Chow:Hill CSR 2020 - 2021

This is our 12th year reporting on our business activities through a Company Social Responsibility (CSR) framework.

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360 Degree View

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360° View

The overriding focus of our attention this year has been Covid-19 and its’ influence on all aspects of politics and our business and social lives. It has touched everything.

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, ability to retain forward workload, manage projects and client expectations, and deal 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. 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.

In the last quarter of the year we developed and adopted two key documents. The first, 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 recognises our identification of intergenerational stewardship in sustainable practice with kaitiakitanga from the perspective of a Māori world view.

The one other significant element to the year has been a comprehensive review of our governance and operational structure, which in the coming year will lead to a rollout 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. Looking outwards, our existing clients are a priority, yet we see opportunity for new relationships as the widespread effects of covid continue to influence the  movement of people and capital; and create opportunities and new ways of thinking.  

The high level of flux within government policies and business practice is also a risk for some of our market sectors, as is the inevitable counter-reaction of people generally to life under covid, where choices around work, leisure and finance have been severely curtailed but are beginning to open up again, and are therefore more volatile. 

With the covid pandemic having reached a level of heightened but (currently) managed risk the climate emergency comes into focus once more and our attention must be on contributing to reduction in carbon emissions, regeneration of natural systems and increasing biodiversity through design and action.

Financial

17%

Was the operating margin below budget. Liquidity ratio increased from 2.94 to 3.04

Staff

3.1%

Increase in waste-to-landfill

Environmental

72.36 tonnes

Decrease in CO₂ emissions from 140.38 tonnes the previous year

Maurice Kiely

Director, Sustainability

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Leadership

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Leadership

Our leadership group works together in an environment of trust, empowerment and equity.

Each of the Directors contributes variously to Board activities to ensure our comprehensive coverage of risk, compliance, strategic, financial, people, culture and environment matters. Additionally,  each has a specific project market sector in which they lead the business at a developmental and operational level. Leadership is supported and developed at all levels and includes specific professional development in leadership for graduate staff through to senior professionals. This programme focuses on projects and people, it builds confidence and resilience, and provides the skills for team members to apply these to client and consultant engagements and beyond this to our internal initiatives.

Auckland

{Tāmaki Makaurau}

Hamilton

{Kirikiriroa}

Christchurch

{Ōtautahi}

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 Sectors

Our primary market sectors are Health, Learning Environments, Residential & Community Environments, Public & Civic, Master Planning & Urban Design, Commercial & Interiors.

Governance

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.

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Our Business, Our People

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Our Business,
Our People

Aspects of our cultural design and relationship framework – whānaunatanga (relationships),  kotahitanga (collaboration) and manaakitanga (caring) – are guiding principles in our actions and interactions with stakeholders, the intent behind our design work and in minimising our impact on our environment. These principles and our values co-exist together.

Our Vision

Shaping Possibilities.

Our Purpose

Connect, Collaborate, Create.

Our Essence

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Our Business,
Our People

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

Any fact becomes important when it's connected to another.

~ Umberto Eco

Our Values

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Making Connections

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Making Connections

Our experience of Covid-19 demonstrates – at the more critical end – the delicate circumstances that can determine life, or not.

Our Stakeholders

The experience of living with covid reinforces the critical importance of genuine, caring relationships, shared responsibilities and collective action. The same should be no less important in our response to the climate emergency, both as a business and in our agency on behalf of our clients for their projects.

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Making Connections

From the wider community we didn’t receive any claims that our operations have created or contributed to any adverse social, environmental or economic impacts.

Supply Chain

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Performance

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Performance

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

Performance in this context refers to actions and outcomes related to longer term strategic priorities or exigencies. These are separate from our operational performance indicators which are reported in our ‘Measurement’ section. Two issues have dominated our year and flow into the next.

“Innovative designers shaping authentic places and inspiring people”

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Performance

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

Covid-19 Emergency

Our Focus
To rapidly plan and execute a whole-of-business strategy to respond to the Covid-19 emergency.

How did we perform?
In common with most New Zealanders, we shared the experience of a rapidly developing situation in the early part of 2021. Our Board came together quickly and were unified in our approach – regular and consistent information-gathering and analysis, regular communication with our team and external clients and stakeholders. Confidence was critical and by listening to experts and following the science we were able to maintain a steady and measured approach to the situation as it evolved. Constant monitoring of the financial, project status, technology and regulatory side of our operations was coupled with intensive involvement and care for the health and well-being of team members. The foundation for this was established and led by the superb, untiring work of our CEO.

Our team responded incredibly well during the first lockdown period, remaining flexible and understanding and working extremely hard despite stressful work-from-home conditions and challenging data communication channels. Personal contact through this period was important and we held regular company-wide Zoom meetings to share latest information, answer questions and advise next steps; project leaders kept in regular contact with individuals and project teams. Activation of working from home during the second lockdown was a smoother process but no less stressful or fatiguing than the first. In the fourth quarter we managed a successful return to our studio environment. Throughout, our people were incredibly proactive, understanding and patient throughout the worst phases of the pandemic and the key reason we have reached the optimistic position we are in at year’s end.

Impact
The impact on our people precipitated by the pandemic at a personal level is not something we can quantify, but unquestionably it had a negative effect on the emotional and physical health of everyone. Overall, though, we each have developed a greater resilience, and collectively as a company have developed strategies and tools that have equipped us to better face future challenges in a more assured and collaborative fashion.

Investing in our people and remaining engaged with our clients has been one of the reasons for our positive situation.

We did lose a small percentage of staff and some projects were delayed or halted due to client’s own commercial decisions, yet we have managed to approach end-of-year budgeted financial targets and re-build work. Forward project work in a number of our key sectors is building and the outlook is positive.  

Our survey of staff has led to an initial three month trial of working from home, the outcome of which may lead to more long-term flexibility in our ways of working as we look to respond to people’s needs and a global change in how business and communities co-habit in the future.

Governance & Management

Our Focus
To undertake a review of our governance model, succession plan and operational structure, and then to plan and implement a way forward from the findings of that exercise.

How did we perform?
We delayed our process for this to the latter half of the year while we concentrated on our Covid-19 response. The purpose of the exercise was to evolve our governance and management model to best fit our business as we see it growing in the future, our ability to respond to market shifts, stakeholder needs and ways of working. Importantly, the outcome needed to fit with our culture and sustain our need for diversity.

With the contribution of external advisors and workshopping processes, we took a looking back/looking forward approach and comparing our structures and processes with like businesses. Key findings were the need for a smaller number of Board numbers with the opportunity for an independent Board Chair, the formation of formal Board subcommittees, a stricter separation of governance and management responsibilities and accountabilities, a clear line of authority for our CEO and the increased participation and contribution to programmes and processes by senior staff.

One of the likely additional benefits we’ve noted as a result of this process is the greater engagement with Chow:Hill by our senior staff, which we believe will lead to a more effective and collegial environment.

The first half of the coming year will see formal establishment of the various structures and in the second half we will be fully operational under the new framework.

Impact
There has been no impact as we have yet to enter the implementation stage and will instead report on this next year.

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Our Priorities

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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 here.

Covid-19 Emergency

Last year we were challenged by delays and non-starts to planned projects, remote working, technology, the emotional and physical toll of uncertainty and fear.

We managed our response to the pandemic through taking care of our people, maintaining an open-leadership but micro-detailed management approach, and prudent financial management.

We’ve safely got through that, and the focus this year is on growing our important client relationships, reaching out through new social and environmental policies, trialling flexible working arrangements along with associated re-prioritisation of technology to more portability.

Governance & Management

Last year we completed our review of our governance model, succession plan and operational structure. In the year to come we will be implementing changes to streamline our Board function, overseeing the formation of committees to oversee key areas such as  risk and compliance, and  people culture and environment;  a greater devolution of operational responsibility and authority to our CEO,  with increased senior staff involvement in day-to-day management.

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Measurement

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Measurement

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 12th Annual Company Sustainability Report. Covering the next few pages is a set of downloadable recorded data on our performance. We highlight our three most significant results in KPI Highlights. To capture whole-of-company performance in a broader context – how we conduct business, the impact we have on others, and matters of interest or concern to our stakeholders – we provide further information on Making Connections and Our Business/Our People sections of this report.

Reporting Framework

Our report follows the protocols of the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) ‘GRI Standards’ introduced in 2016 (previously the GRI ‘G4 Framework’). Under the Standards this report conforms to ‘Referencing’ the GRI Standards. The Core Disclosures we report 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 in the next section.

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”.

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Measurement

Download Indicators here 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 opposite to launch and browse our full results across all KPI’s.

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KPI Highlights

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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.

Labour

Diversity

35 staff members are female and 35 are male and represent 15 countries of origin.

Staff training and development: Expenditure increased by 21%, compared to a 65% increase the previous year.

Economic

Financial accounts

Generated 106% of budgeted revenue, compared with 108% in 2019-2020 Operating margin 42% above budget. Productivity write-off 9%, compared to 14% the previous year.

Community

Donations and sponsorship

Expenditure increased by 31%

Environmental

Diversity

CO2 Emissions     
 Total emissions up by 11.8% to 140.38 tonnes 
 Fuel Consumption
    Air Travel contributed to 56% of our emissions, compared to 50.5% in 2019-2020

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KPI Highlights

Our CO₂ emission levels for the year were 72.36 tonnes, representing a reduction of 68.02 tonnes, or 48.5% on last year’s total of 140.38.

Our Hamilton Studio emissions were down by 36.5% to 29.49 tonnes.

Auckland’s were down 54.4% to 42.87 tonnes.
CO2 FOOTPRINT

Our target for the year was to reduce to a total of 110 tonnes of CO₂.  Reductions well in excess of the target can be attributed solely to our response for Covid-19 temporarily closing down onsite operations and a halt in flight and car travel. If you wish to check it out, our KPI page sets out the figures for each studio in more detail.

For the 2021-2022 year we believe our emissions could rise again to a figure around 110-120 tonnes. There remains uncertainty around the on-flow effects of Covid-19 on our travel emissions; one small new step is the replacement of one of our diesel-powered cars with an EV.

MEASUREMENT

Catalyst New Zealand makes 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.

In the year to come we have added two further footprint measures: copy paper consumption (even though a recyclable resource) and overnight business accommodation. This is estimated to add 5% -7% to our total emissions.

TRENDS

This is our 12th year of tracking our CO₂ emissions and we have illustrated results and trend  in the graph opposite. The one-off significant variation this year is the average emissions per person which reduced from two tonnes to one tonne per person. 

CARBON OFFSET INITIATIVE

Chow:Hill donates annually to the Sustainable Business Network’s Million Metres Streams programme for restoration of New Zealand’s waterways as a means of balancing the negative effects of our emissions. This year we have contributed to the Whangarei Urban Awa Project and this will fund 241m of stream planting which will is around 10% of the total planting planned. You can read more about MMS and this project in particular at www.millionmetres.org.nz 

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Thank You

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