Kate Hogan is wholeheartedly invested in the positive social outcomes building and infrastructure can create. Through her role as social procurement manager – Building at John Holland, she is not only helping to generate social value, but also to build a more diverse and inclusive industry.
With vivid memories of playing in her grandfather’s timber yard as a child, Kate Hogan has long been fascinated by the construction industry – a fascination that quickly transformed into her own successful career in the sector.
In her early career, Hogan joined BlueScope Steel, working in various roles across the organisation for over a decade, before joining a Tier 1 construction company where she again gained experience in a number of roles.
In the years that followed, Hogan spent time working within a civil subcontracting business, learning about the civil side of construction and spearheading the business’s development of its own social enterprise.
It’s these experiences, she says, that provided her the skillset to take on her current role as social procurement manager for John Holland’s Building business in Victoria – which focuses on large-scale commercial construction and social infrastructure projects such as hospitals, stadiums and shopping centres – in August 2022.
Social procurement, broadly speaking, involves companies using their buying power to create societal value beyond the general construction of a project. It’s a relatively new practice in the Australian construction industry that has rapidly evolved over the past five to 10 years, with the Victorian Government’s recent introduction of the Building Equality Policy (BEP), aimed at creating a more gender-inclusive industry, adding to the changing playing field, explains Hogan.
“Primarily, social procurement at John Holland involves the company meeting social procurement targets on all of its projects, which – depending on the project and client – may include female participation, First Nations engagement and employment for disadvantaged cohorts,” says Hogan. “It’s my responsibility to understand what those targets are on a project-by-project level, and then translate them into positive outcomes.”
As part of this responsibility, Hogan meets with social enterprises to understand what they do, what their social impact is, and how John Holland could potentially partner and collaborate with them on a project to achieve positive social outcomes.
“Meeting different social enterprises and learning about what they do and why they started is incredibly rewarding,” says Hogan. “They’re so passionate and genuine about what they do, so having that opportunity to create and foster partnerships with these enterprises is a great part of my job.”
Hogan is currently leading social procurement on three of John Holland’s projects in Victoria. One being the expansion of Forensicare’s Thomas Embling Hospital, a secure forensic mental health hospital in Fairfield, Victoria, which provides care for people living with a serious mental illness in, or at risk of entering, the criminal justice system, with a focus on recovery and rehabilitation. The $515.7 million upgrade includes the construction of a new dedicated 34-bed women’s precinct, a 48-bed medium security men’s facility, a new entry complex, carparking and administration facilities. On this project, Hogan introduced a social enterprise called Reboot Australia, an ex-offender throughcare employment organisation, who are now working with Forensicare to develop a supported employment program that is set to provide consumers with employment opportunities upon their release.
Also underway is the $485 million development at Chadstone – The Fashion Capital located in Melbourne, where John Holland is delivering three separable portions in a live shopping centre. “As part of social procurement for Chadstone Shopping Centre’s redevelopment, we identified an opportunity to engage Djurwa – an Indigenous-owned joint venture between Yalagan Group and BINGO Industries – to manage all site waste on the project,” says Hogan.
“I’ve also introduced Djurwa to Reboot Australia, as Djurwa also helps young Indigenous men who have been affected by the justice system find employment.
“This partnership is a great example of how social procurement can make a positive impact above and beyond constructing.”
The third project is stage two of the $595 million Ballarat Base Hospital redevelopment, which, with Hogan’s influence, led to John Holland sponsoring the Social Change Maker Award at the 2023 Federation University Commerce Ballarat Business Excellence Awards.
“It was rewarding to see a fantastic social enterprise called Raven Collective, an organisation that supports women who have experienced domestic violence through its employment and training program, win the award,” she says.
Another aspect of Hogan’s role is around working with subcontractors and educating them about what social procurement is and how they can contribute to a project’s social procurement targets.
“I’m proud to have these conversations with subcontractors and then see the outcomes of them putting social procurement into action,” says Hogan. “Social procurement isn’t just about ticking boxes or meeting targets; it’s about truly making a difference to peoples’ lives; it’s about challenging the way you normally do things and seeking new ways to make a positive social impact.”
“Some construction businesses may already be generating social value throughout their operations, but don’t understand exactly what social procurement is.
“Education is a big part of my role, but I’m happy to put that time in because it pays dividends down the track for businesses and the community.”
Social procurement in construction is a burgeoning space, with an expanding scope for people who are interested to get involved. “Ten years ago, there was no such thing as a social procurement manager,” says Hogan. “Social procurement is becoming more and more important to our clients, and we’re seeing it being as much as 30 per cent of the weight of some tenders.”
“It’s only going to become a bigger and busier profession.”
For those inspired to seek a social procurement role in the construction industry, Hogan says the easiest way to get involved is to engage with Social Traders, an organisation dedicated to embedding social enterprise procurement into businesses across Australia.
People interested in learning more about engagement with First Nations businesses can contact Supply Nation – one of Australia’s largest national directories of Indigenous businesses.
While Kate Hogan’s heart lies within social procurement, she says there are many different roles and avenues people can go down to forge a successful and rewarding career in the construction industry. Her advice is to “just give it a go”.