People, Planet, Profit – Purpose and Potential

Kerridge & Partners held their second annual Leadership Conference on 3rd November, furthering our vision of ‘transforming the leadership landscape’ by discussing themes of sustainability, profitability and values-based leadership. The overarching threads of people, planet and profit were woven into a tapestry that portrayed the potential of building a better world for future generations. Feedback from attendees included feeling like they have a refined purpose and renewed vigor to make a positive difference within their businesses, particularly by framing the conversation around sustainability. In essence, attendees agree that “doing well and doing good” can be complementary parts of an organisation’s strategy.

The line-up of speakers spanned global and local leaders, including Dr. Jean-François Manzoni (President and Dean – IMD), Christopher Luxon (CEO – Air New Zealand), Jan Zijderveld (President – Unilever Europe), Peter Reidy (CEO – KiwiRail), Susan St John (Founding Member – Child Poverty Action Group), Kirsty Campbell (Director – Simplicity KiwiSaver), Nevil Chand (Founder – Evolve), Margie Apa (Director of Population Health & Strategy – Counties Manukau District Health Board) and Michelle Johansson (Associate Programme Director – Teach First NZ and Managing Director/Playwright of Black Friars theatre). The morning focused on sustainability with Professor Manzoni discussing international best practice and Christopher Luxon sharing lessons from Air New Zealand including metrics that demonstrate how green initiatives are delivering an overall benefit to the bottom line. The message of ‘kaitiakitanga’ or guardianship and conservation over our country and planet thrummed through the discussions, including facing harsh realities, e.g. New Zealand has dropped from the number one spot from 180 countries on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) in 2006, to number 11 in 2016. The EPI ranks 180 countries’ performance on high-priority environmental issues in two areas: protection of human health and protection of ecosystems. Similarly, our national rates of homelessness are among the worst in the OECD and youth suicide rates are currently the highest in the OECD, posing serious socio-economic questions about our alleged idyllic, ‘clean and green’ brand as a nation. Margie Apa shared data about the health statistics of Māori and Pacifica communities, while Susan St John addressed the high rates of child poverty nationwide. Anecdotal feedback from conference attendees praised the open, transparent and authentic conversations that took place about these sensitive issues – including a focus on what our leaders can do to find innovative solutions for the future.

While leaders were encouraged to hold a mirror up to themselves regarding the state of the nation, successes were also celebrated including the efforts of many organisations to report on their corporate social responsibility and feature sustainable goals within their strategic planning. Peter Reidy shared an emotional story about the rebuild of railway tracks in record time after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake near Kaikoura in November 2016. He shared the lessons learned about leading large teams through crisis management, and discussed the economic and environmental benefits of rail such as $1.3 billion in reduced congestion, $8.5 million in reduced emissions and the delivery of $1.5-1.6 billion to the economy in terms of total economic value of rail in New Zealand. Similarly, Christopher Luxon shared insights from Air New Zealand’s ‘Go Beyond’ strategy which is driven by the purpose of supercharging New Zealand’s success socially, economically and environmentally – including reporting on their sustainability measures and taking active steps to support a variety of conservation efforts. Interestingly, Christopher’s earlier career with Unilever shone through as informing aspects of his values-based leadership style, with Jan Zijderveld echoing many similar leadership lessons regarding caring for the people, culture and community through sustainable and environmentally-friendly systems and processes.

We closed the conference with a unique song, composed by Michelle Johansson and her musical director of Black Friars, a South Auckland-based Polynesian theatre company. Over the course of the conference, they penned lyrics by listening to interconnected themes and messages from the speakers to develop a song. The experience really took people out of their comfort zone and was a memorable and poignant way to end the session, followed by networking drinks. A play with alliteration led to the title and theme for our conference – People, Planet, Profit. What ensued over the course of the day has inspired us to add two additional P’s – Purpose, and Potential. As leaders, the onus is now on us to operationalise all five P’s and go forth and perform.