indigenous-owned company is making full use of the government’s active position on indigenous procurement to scale its business, secure high-profile contracts and empower indigenous people through training and employment.
Founded in 2015 by Debbie Barwick and Greg Welsh, the AUS$5m revenue ‘profit-for-purpose’ company supplies workstations and seating to government and corporate organisations across Australia. Indigenous trainees make the furniture and it works with remote communities to make them part of its component supply chain, in the process providing employment and skills.
From the start, Winya has embedded purpose into its supply chain and procurement strategy. But its focus on disadvantaged indigenous populations does not come cheap and adds complexity to its supply chain. Management has taken considerable expense and time to seek out and visit remote communities with a view to providing meaningful work and skills where there is often none. Procurement is more cumbersome than for other businesses, and profitability is impacted.
To deliver its purpose, Winya has taken a four-fold approach to its supply chain strategy:
1. State-based factories. It deliberately seeks out best-in-class manufacturers in each state to produce its products. As well as reducing its carbon footprint, transport costs and damage risks, manufacturing locally also places Winya in the best place to win state and local government work. Right from the start the team highlights its expectation that these factories will start employing indigenous trainees once they receive enough of its business.
2. Remote community engagement. With little to no employment in remote indigenous communities, Winya has deliberately set out to make some of these areas part of its supply chain.
3. Indigenous life improvement. With indigenous people making up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population, Winya seeks opportunities to work with state departments on indigenous skills and training in the prisons.
4. Work with and grow other indigenous businesses. Winya looks to engage with other indigenous businesses as part of its supply chain, helping them to improve their practices and skills.
This supply chain strategy has taken two years to roll out but now Winya is sourcing products and raw materials from four separate remote communities. Its ground-breaking work in prisons helped it secure a Department of Defence contract and it is now working with Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory prisons on training and finalising programmes with Victoria and Western Australia states to replace imports with local products while creating skilled indigenous workers to help them find secure jobs when they leave.
Fit for purpose
For those who don’t believe social responsibility can pay, Winya says the way it has designed CSR into its business has resonated with customers and it has grown more quickly than it would otherwise have done. Fully
50% of growth and revenue is a direct result of customers wanting to help the company grow its business.
Winya has also achieved ISO 9001 certification, is B-Corp certified and has won awards for sustainability, including the CIPS Australasia Supply Management Award 2018 overall winner and best contribution to corporate responsibility.