Marianne Adds Social Value to WAs Mining Sector

Fifteen years ago, Marianne Hobson (Class of 2007) would have never imagined herself working for the world’s second-largest mining company, BHP.

As the Year 12 Arts Captain, who went on to study at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) and work in Arts administration, she had a distinct career path in mind.

However, after studying a Master of Business Administration in Melbourne, something in Marianne’s mind shifted. She knew she wanted to make more of an impact, and she thought what better industry to do this in than the one that carries the nation – mining.

“As we all know, Perth is the global capital of mining. I wanted to get into an influential organisation in this sector, understand it, and then navigate it to find a role that aligns with my values.”

And Marianne did just that. She currently works as Principal of Community and Innovation, sitting within BHPs Commercial Team.

“Social value has always been a driver for me. Crafting my way through to the innovation and social value space has been an incredibly rewarding experience, but it was hard work getting here!”, adds Marianne.

You may be thinking, what exactly does Marianne’s role entail? Isn’t mining just engineers, geologists, and surveyors, working together to extract minerals at the expense of the environment?

The resources sector, is so much more than that. It provides society with the materials to construct roads and hospitals, to build automobiles and houses, to make computers and satellites – you name it! As of 2022, mining has reached a record 47% share of WA’s economy and continues to contribute to the economic development of the country.

This is where Marianne’s role fits into the bigger picture. To put it simply, she and her team focus on commercial partnerships through both a communities and innovation lens for BHP.   

“What I like about my role is that it actually recognises the impact mining has on the environment and society, and we work towards a more meaningful and lasting impact. This is what motivates me each day.”, adds Marianne.

Iron Ore is BHPs biggest operations located in our very own resource rich Pilbara region, also rich with Indigenous culture and history. In the community component of her role, Marianne works with the Western Australian Iron Ore (WAIO) Indigenous Procurement Team. She ensures that BHP continues to have a social license to operate and ensures that the cultural needs of Traditional Owners and Indigenous business are supported and developed these areas, which requires collaboration and partnerships with the Traditional Owner businesses of the land.

“Historically large mining companies stick to known and established vendors, making it difficult for Traditional Owner businesses to engage with large mining companies (such as BHP) limiting the support for the integral cultural custodians of the lands in which we operate in. This provides an exciting opportunity for BHP to support local Traditional Owner and Indigenous Businesses to build sustainable and enduring change. “, says Marianne.

In recent times, there has been a big shift in WAIO. BHP has made a considered effort to re-design contract frameworks and how they engage with Indigenous suppliers.

“Part of my team’s role has been to support and bring to the forefront Indigenous suppliers in the Pilbara region to establish reciprocally valuable partnerships. We’re hoping to triple our spend 2024 on Indigenous Suppliers in our WAIO operations.”

The project has been running for about 18 months now, and because of its success, BHP have decided to roll out the same approach on their other assets around Australia.

In the innovation part of her role, Marianne works within BHPs Procurement Innovation Team. She reviews ‘commercial innovation contracts’ with start-ups, research institutes, university groups, and more. The premise of these engagements is to meet BHPs innovation targets around decarbonisation, low emissions technology, and productivity.

“This part of my role is amazing. I get to meet start-ups and two man shows. For example, I get to meet with start-ups from around the globe who develop rock crushing technology, often within the four walls of their garage! I am not an engineer or geologist by trade, so I get so much fun out of understanding these difficult concepts around how emerging technologies – like rock crushing, and then partner with them.”, says Marianne.

Marianne’s team also run global open innovation challenges, which she describes as a “market scouting activity”. They take complex crux business problems to market to uncover innovative solutions.  

Most recently, BHP launched their ‘Camp to Communities’ Challenge, which Marianne is extremely excited about.

“We currently want to re-invent the FIFO experience, and re-design what going to site looks like for our FIFO workers, so that coming to work is more enjoyable whilst they are away from their families for long period of time. We’ve taken this problem to market, and are anticipating responses from the global innovators.”, says Marianne.

On paper, Marianne’s role sound all well and good, but it hasn’t come without its fair share of challenges.

“People can be quite scared of innovation, because with it comes (a lot!) of uncertainty and risk taking as you will inevitably fail before succeeding – it’s all part of the process. If you don’t think outside the box, or take risks you’ll never have your light bulb moment. I think the role my team plays is to enable safe risk-taking opportunities to explore innovation.”

Even personally, Marianne has faced some obstacles. “I’ve worked hard to change the trajectory of my career from a passionate arts administrator, to a non-Caucasian, businesswoman in mining. I’ve dealt with a lot to get there. Don’t let anything stop you.”, says Marianne.

They key takeaway from her journey to date? “There are many strings to your bow. Just because you were good at something at one stage in your life, doesn’t mean that you can’t grow and extend yourself to try new things, just like innovation.”

I think we can all learn a thing or two, from Marianne’s remarkable life and career.

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