Covid-19 has dominated the past 12 months but, as Chow:Hill responds and adapts to the pandemic world, resilience, teamwork and a commitment to sustainability remain at the fore.
To coincide with the publication of our 2020-2021 Sustainability Report, we sat down with report author and Chow:Hill director, Maurice Kiely, for a 360˚ perspective on the year that was.
Covid-19 has been headline news throughout 2020 and 2021. How pervasive has the impact been on Chow:Hill?
The first wave of the pandemic and first lockdown were a massive test of our ability to continue business in a sustainable form – by this we mean looking after our people, retaining forward workload, managing projects and client expectations, and dealing with financial fluctuations. It took a whole of team approach to successfully navigate the year and demonstrated that we had the resilience to do so.
What have been the key findings in the 2020-2021 report?
We have learned a lot from the experience in terms of the value of communication, in trusting in people, supporting and caring for each other. In common with other business, we reduced overheads and focused spending on essentials to retain liquidity and this worked well.
One of the positive consequences of reducing business activity was the dramatic reduction in our carbon emissions, with emissions from travel and energy for heating, cooling and ventilation well down on average years.
The first wave of the pandemic and first lockdown were a massive test of our ability to continue business in a sustainable form.
How has Chow:Hill codified its sustainability practice for the longer term?
In the last quarter of the year, we developed and adopted two key documents. The first was a formalisation of an Environmental Policy. For many years we have operated without this codification but felt it necessary given the need for such a document from some stakeholders.
The second is our Cultural Design and Relationships Framework. This brings together and meshes our understanding of sustainable practices and intergenerational stewardship with that of kaitiakitanga from the perspective of a Māori world view.
What key structural changes are taking place within Chow:Hill?
We have undertaken a comprehensive review of our governance and operational structure which in the coming year will lead to a roll out of changes to our Board and internal structures for managing non-governance matters. We believe the involvement of a greater number of senior team members in managing and leading will result in a more effective and resilient business.
In the coming year we will oversee the completion of the restructure process and, alongside this, modules of formal leadership training for a broad cross section of our staff. For our whole team we will be looking at implementation of aspects of a working from home strategy that we will be trialing mid-year.
How will Chow:Hill continue with its sustainability initiatives?
With the covid pandemic having reached a level of heightened but (currently) managed risk the climate emergency comes into focus once more. Our attention must be on contributing to reduction in carbon emissions, regeneration of natural systems and increasing biodiversity through design and action.
October 1, 2021