Chow:Hill CSR 2018 - 2019

This is our 10th 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 2018 - 2019

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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This is it. This year marks 10 years of producing our Company Sustainability Report and it’s timely to reflect what has changed in that period, the influence this has had on our business, and if this has at all rippled beyond our own shore. Since 2009 members of the NZGBC and SBN; Green Star rated buildings; migrated from petrol to diesel, to hybrid and now moving toward electric cars; promoted travel planning; introduced video-conferencing; office HOP cards; CO2 emissions marginally lower per person but up for the company as a whole; funding riparian planting through Million Metres Streams; monitoring of all utilities, materials and waste streams; introduced Community Days for staff; flexible workplace employment; champions of a diverse team of people; operating a transparent business model and engaging actively with our people;  sponsorship of community, cultural and education programmes; contributed to biodiversity through urban and rural landscape projects; developed internal sustainable design guidelines; published ‘SEED’ an internal quarterly promoting sustainable ideas, thinking and practice; promoted environmental design measures  with our clients and introduced these into projects; and even earlier, designed the first NABERS-rated building in New Zealand.

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In that period  and whilst establishing and sustaining those activities we successfully negotiated the global recession and smaller intermittent market downturns, have markedly increased market share in selected areas, expanded our client base, increased productivity, reduced write-off,  and increased return on investment to our shareholders. 

Does this infer a relationship?  We think a relationship does exist between the values that lie behind sustainable activity, and the sense of  purpose that drives the business, and this connects with company prosperity  Our purpose has constantly been directed towards the wellbeing and betterment of our clients and our communities through building relationships, collaboration and design. Engagement creates opportunity between ourselves and long-term clients with similar values, and attracts like-minded others.

And yet….there is so much capacity and opportunity beyond this to develop the more sustainable outcomes that are needed and that we would like to achieve in the coming year and beyond.

Maurice Kiely  //  Director, Sustainability.


Generated 108% of budgeted revenue compared with 104% in 2016-2017, with operating margin 17%  above budget AND write-off  14% compared with 21% in 2016-2017


Diverse team of 32 female and 35 male staff  representing 14 countries of origin


CO2 emissions increased from 116.07 tonnes to 125.5 tonnes


What drives the leadership of Chow:Hill is  a set of core values – passion for what we do, creativity in how we approach our work, agility in the way we navigate projects with our clients, and integrity through personal commitment to doing the right thing.


{Tamaki Makaurau}





When asked in a recent series of commissioned one on one interviews, “Do you have a set of personal values that you operate to?”, members of our team responded with “Enthusiasm and drive, authentic connection and contribution’, “ Work ethic, find joy in the work and the people you work with”, and “I try to put myself in their shoes of others so that I can better understand them”.

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 long-term vision and purpose give direction to our business and whilst long-term, do change over time in response to external influences and internal needs and desires. In contrast, our values are not mutable, are more personal and based on the experience and character of our business’ owners and governing group.

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 commissioning a set of internal ‘interviews’ with team members facilitated by an external consultancy. These interviews will focus on our perceived presence or brand in the marketplace.

In this report we have 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.

Performance 2018 - 2019

In our previous report we signalled there were seven areas we wanted to our business to focus on this year.

These priorities seemed to be those that were not only most material to our business, had potentially the most  significant impact on our stakeholders, but most importantly, were geared towards getting us closer to our vision –  of being ‘innovative designers shaping authentic places and inspiring people’.  

Knowledge, Culture & Co-Design


‍To prototype a co-design process with client groups.


We collaborated with Auckland District Health Board and Design Lab in the re-thinking and reinvigoration of the Whānau Rooms at the Auckland City Hospital.

The process established a set of values, design principles and strategies that would address the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of whānau supporting family members whilst in the care of the hospital.

Allied with similar processes in recent collaborations with WINTEC and Gisborne District Council,  the experience has enabled us to prepare a draft paper on co-design. 


The development of a valid and reliable design methodology that engages more meaningfully with our clients and encourages shared capital will contribute more frequently to improved, long-term design solutions and client service delivery. 

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Brand Presence


To initiate a ‘discovery’ phase of company engagement and meaning within our staff,  from which we would test for fit a social media strategy for the business and implement agreed actions.


We engaged strategic marketing company HGB to undertake a set of interviews with staff to discover the degree to which their experiences and perceptions of Chow:Hill were positive, consistent, and valued, and to understand if and how these differed from the image  and experiences presented to our clients and the broader public. The report that emerged from this process validated many of our (positive) assumptions and promoted a benefit in exploring how we continue to evolve our broader ‘brand message’.


The impact is that for the immediate future we will be focusing on our website and LinkedIn blogs as social media platforms. Alongside this some key messages around vison and purpose - which we will be exploring in 2019/2020 – will begin to be incorporated in our language in company publications and client proposals.

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Design, Culture & Place Making


To develop a ‘Placemaking’ tool for our design processes, design evaluation and critique.


We have prepared the Placemaking framework – this framework places the concern of clients and users at the heart of the design process through eight perspectives such as identity, empathy and integrity. Design outcomes are developed from a set of criteria related to physical and metaphysical contexts such as materiality and time.  In general terms, design activity, critiques, sharing of design material and internal publication of built results has increased over the year.


The Placemaking framework is not universal and sits alongside a number of other design tools such as Te Aranga Māori Design Principles, Auckland Council Design Manual, the Living Building Challenge, and urban development models such as the Urban Community Quality Wheel. Each has it’s own focus, each overlaps and each is useful in promoting healthy, meaningful, sustainable, human-scaled places and settings for thriving communities. The impact comes through consistent awareness, adoption and adaption to circumstances for design challenges of all types and scales.

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Relationship Building & Trusted Advisors


To identify a suitable client relationship management model, and to develop and implement agreed practices arising out of this.


We have initiated  and are currently progressing a client contact list and associated functionality using our WorkflowMax project management software. The process of this has identified a number of issues that have yet to be addressed and resolved and we are yet some time away from implementation.


Whilst a slowing in this process is not ideal as it limits capability the impact is not yet of major significance.

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Developing Our People


To develop a new welcome/induction pack for new team members, and to continue to build expertise through our Professional Development programme.


A prototype version of the  welcome pack for new staff is in use and a newer version with some graphic enhancement will be launched in the new year. Our CPD programme has been a great success – across the company the number of conferences, seminars and workshops attended has increased, with coverage across a greater number of staff. CPD is balanced between individual’s own learning needs and our need to reinforce knowledge in Chow:Hill’s market areas and research.  A Graduate Development programme is in place and provides a vehicle for aspiring registrants.  


Ensuring our new staff have a positive introduction to Chow:Hill is very important to us and we’re pleased with how well the welcome pack has been received. Our CPD programme has encouraged more staff to present and share learnings to colleagues within and across Studios; has increased our intellectual capital, skill within projects, and provided staff with opportunity to advance their knowledge and professional capability.

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Systems, Simplicity & Technology


Increase activities around design reviews and technical documentation reviews; we wanted also to research and review remote working and reporting systems.


Team members in Hamilton and Auckland have promoted technical and design reviews, with the target of having all  relevant projects undergoing these. We have engaged a new CAD Manager and ArchiCad 22 has been rolled out and some historic projects updated to suit. We have re-tendered and engaged a new IT support provider and implemented all major system upgrades across the business. One more concrete area of work being looked at and developed is in Virtual Reality (VR) technology.


We have greater assurance that our IT systems are robust and fit for purpose and that project design and documentation are being scrutinised to a greater degree. Both initiatives have a positive impact in terms of increased efficiency and reduced costs.

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Business Innovation


We wanted to research alternative business models that could provide opportunities for new markets and different revenue streams.


In relation to alternative business models we have taken a longer-term view and undertaken only some initial information gathering and research by way of discussions with others outside the business. The findings will form part of an ongoing discussion and evolving thinking. 


There has been no impact so far on our business but interest is being maintained. 

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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 undertake a presentation on Co-Design and prepare a capability statement in this area of design practice for sharing with existing and new clients.

Brand and Presense


We will be implementing a regular and frequent programme of LinkedIn postings, referenced to website blog items. We will be enhancing company publications and reinforcing key messages related to our vision and purpose.

Design, Culture & Placemaking


Having developed a Placemaking framework we want to use this more explicitly in upcoming projects, alongside related design frameworks and tools. We want to continue to make design more visible within our Studios.

Relationship Building and Trusted Advisors


We will be completing the design and undertaking the implementation of our new client relationship management model.

Developing Our People


We will maintain our  annual Professional Development programme. Focus areas are likely to be technology, collaboration and co-design which relate to two of our other Priorities.

Systems, Simplicity and Technology


With our Standard QMS documents – we will be updating all documents and considering a  single location for access by both Studios to be confirmed for such files. We will also review our company filing taxonomy. In VR technology we will continue to develop capability and uptake as the software itself continues to develop.

Business Innovation


We will continue with background research whilst remaining open to opportunities as they arise.


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 tenth annual Company Sustainability Report. Linked to this page is a set of recorded data on our performance. We give a quick view of our most significant results in our ‘KPI Highlights’ page following. Whilst data collected on these performance areas provides reliability and consistency, it doesn’t fully capture company performance. What we ‘do’ is broader than this and needs to capture 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.

Download Indicators

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.



32 staff members are female and 35 are male and are representative of 14 countries of origin.

Staff training and development: Expenditure increased by 65%


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 14%, compared to 19% budgeted.


Donations and sponsorship

Donations and Sponsorship expenditure increased by 41%



CO2 Emissions     
 Total emissions up by 8.2% to 125.5 tonnes 
 Fuel Consumption
    Air Travel contributed to 50.5% of our emissions, compared to 45.7% in 2017-2018

CO2 Footprint


Our CO2 emission levels for 2018-2019 were 125.50 tonnes, that’s up 9.43 tonnes, or 8.2% on last year’s total of 116.07 ( per the short-term, trend, 2016-2017 total was 88.98 tonnes).  Our Hamilton Studio emissions were down by 10.42 tonnes to 40.55 tonnes, Auckland up by 19.85 tonnes to 84.95 tonnes. 

The target for the year was to maintain reduce to a total of 100 tonnes of CO2 but anticipating the negative effect of increased air travel to Wellington and the South Island from Auckland. Actual results confirm instead a  small increase, however, the amount of air travel was considerable and if this had been limited, we would have met our target across the business. Greater detail of the performance of individual Studios can be viewed on our KPI page.

For the 2019-2020 year we are targeting  a total emission of 110 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.


This is our 10th year of tracking our CO2 emissions!! and we have illustrated a decades’ results  in the graph opposite. In that period our staff numbers have grown from 60 to 70, an increase of 16.7% and our emissions have increased by 16.2%; our decade average is 96 tonnes. 

The trend over four of the past six years  was a reduction in emissions year by year; the past two years has seen an increase and this can be attributed in part to an increase in staff numbers from 65 to 70 (emissions per person in the business) and increase in travel-based emissions.


Chow:Hill supports the Sustainable Business Network’s ‘Million Metres Streams’  crowd-funded restoration of New Zealand’s waterways in offsetting our emissions. Our funding contribution has enabled the planting of riparian waterways related to projects along the Northern Wairoa River, Waikato; the Selwyn River, Canterbury: and the Brookby Project -Papakura Stream, Auckland  - you can read more about  MMS at 

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