There are more than 370 million indigenous peoples living around the world in over 90 countries. They occupy 20 per cent of the world’s land surface and take care of 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. Most of the Sustainable Development Goals and associated targets impact, and are impacted by, indigenous people.
But Indigenous issues, businesses and students are severely underrepresented in business schools both in terms of the number of Indigenous students attending and businesses featured as well as Indigenous issues discussed.
Increasingly schools are putting in place programmes aimed at recruiting and supporting Indigenous students and businesses. Demand is growing from Indigenous and non-Indigenous students as well as from the business sector, which is looking to hire and collaborate with Indigenous business leaders.
In order to highlight these examples and the important role that business schools play, throughout the month of June we feature examples of how business schools are putting a focus on Indigenous business, in particular focusing on three countries: New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
Who is an Indigenous person?
There is no single definition as to who an Indigenous person is, however, there are several criteria used to identify these groups. The first is self-identification. According to the International Labour Organization, “self identify as Indigenous or tribal shall be regarded as a fundamental criterion for determining the groups.” The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Resource Kit on Indigenous Peoples’ Issues provides some additional guidance for identifying Indigenous peoples. For the three countries we will focus on this month, the Indigenous peoples include:
- Canada: First Nations, Inuit and Metis – In 2011,3% (1,400,695 people) were Aboriginal, a number that is increasing yearly. The largest numbers are in Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia and Saskatchewan and most of the population of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
- Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander – In 2011, 3% (668,900) of the populations was Aboriginal, a number that is increasing yearly. The largest populations are in the states of New South Wales and Queensland.
- New Zealand: Maori – In 2013, the Maori population was estimated at being 812,000. Another 692,000 identify as Maori descendants and another 100,000 people of Maori ancestry are living in Australia.
Aboriginal peoples have very different pasts and presents and I encourage you to explore the links above for more information.
Additional resources on the topic
There are several resources that can be used in the classroom to introduce students to Indigenous peoples and their role in sustainable development as well as in business.
An infographic prepared by the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UN provides a good overview of Indigenous people and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007 and establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.
The Global Compact Reference Guide for Business on UN Declaration of Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples provides a resource to help business to better understand, respect, and support the rights of Indigenous peoples by illustrating how these rights are relevant to business activities. There is also a Practical Supplement to the Guide that provides a compilation of case studies and business practices intended to raise awareness of the corporate responsibility to respect Indigenous peoples’ rights and the opportunity to support these rights.
The Global Compact also prepared a Good Practice Note – Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and the Role of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) – that provides background on the history of FPIC, the business case for obtaining FPIC and discusses emerging practices that support FPIC. For more resources offered to companies, listen to their Webinar on Emerging Trends, New Tools and Resources.
A new book, Indigenous Aspirations and Rights: The Case for Responsible Business and Management, to be published by Greenleaf in 2017, will focus on an Indigenous point of view regarding business practices,indigenous desires and rights gleaned from case studies (whether successful or unsuccessful) present ongoing and unresolved issues, and best practices for respect, cooperation, and collaboration. Some signatories also have textbooks published on the topic including;
- Indigenous Spiritualties at Work; Transforming the Spirit of Enterprise, edited by Chellie Spiller and Rachel Wolfgramm from the University of Auckland, New Zealand and Tribal Wisdom for Business Ethics, with contributions from various signatories.
- André Habisch/ Rene Schmidpeter (Ed.), Cultural Roots of Sustainable Management. Practical Wisdom and Corporate Social Responsibility, Springer 2016 has a chapter on Practical Indigenous Wisdom.
The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is observed on 9 August every year.