An Australian organic beef company says a US retailer was set to cancel their $1 million export deal until they learned of the company’s Reconciliation Action Plan.
- OBE Organics was born on Wankangurru/Yaryulandi country near Birdsville in 1990
- The organisation started working with First Nations people in 2017 to build a Reconciliation Action Plan
- Managing director Dalene Wray says the beef industry needs to do more to be inclusive to Indigenous Australians
Managing director of OBE Organics Dalene Wray said it demonstrated why more beef businesses needed to integrate the insights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders into their operations.
The Queensland-based export business has had a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) endorsed by Reconciliation Australia since 2017.
Ms Wray said, not only did the RAP help with their social licence, but it was also the reason they were able to save a $1 million deal with a US retailer.
The US retailer recently went through a management change and the new president wanted to keep its business within the United States, only using US beef producers.
Upon hearing this, OBE sent a staff member to California to speak with the president, and Ms Wray said it was the RAP that ensured the deal continued.
“This president was intrigued and wanted to know more,” she said.
“He was so impressed by the fact that we were the only beef company in the world, that he was aware of, that had a Reconciliation Action Plan that he decided to keep our beef in his retail outlets.
“But there are so many other unique selling points that are under-utilised in Australia.”
Leader of industry
Amy Brooks is a proud Wulli Wulli woman and is one of two women who sits on the OBE Organics RAP committee.
She said, while the company did not currently employ anyone who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, it was leading the beef industry with its work to recognise First Nations people.
“One hundred per cent they’re leading the way in the industry,” Ms Brooks said.
“In creating diversity, these Reconciliation Action Plans are creating awareness and embracing Indigenous Australia. They’re actually having the conversation and that’s got to be highly commended.”
Over the past two years, Indigenous representation in the beef industry has dropped dramatically, and Ms Brook said having major export companies like OBE strive for inclusiveness went a long way.
“Part of the beauty of the Reconciliation Action Plan is to identify for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that an organisation has a RAP,” she said.
“It makes them feel welcome, it makes them feel like they can see this organisation is actually representing some of their greater interests as well.”
Reconciliation Action Plan setting OBE apart
Ms Wray said, in a saturated global market, businesses needed more unique selling points to appeal to international buyers.
OBE Organics was built in the Channel Country in 1990 and claims to be one of Australia’s first certified organic exporters.
Ms Wray said consumers and retailers were increasingly looking for more from their suppliers.
“Our connection to country and our Indigenous history is probably one of the areas that is under-recognised by Australian exporters,” she said.
While it is an important point of difference for OBE, Ms Wray said her company should not be the only one in the space.
“There is more that can be done,” she said.
“I think what’s really important, as a business like ours that sources cattle from Australia, is that we recognise our traditional owners.
More diversity need in agriculture
Reconciliation Australia said RAPs were a useful and accessible starting point for organisations to consider and address inequality.
In a statement, a spokesperson said in agriculture there were opportunities to address workforce shortages in rural and regional communities by making use of First Nations people, as well as joint ventures with Indigenous businesses and using traditional practices to improve productivity.
“While we often hear success stories attributed to having a RAP, really successful RAPs are about long-term sustainable change that are wins for both the business and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities,” it said.