Champions for Change — working together to achieve inclusive prosperity for Aotearoa

In the final Champions for Change Summit for 2022, a panel comprising Jolie Hodson, Spark CEO, Vittoria Shortt, ASB CEO, and Mark Averill, CEO PwC, gathered to discuss the role of business in leading an inclusive and prosperous future for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Given our evolving and uncertain environment, businesses are playing an increasing role in driving inclusive prosperity for all New Zealanders. Three key themes emerged in this vibrant kōrero:

  • Businesses coming together collectively and working with government
  • The importance of a clear purpose within your business strategy for impactful change
  • Workplace wellbeing and belonging being a key focus area

Expertly moderated by honorary Champion for Change Mai Chen, Managing Partner of Chen Palmer and one of New Zealand’s top barristers in Public Law, it became apparent that even the meaning of inclusive prosperity in the current world had changed.

“There is an increasing expectation on businesses to play a bigger role and we can’t just focus on shareholder value…” — Mai Chen, Global Women Member and Managing Partner of Chen Palmer.

“We continue to operate in rapid uncertain change, and the bar is higher with another surge of Covid-19 upon us, accelerated climate change, record employment, record inflation and asset devaluation.

“There is an increasing expectation on businesses to play a bigger role and we can’t just focus on shareholder value but the broader perspective around values and expectations – our people, our customers and our role in communities as well,” she said.

Panellists agreed that the business community should be working together, both private enterprise and the public sector so we can address issues collectively.

From left to right: moderator Mai Chen with panellists Mark Averill, Vittoria Shortt and Jolie Hodson.

Jolie Hodson believes it is indeed “our purpose” which helps you make choices within your strategy and how you show up as a business.

“Our purpose is what guides us because it is our purpose which gives meaning of the role that we all play, not just for our people but in society. In Spark’s case, it is around helping all of New Zealand win big in a digital world. That’s not just about the people we serve in our industry, but also about the communities we serve as well, and the governments we work with.

“Digital exclusion is an issue in New Zealand with one in five people not having the ability to connect. When looking at how we enable people to do that, it’s not just about access but about skills and about future workforce,” she said.

“Previously we have thought about inclusive prosperity through the productivity and economic growth lens, however in today’s world the social aspect has become increasingly important,” said Mark Averill.

“When we think about the environment, the pace of change is increasing massively and when we look forward, it is only going to continue and get faster. There are the mega trends; the big global environmental shifts changing the world such as climate change. The demographic shifts, and the fractious world we are living in, with war being a part of it.

Then there are the technological advances and the social instability piece. All catalysing rapid change. We are also tackling the short-term issues of inflation and the response to Covid, so as leaders we are having to do a bit of triage,” he said.

“Covid-19 has given us the gift of thinking more about inclusion and holistic wellbeing” — Vittoria Shortt, Global Women Member and Chief Executive of ASB Bank.

It is clear New Zealand business leaders are having to be agile and adaptable, with the focus on getting business strategies right to manage both longer-term and shorter-term issues, with the goal of investing in the things that help New Zealand move forward.

“Covid-19 has given us the gift of thinking more about inclusion and holistic wellbeing. As an organisation we looking at social fusion by tapping into belonging and harnessing the things that make people unique and special,” Vittoria Shortt said.

What is clear from this summit on inclusive prosperity is that Champions for Change are taking more and more of a leadership role in New Zealand Inc and using their expertise to help solve problems far beyond their own back yards. With inclusion, comes prosperity.