Chow:Hill CSR 2017 - 2018

This is our ninth year of reporting on our business activities through a Company Social Responsibility (CSR) framework. Our report aims to broadly, simply, and importantly, transparently describe, evaluate and explain the positive and negative impacts of our activities, while identifying also our strategic goals and performance targets.

Chow:Hill CSR 2017 - 2018

Our report aims to broadly, simply, and importantly, transparently describe, evaluate and explain positive and negative impacts of our activities, while identifying our strategic goals and performance targets.

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360 Degree View

In the preface to this report where we noted a perceived lack of political change, this was with particular reference to the lack of global political responsiveness to climate change. Whereas, in another political sense, our view a year ago was that the 2017 general election would perhaps have the greatest impact on our business, and to a degree, this has been borne out by events. Across our market sectors - health, public infrastructure and social housing in particular – there has been significant change and further change to come as policy, targets and funding shift. Overall, our business has responded well to the changing conditions and is in a healthy position.

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To our existing prioritisation of  Quality, Brand, and Sector Development we added those of increasing Revenue, reducing Write-Off, and gains in Sustainable Design.  Gains have been made with the quality and consistency of our technical outputs; Brand has been enhanced through design awards programmes and stronger professional relationships, Sectors are more established, with business growth in each; Revenue has increased and write-off reduced as highlighted below; only in the area of more environmentally sustainable design outcomes have we remained static.

A series of Board workshops late in the year set our direction and priorities for 2018-2019 year, and these are described in the ‘Priorities’ page of this report.  Areas to explore and develop include knowledge culture, people and place-making, and align with the direction of our Vision – innovative designers shaping authentic places and inspiring people.

Our challenge for the coming year is to maintain our current momentum on the basis of a solid financial performance and from there to have the confidence to explore new areas as a means of freshening our ideas, our capabilities, and our capacity to grow our business. This means greater investment in our people and internal ’projects’. With clients our challenge is to make headway with enhanced environmental outcomes for their projects; at the same time we need to minimise our own environmental performance. 

Influencing our progress across  all of these ambitions is the risk of negative financial markets and our local and national political environments.

Maurice Kiely  //  Director, Sustainability.

Three performance results - both positive and negative - stand out from the detailed data available in this report -


Generated 104% of budgeted revenue compared with 101% in 2015-216, with an increase in revenue of 16% 
Write-off  21% compared with 26% in 2015-216


Staff turnover down from 17.5% to 16.1%


CO2 emissions increased by 30.4% to 116.07 tonnes


People choose to join us for the opportunity to work on a wide variety of community-centred projects and clients.  Having joined, among the most significant reasons for staying are our company culture, relationships and design opportunities. As one of our team has said, “There’s a perception out there that a designer is a mysterious person. To design properly comes through interaction, collaboration, relationships with real people, testing ideas”. To that we would add, leadership of that process.


{Tamaki Makaurau}





Our Offering

Chow:Hill works with clients across New Zealand, predominantly in Auckland and Waikato, and offers Urban Design, Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture and Health Design services.

Market Sector

Our primary market sectors are Health, Tertiary Learning, Community Environments, Public Realm, Apartments, Commercial and Public Sector.


Chow:Hill is a Limited Liability Company owned by eight Shareholder/Directors and who form our governance Board - Darryl Carey, Maurice Kiely, Simon Woodall, Brian Squair, Stuart Mackie, Jane Hill, Brian Rastrick and Anner Chong. Our current Board Chair is Brian Squair. Chief Executive Kalpana Reddy is responsible for managing commercial operations and reporting to our Board.

Precautionary Approach

Chow:Hill takes a Precautionary Approach in our business operations through risk evaluation, management and reporting by our Board and CEO; our project team members adopt the same during design activities in relation to materials, products and systems specified within building projects for our clients.

Our Business, Our People

Our business direction is driven by company purpose, and understanding our core strengths, a set of shared values, and the vision of our Directors. Within this context relationships with clients and other stakeholders are formed, and from these relationships projects (the process), places (the built outcome) and stories (shared histories) evolve.

Our Vision

We are innovative designers recognised for shaping authentic places and inspiring people.

Our Purpose

We commit to our clients' success through collaboration and design thinking.

Our Essence

Collaboration - listen, design, succeed.

Our Values

Passion, Creativity, Agility and Integrity
These values influence our decision-making, underpin relationships with stakeholders and help us create the future we want to experience.

"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.
-Philip Pullman, author

Our Stakeholders

While we don’t undertake specific and direct surveys of stakeholders engagement with Chow:Hill for inclusion in our CSR reports, we nevertheless capture feedback through the year and this is reported in blog posts, to staff at studio forums, and in broad communications across the company. We do acknowledge and act on stakeholders concerns  as they arise and very much enjoy sharing positive stories from clients and the public. In the coming year we will be commission in a set of internal ‘interviews’ with team members facilitated by an external consultancy. These interviews will focus on our perceived presence or brand int he marketplace.

 In this report we note that no significant issues or concerns have been raised by stakeholders during this reporting period that have social, environmental or economic impacts.  

Supply Chain

Our essential supplies include the following businesses:


When evaluating company performance, we distinguish between and report separately on our performance in relation to strategic priorities and that in relationship to Operational Indicators.

Priorities 2017 - 2018


Five strategic Priorities were set by our Board before the start of the 2017-2018 financial year. They are the areas  we felt were most material to our business and potentially of greatest impact internally and externally. 

Here we report on our stated targets for three of those priority areas and our PERFORMANCE against those targets.

Revenue and Write-off


Our focus was to promote project efficiency to reduce write-off to a 19% across the business, and to maintain or exceed total annual revenue compared to 2016-2017.


We had a successful year and outperformed 2016-2017 Revenue by 16%. The increase was a result of both winning new clients and new projects of existing clients.

Write-off, which is our project efficiency measure, came close to our ambitious 19% and we finished the year at 21%. This is a pleasing result as prior year write-offs were considerably more. There is an improved understanding within the Organisation of “efficiency”. Project performances are discussed with the wider Teams each month and there is visibility of how each project is tracking.


Increases in Revenue can have a direct impact to reduce write-offs. The busy year meant highly utilised teams, that in turn meant increased efficiency or a reduction in write-offs.

Our aim for the next financial year is 19% write-off.

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Sustainable Design


Our focus was to increase the number of projects in which our clients meaningfully engaged with improved environmentally sustainable design outcomes.


The clear prioritisation of improved ESD outcomes does not from part of the agenda for the large majority of clients in their briefing of projects. Typically, gains are established by way of complying with regulatory provisions, codes of practice and standards that are inherently improving outcomes at a local, regional and national level; however, it is  not possible for this organisation to quantify these and a challenge to put a face to them. 

One area we do think is a significant contributor is our work in the medium-density housing sector, where more compactly and well-designed brownfields site developments are delivering more efficient use of resources, - both on-site and via more efficient use of community infrastructure ( transportation, below-ground services, and community facilities).


We have a growing body of experience and enhanced skills in community development that is contributing meaningfully, and that given the opportunity for deeper application of ESD, can be significantly enhanced. Previous project experience has demonstrated our ability to push boundaries in ESD in commercial and other types of built projects, including landscape design. Ideally this requires ‘champions’ from amongst our clients.  

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The focus of our brand strategy has been based on the following three objectives;

  • Achieving a cohesive look and feel to our Brand across all selected platforms.
  • Developing an authentic on-line presence across all selected platforms
  • Developing a coordinated plan for brand and marketing initiatives to increase impact and effectiveness


Key areas of progress this year have included;

Refinement of our submission templates and presentation material to reflect cohesive brand development and a refined look and feel; and tying in with our earlier developed Sector Brochures.

Preparation and marketing of Sector Brochures across our wider focus sectors.

Increasing our investment in project photography with a move to drone footage for key projects.

Continuing our presence in awards program at local and national level.

Streamlining our website to reflect our most current projects

On-going focus on currency and relevance of blogs.


The refreshed look and feel of our presentation and submission materials has been extremely well received with regular commentary on its professional nature along with a growing number of competitive and successful bids. Awards success has continued this year at both the New Zealand Property Council and Commercial Construction Awards

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Our Priorities

A series of Board workshops late in the year set our course and priorities for 2018-2019 year, directed towards our Vision – ‘innovative designers shaping authentic places and inspiring people’. The most significant activities for each of these priorities are recorded below.

Knowledge, Culture & Co-Design


We will prototype a co-design process with client groups.

Brand and Presense


After a ‘discovery phase’ we will test for fit a social media strategy for the business and implement agreed actions.

Design, Culture & Placemaking


We will develop a ‘Place-Making’ tool for our design processes  and design evaluation and critique.

Relationship Building and Trusted Advisors


We will identify a suitable client relationship management model , develop and implement agreed practices.

Developing Our People


We will develop an welcome/induction pack for new incoming team members and continuing to build expertise through our  annual Professional Development programme.

Systems, Simplicity and Technology


We will be increasing group activities around design reviews and technical documentation reviews; we will also be researching and reviewing remote working/reporting systems.

Business Innovation


We will be researching alternative business models that could provide opportunities for new markets and different revenue streams.


In this area of our report we disclose data results from a consistent set of performance indicators. This consistency gives us the ability to compare both year to year and longitudinally.

Data Gathering

This is our eighth annual Company Sustainability Report. Linked to this page is detailed data on our performance. For a quick view of our most significant results you will find these on our ‘KPI Highlights’ page following. As we noted last year, display of data in itself is not adequate to fully describe how we conduct our business, the impact we have on others, or to report matters of interest or concern to our stakeholders. You will find broader commentary on business and community relationships, social matters and project impacts on our ‘Making Connections’, ‘Our Business/Our People’ pages of this report and links to our wider website content.

Reporting Framework

In 2016 the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) G4 Sustainability Framework was replaced with ‘GRI Standards’. Under the Standards our report is classed as ‘Referencing’ the GRI Standards. By this it is not implied that we comply with ‘Core’ or ‘Comprehensive’ reporting standards. It is our view that the breadth and complexity of the latter two categories are not appropriate for our business in terms of type, scale and areas of operation.

The Core Disclosures we will be following henceforth will include:


  • 102-1 to 102-13 Organisational Profile
  • 102-14  Strategy
  • 102-16  Ethics and Integrity
  • 102-18  Governance
  • 102-40 to 102-44 Stakeholder Engagement
  • 102-45 to 102-56 Reporting Practice


  • Disclosures from GRI 103 - Management Approach: 103-1, which corresponds to our ‘Priorities’ page


  • Disclosures from Series 200, 300 and 400 related to Economic, Environmental and Social Indicators. You can refer to these by clicking on our ‘Download Indicators’ button below

Application Level

This report now includes Disclosures prepared in accordance with the ‘Referencing’ requirements. This report is not referenced to an External Assurance Report. 

Sustainability Reporting Guidelines

The GRI Standards reporting guidelines are there to,

“ …help organisations set goals, measure performance and manage change to make their operations more sustainable. A sustainability report conveys…impacts - be they positive or negative - on the environment, society and the economy.  Internationally agreed disclosures and metrics enable information … to be made accessible and comparable, providing stakeholders with enhanced information to inform their decisions”.

Full Results

Click ‘Download Indicators’ below to view a schedule of all GRI Standards Indicators reported this year and for comparison a schedule of G4 Indicators reported in previous years.

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Click on each icon below to launch and browse our full results across all KPI’s.

KPI Highlights

We collect data to measure a range of business-relevant performance areas defined in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards framework, and these are reported in detail elsewhere on our ‘Measurement’ page.

Our most interesting or significant results are highlighted here, whether they are highly positive or the contra. Recognising and understanding the ‘why’ of the negative acts as a catalyst to improve our performance.



34 employees are female and 31 are male; of 16 new staff members 8 are female and 8 are male.

Staff training and development:
Employee numbers grew 10%


Financial accounts and social investment

Generated 108% of budgeted revenue, compared with 104% in 2017-2018.
Operating margin 17% above budget, compared to 4% above budget in 2017-2018.
Productivity write-off 15%, compared to 19% budgeted.
Generated 104% of budgeted revenue, compared with 101% in 2016-2017.
Operating margin 4% above budget, compared to 3% below budget in 2016-2017 Overheads 7.5% under budget.
Key financial ratios: Liquidity ratio: 2.06  (2.22 in 2016-2017).
Debt to equity ratio: 1.19 (1.11 in 2016-2017)
Health and Safety expenditure for the company increased by 129% 


Donations and sponsorship

Donations and Sponsorship expenditure increased by $24,000 or 99%



  Co2 Emissions
 Total emissions up by 27.09 tonnes or 30.4%

Fuel Consumption
    Air Travel contributed to 45.7% of our emissions, compared to 22.3% in 2016-2017

Paper Purchase
Increased by 471k or 41.4%

CO2 Footprint


Our CO2 emission levels for 2016 -2017 were 116.07 tonnes, that’s up 27.09 tonnes, or 30.4% on last year’s total of 88.98 (2015-2016 total was 111.85 tonnes).  Our Hamilton Studio emissions were up by 7.74 tonnes to 50.97 tonnes, Auckland up by 19.36 tonnes to 65.10 tonnes. 

Last years target was to maintain the previous year’s emissions and we have failed to meet this goal. More detail of the performance of individual Studios can be viewed on our KPI page.

For the 2018-2019 year we are targeting  a total emission of 100 tonnes of C02.


Catalyst NZ make available for us our use of their ‘catalyst Carbon Calculator to measure our contributing categories - electricity, electricity line losses, vehicle petrol, vehicle diesel, taxi travel, air flights, office waste and air conditioning refrigerant loss. Our measurement is of Direct Emissions only.


The trend over the past four years has been in a reduction in emissions year by year, and with Auckland’s reducing to  appoint where it almost matches that of Hamilton. This year reverses  that trend, whilst still remaining under our 2013-2014 high. The primary contributor to the increase is greater use of air travel by our Auckland team in servicing projects across the country, despite the greater use of video conferencing throughout. 


We continue to offset our emissions via the Sustainable Business Network’s ‘Million Metres Streams’  crowd-funded restoration of New Zealand’s waterways. Our contributions have led to the planting of around 177 metres of riparian waterways related to projects along the Northern Wairoa River and a tributary of the Selwyn River  - you can read more about  MMS  at 

Explore Previous Years