Dynamic Business: Pandemic era lessons from the Big Apple

Taking part in Air New Zealand’s business delegation to New York on the new direct Auckland-New York City flight was a great opportunity to catch up on the United States economic environment, trading conditions, geopolitics and trends. As someone who hadn’t crossed the New Zealand border since 2020 (but pre-pandemic was a frequent long-haul traveller), it was also a chance to get a taste of travel in the Covid era.

More than 20 of NZ’s most influential business leaders joined the delegation, including the heads of Mercury Energy, NZ Beef & Lamb, Sanford, The Warehouse Group, SkyCity, Infratil, Spark, Beca, Ngai Tahu and the University of Auckland. Between the CEOs and directors on board NZ2, Air New Zealand was responsible for carrying a sizeable fraction of New Zealand’s Top 200 businesses.

These delegations are often predicated around government-to-government relations such as bilateral and multilateral meetings, or free trade agreements, but this trip was different.

Despite including Deputy PM and Finance Minister Grant Robertson and National deputy leader and finance spokesperson Nicola Willis as part of the delegation, one of the distinct things about the trip was that it wasn’t politically focused.

Air New Zealand chair Dame Therese Walsh described the visit as a chance to not only showcase the airline’s new flagship route, but to “get back to doing what Air NZ used to do – be an important part of NZ Inc thinking and New Zealand’s economic development.”

Air NZ CEO Greg Foran’s status in the US was evident (he was previously CEO and president of retail giant Walmart US). He used his cachet to pull in high-profile speakers including Indra Nooyi – the former chair and CEO of PepsiCo and often touted as one of the world’s most influential women.

Though meetings were held under the Chatham House Rule, some of the lessons that stood out from three days on the ground in the Big Apple include:

From New Zealand to New York the challenges remain the same

The mood in many meetings was sombre, as the US grapples with many of the same economic headwinds as New Zealand. A looming recession, geopolitical tensions, constrained supply chains, a shortage of talent, burgeoning inflation and interest rate rises are creating uncertainty.

While Covid restrictions have all but gone in New York, the pandemic has left a permanent mark on the city. Companies in the US have embraced hybrid working which is considered “here to stay” as employees demand the flexibility that comes with it.

Covid testing sites are still scattered about, and despite no requirement for face masks, their use seemed far more common than in Auckland on public transport and in public spaces.

ESG under strain – but ignore it at your peril

The acronym ESG – which takes into account a business’s efforts on environmental factors, social issues and corporate governance – has risen to prominence over the past few years. But recently it has become politicised in parts of the US. Its association with liberalism has seen a backlash among some Republican officials who have described ESG policies as ‘woke’.

Acronym politics aside, there was a lot of talk in New York that US investors, customers and employees are continuing to focus on whether businesses are authentic about their purpose and leadership, and whether they are doing what they say they are doing when it comes to society and the environment.

This is more important than ever as Gen Z (those born between the late 1990s and early 2010s) become more prominent in the workforce. Many are choosing not to engage with businesses or even apply for jobs with employers that have a perceived negative impact on the environment, or an organisation that lacks diversity. If a business can explain why its activities are important not just for commercial differentiation but also for the planet and society, it will be a valuable competitive differentiator.

America doesn’t have time for short poppies!

Kirsten and Craig Nevill-Manning, former Facebook and Google executives who are among our most successful offshore New Zealanders, hosted a reception for the delegation at their spectacular multi-level Brooklyn apartment complete with a stainless-steel slide to traverse the floors.

There, a panel of New York-based Kiwis spoke about the many New Zealand businesses that are doing great things in the US – but stressed that we continue to be too demure for an American audience. To get cut-through in a crowded market that moves quickly, businesses must be prepared to share their unique points of difference and accomplishments as loudly as their competitors do.

The expat community in New York is small but tight-knit. Those that we met on the ground are keen to welcome more to the city and pass on their deep experience and advice to others so that New Zealand businesses can hit Manhattan running and make their mark on the city that never sleeps.

Good news for tourism and business

Despite being closed to visitors for two years, New Zealand continues to have a lot of friends offshore. Everyone who spoke to the delegation had fond things to say about our country and those who have not yet been innately like us and have a desire to visit – even if they couldn’t pinpoint exactly why.

There was an expectation from business delegates and those we spoke to that the direct flight between Auckland and New York will have a role in shaping how NZ’s economy and future opportunities evolve.

One US-based investor likened New York to a “multiverse” since there is so much going on in such a diverse city. He said the need to transit when travelling from the east coast of the US to New Zealand previously put a lot of people off coming to Aotearoa, and the air link will now “connect Middle-earth with the multiverse”, bringing immense opportunity along with greater capital, entrepreneurship, and talent.

Tim McCready was a guest of Air New Zealand on the direct flight to New York.

Deloitte Top 200: Top business leaders crowned with awards back in black tie

Vulcan Steel has taken out the top award as Company of the Year in the 2022 Deloitte Top 200 Awards, recognised for its recent exceptional performance for both the company and shareholders.

Winners for the Deloitte Top 200 awards were unveiled at Auckland’s Shed 10 last night, showcasing the very best of New Zealand business and business leaders. Now in its 33rd year, the highly anticipated black-tie dinner event was back at full scale for the first time since the pandemic.

An earlier celebration in 2020 was limited to 100 guests due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. In February this year, a celebration of last year’s winners took place online.

This year, the awards recognise outstanding results despite the ongoing challenges resulting from supply-chain constraints, skills shortages, inflation, and the ongoing pressures resulting from the pandemic. Companies and individuals have been recognised for showing commercial strength, leadership and agility during challenging times.

Vulcan Steel thrived as a privately owned steel distribution company for more than 20 years. Since listing in 2021 it has delivered total shareholder returns of 32 per cent. Operating profit has increased by an exceptional 82 per cent and net profit by 119 per cent.

The panel of high-profile judges — convened by NZME head of business content Fran O’Sullivan — said Vulcan Steel stood out in its category due to its recent performance.

“They are a long-term New Zealand success story, led by an outstanding and committed leadership team,” say the judges. “This year Vulcan Steel also successfully acquired Ullrich Aluminium, which has added to their range and helped to underpin further growth. Although the steel and metals markets have been buoyant, helping to lift pricing, Vulcan’s performance has been exceptional.”

A previous winner of the Top 200 Chief Financial Officer of the Year award, Spark’s Jolie Hodson has this year taken out the award for Chief Executive Officer of the Year.

In her time at Spark, Hodson has played a pivotal part in transforming the company from a legacy telco to a growing digital service company. Becoming CEO in 2019, she is highly regarded in the market and has strongly positioned Spark within a highly disruptive and competitive environment, particularly at a time when core landline revenues are declining.

“Spark has continued to be a market leader on the NZX with shareholder returns of 12 per cent over the past year ending in September, and 17 per cent per year over the last 10 years,” say the judges.

“Jolie has a strong view on the role that digitisation can play in decarbonisation and helping New Zealand to meet its climate goals, becoming the convenor of the CEO steering group for the Climate Leader’s Coalition in June 2022.”

The Visionary Leader award is the only one given without finalists. This year, the award went to powerhouse siblings in the wine industry, Jim and Rosemari Delegat.

The judges recognise the Delegats for their vision of New Zealand as an exporter of super-premium wine to the world’s most discerning markets.

The result is a company that today sells more than 3.3 million cases of wine, mainly overseas. Delegats is now a $1 billion public company which, since listing in 2006, has delivered an annualised total shareholder return of 16.5 per cent a year — a remarkable success story that is reflective of the vision and leadership Jim and Rose have brought to the company bearing their family name.

Chairperson of the Year was awarded to Mark Verbiest. Verbiest, who chairs Meridian Energy and Summerset Group Holdings, is a highly esteemed chairperson who is known to operate with a respected and trusted governance style, taking on roles with organisations that involve both a challenge and will also make a meaningful difference to the country.

The judges say that at Summerset and Meridian Energy Verbiest is tackling some of New Zealand’s greatest issues. He is committed to providing quality care for our ageing population and is highly supportive of Meridian’s clean energy aspirations, which will significantly contribute to New Zealand’s goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Infratil’s Phillippa Harford has been awarded Chief Financial Officer of the Year.

The judges say Harford has been recognised by management, the board and the market as a leading CFO and a key executive behind Infratil’s success and superior return to shareholders.

“She has made key contributions to the company’s acquisitions and divestments such as Vodafone, Tilt Renewables, and long-road energy, all of which have helped to drive value for Infratil,” they say. “Phillippa has also been an effective team leader for the finance function, and has been central to developing judgments and strategies on complex international tax and accounting issues and financing structures linked to Infratil’s international investment footprint.”

Fonterra took out the Most Improved Performance award this year. The dairy co-operative, owned by 10,000 farmers, paid close to $14 billion to its dairy farmer suppliers this year. The judges note positive improvements across the business driven by a refreshed, local management team.

“Fonterra sometimes faces vocal opposition to their industry,” the judges say. “But they have made moves to become more sustainable and have recently introduced a bovine emissions reduction plan along with trialling seaweed as a supplemental feed for dairy cows, and are working with Government on reducing permanent agricultural emissions.”

Scott Technology has been recognised with the Best Growth Strategy award. The judges say the automation and robotics company has continued to carve its path globally, now generating over $220 million in revenue, compared with $133m in 2017. “The world has now caught up with the company’s forward-thinking and innovative approach,” they say. “Scott Technology’s time has come as more businesses are investing in technology and automation. It is great to have Scott Technology waving the New Zealand flag in such a future-focused industry.”

Air New Zealand’s tribe lead – loyalty, Kate O’Brien, has been awarded the title of Young Executive of the Year. She has forged a remarkable path through different sections of the Air New Zealand business. Judges say she has the ability and insight to continue growing her career and leadership influence.

“Kate is impressed with a strong worldview and a passion for business improvement,” they say. “As a leader, Kate is sensitive to the impact she has on her team — she understands the importance of staying calm and positive to sustain conditions that are conducive to others’ success.”

Spark has taken out the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership award for its Cloak of Growth, Beyond Binary, Mahi Tahi Wellbeing and Blue Heart concepts that drive all forms of diversity and inclusion across the company.

“Initially led by management, the cultural framework is now very much led by its people and has become part of the company’s DNA,” the judges say, noting that the programme has achieved impressive results. “Spark has reached a world-leading net promoter score of 84 for ‘bringing your full self to work’, they’ve significantly reduced their overall gender pay gap, achieved job-to-job pay equity, and their board and wider leadership group is now made up of 47 per cent women.”

The judges believe Spark’s broad and horizontally embedded approach to diversity and inclusion is market-leading — setting a fantastic example for other businesses in Aotearoa.

For the second year in a row, KMD Brands won the Sustainable Business Leadership award, which recognises businesses working toward the creation of long-term environmental, social and economic value.

The judges commend KMD Brands for its well-established and evolving sustainability policies and practices that are central to its operations and business model. With Kathmandu a certified B-Corp and Oboz and Rip Curl also making strides towards BCorp certification, KMD Brands’ approach to sustainability is strong, holistic, and genuine.

The Deloitte Top 200 awards include a special Judges’ Award. This award enables the Top 200 panel to highlight performance the judges feel is of importance to the business community.

They chose renowned tax specialist and Māori leader Sir Rob McLeod as the recipient this year. He has held notable senior leadership roles including CEO of Ernst & Young Australasia, chair of the 2001 government tax review and eight years as chair of the New Zealand Business Round Table. Chair of Sanford, Quayside Holdings and Ngati Porou Holding Company, and director of Port of Tauranga, Sir Rob was awarded a knighthood for his services to business and Māori in 2019.

“Throughout his glittering career, Sir Rob has championed gender equality and indigenous engagement,” the judges say.

“A retired member of the Business Council of Australia, including membership of the Indigenous Engagement Taskforce, Sir Rob also served on the Hui Taumata Taskforce in 2006 to increase Māori participation, leadership and governance in the workforce. Sir Rob’s immense contributions to date, alongside those still to come, will continue to leave a legacy well into the future for New Zealand and Australian business and our wider communities.”

Deloitte Top 200: Chairperson of the Year: Mark Verbiest - Meridian, Summerset

Mark Verbiest’s respected and trusted governance style, along with the success of the companies he chairs, is what distinguished him as the Chairperson of the Year in this year’s Deloitte Top 200 awards.

Verbiest is chair of Meridian Energy and Summerset Group and a director of ANZ Bank New Zealand. He previously chaired Spark, Transpower, Freightways and Willis Bond Capital Partners, and was a director of the Financial Markets Authority.

“He operates with a respected and trusted governance style, a highly collaborative approach, and clearly relishes the diversity of thought that comes from working as part of a team,” says Deloitte Top 200 judge Hinerangi Raumati-Tu’ua. “The companies Mark is involved in are all quite different, and are all performing well.”

Verbiest says he is a good listener and has always had a very keen eye and ear to the wider stakeholder set.

“That is really important,” he says. “I am not one to shut people down in conversation or steer people in a particular direction.”

The judges recognise that it speaks to the way someone is regarded around the board table when they become the chair of multiple boards as Verbiest has done — especially since the workload of a chair is multiples of that of a director.

Meridian’s net profit after tax rose 55 per cent in the year to June, with the company reporting customer sales volumes growing six per cent. Summerset Group delivered an underlying profit of $82.5 million for the six months ended 30 June 2022, a 9.2 per cent increase on the first half of 2021.

Verbiest says it is important to him that the roles he takes on not only make a meaningful difference to New Zealand, but they must also involve a challenge. He points to Summerset Group, one of New Zealand’s leading retirement village operators, as an organisation that fulfils both these requirements.

Like many countries around the world, New Zealand has an ageing population, and it is projected that by 2034 there will be 1.2 million people aged 65 and over. With this, it is expected that demand for aged care services will also increase.

“I am very conscious that we need facilities that provide care not only for our residents, but also for people that come in from outside,” says Verbiest. “That has become a challenging space given the dearth of people, including aged care nurses, that are currently available. It is a problem that is becoming progressively worse, with the burden falling more and more on the public sector which is already stretched.”

For Meridian Energy, Verbiest says the bold climate change and clean energy aspirations the board and management team have agreed is another big challenge but will also make an important difference to New Zealand.

As part of Meridian’s refreshed Climate Action Plan, the country’s largest renewable energy generator plans to take ambitious action on climate change to achieve its ‘Half by 30′ target, halving its FY21 baseline emissions by FY30 — including all scope 1, 2 and 3 categories. Meridian is also supporting New Zealand’s efforts to achieve net zero emissions for all greenhouse gases by 2050, which Verbiest says the entire organisation from top to bottom is committed to.

“Given we produce 30 per cent of New Zealand’s needs, there is a massive amount of capital investment we need to commit to over a long period of time — these are not short-dated assets.”

Meridian recently announced a target of bringing seven new large-scale renewable generation projects into operation around New Zealand in the next seven years. “We focus on this a lot, even though some investors might say we can’t be certain on returns because the policy isn’t clear at the moment,” Verbiest says.

“But we are going to go for it anyway because it needs to happen, and we are making some assumptions that the things we can’t control will work out.”

Finalist: Prue Flacks

Prue Flacks has chaired Mercury since 2019, having been a director since 2010. She was previously a director of Chorus, BNZ and chair of Queenstown Airport.

The Deloitte Top 200 judges applaud the role Flacks has played successfully navigating the electricity generator and retailer of electricity, gas, broadband and mobile services through significant change recently.

“Flacks has overseen some of the most challenging aspects the role of chair carries with it over the past few years, while the organisation continues to deliver for shareholders,” says Deloitte Top 200 judge Raumati-Tu’ua.

In 2020, Mercury’s chief executive Fraser Whineray left after five years as chief executive and 11 years service with the business. The judges note the transition to Vince Hawksworth, previously chief executive of Trustpower, is an example of a great CEO transition which has gone well.

“We were lucky to get Vince on board, one of the most experienced chief executives in the industry,” says Flacks. “He has a very clear understanding of the expectations and priorities of the board and I support him to do what the company needs to deliver. We operate a very high trust model, which has been very effective.”

She describes the role of chair as providing an important bridge between the board and management and says the composition of the board is something that must be carefully managed.

“Having the right people with the right skills around the table, and balancing that with experience and personalities is easier said than done,” she says. “I try to create an environment where everyone feels they can contribute.”

The judges congratulated Flacks for overseeing meaningful acquisitions. The New Zealand operations of Tilt Renewables was acquired in late 2021, followed by Trustpower this year. The latter has doubled Mercury’s total customer connections and accelerated its entry into the telecommunications market.

“We are now New Zealand’s biggest electricity retailer by customer market share — that is the opportunity Trustpower gave us,” Flacks says.

“It is not that being biggest is best, but scale does matter. Trustpower and Mercury were two complementary businesses but putting them together has given us scale and a good platform to invest further.”

Flacks says that the challenge for gentailers is fulfilling the critical role they play in the transition to a low carbon economy, while also being mindful of the current economic climate.

“We need to ensure Mercury is able to contribute to the significant investment that will be critical if the country is to achieve its 2050 carbon objectives, but at the same time we acknowledge that electricity is an essential utility and the electricity bill is a large component of some household budgets.”

She says Mercury has been providing support to customers facing financial difficulties, working alongside Kāinga Ora, budgeting agencies and community organisations.

“We are trying different ways to make sure our customers aren’t left behind as we also invest in the new generation that is required,” she says.

“It is a difficult challenge. We tend to attract a lot of criticism that I don’t think is always deserved.”

Finalist: Dame Therese Walsh

The Deloitte Top 200 judges say that as chair of both Air New Zealand and ASB Bank, Dame Therese Walsh has demonstrated her mettle as a chairperson throughout the pandemic.

Walsh also chairs the Chapter Zero NZ steering group, part of a global network of directors committed to taking action on climate change. She is a director of Antarctica New Zealand and On Being Bold — a collaboration of business leaders inspiring women at all stages of their careers.

Walsh was previously chair of TVNZ and Pro-Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington and was made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours for her contribution to sports administration.

Deloitte Top 200 judge Raumati-Tu’ua says Walsh has an engaging and inclusive style, and has defined herself as someone who excels in the role.

Walsh likes to oversee a “slightly more extrovert board”, by making sure directors get out of the boardroom.

“I don’t want to be hidden in the boardroom the entire time,” she says. “It is really important to understand what your customers, staff and other stakeholders are truly feeling about the business.”

This is, in part, why Walsh convened the recent Air New Zealand business mission to New York.

She says that trip, led on the ground by Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, was a chance to remind some of New Zealand’s top business leaders what they had been missing out on as Air New Zealand gets back to doing what it used to do: “being a really important part of NZ Inc thinking and the country’s economic development”.

Air New Zealand was hit hard by the pandemic and had to react swiftly to the curve balls of Covid which saw international borders closed and severely restricted domestic travel.

Walsh oversaw the airline through the turmoil, including a successful $1.2 billion equity raise, which will be used to repay its government loan and strengthen its financial position for recovery.

“This was fundamental to the ongoing ability for Air New Zealand to operate and support the NZ economy — it was mission critical,” she says.

Raumati-Tu’ua says that alongside Air New Zealand, Walsh has also competently led ASB Bank through a period of deep global and domestic financial and economic uncertainty.

Walsh says uncertainty, and “picking what needs to be done and the right time to do them” has been something that unites her role as chair of ASB Bank and Air New Zealand.

“The broad and deep global and domestic financial and economic uncertainty means that ASB is continuing to identify ways to assist and support its customers to prosper and make financial progress,” she says.

Despite her corporate successes over the past 12 months, Walsh says what has been most rewarding has been the ability to reconnect in person with the teams across the organisations she is involved in.

“It has been the ability to have them back in the office, interact with them and hear what has been happening in their lives and how passionate they remain. People have endured a lot. It is those smaller moments from reconnecting that have been the real highlight.”

The Chairperson of the Year award is sponsored by Forsyth Barr.

Deloitte Top 200: Resilience in a challenging year

Deloitte Top 200: Resilience in a challenging year

The high-level view of the 2022 Deloitte Top 200 Index shows total revenues for Top 200 companies increased 9.8 per cent from $187,418m in 2021 to $205,764m in 2022. This compares to a 0.5 per cent increase between 2020 and 2021.

Underlying earnings (ebitda) increased from $25,139m in 2021 to $29,370m in 2022. This is an increase of 16.8 per cent, compared to a 6.3 per cent increase in 2021.

The ebitda margin, an assessment of operating profitability as a percentage of total revenue (total ebitda/total revenue) increased slightly between 2021 (13.4 per cent) and 2022 (14.3 per cent).

Total profits after tax have increased from $6802m in 2021 to $10,518m in 2022. This is a 54.6 per cent increase year on year, compared to a 21.6 per cent increase in 2021. Net profit margin (profit after tax/total revenue) increased between 2021 (3.6 per cent) and 2022 (5.1 per cent).

Total Assets have increased from $257,470m in 2021 to $280,602m in 2022 – a 9.0 per cent increase, compared to a 4.5 per cent increase in 2021.

The number one spot in the Top 200 Index has been held by Fonterra since its formation in the early 1990s. This continues, with Fonterra’s revenue increasing 11.6 per cent during the year to reach $22,953m. This increase is mainly due to higher product sale prices.

The 200th-ranked entity on the Top 200 index in 2022 is a newcomer to the Index — Strait NZ — with revenue of $208m. Last year’s 200th ranked company, Aurecon, had revenue of $189m, a 10.1 per cent increase in revenue between 200th ranked companies year-on-year.

Transtasman healthcare and animal care products supplier Ebos Group maintained its number two ranking in the Top 200 Index, increasing its revenue by 15.7 per cent from $9,886m in 2021 to $11,439m in 2022. EBOS continued to expand and diversify, with several acquisitions completed during the year, which have contributed to revenue growth.

The revenue gap between the top two companies has remained fairly constant, slightly increasing by 7.8 per cent, as Fonterra had a revenue increase of 11.6 per cent.

Fletcher Building (ranked third) revenue increased by 4.7 per cent from $8120m in 2021 to $8498m in 2022.

The top 10 in the Index has seen some movement in 2022, with Mainfreight moving up to the sixth place (10th place in 2021) and Z Energy re-entering in seventh (fifth place in 2020 and 11th in 2021).

Zespri has moved down to eighth place from seventh in 2021, Foodstuffs NI has moved down to the ninth place from eighth place in 2021, and Meridian Energy has moved down to 10th place from sixth place in 2021.

These movements in the top 10 see Spark moving down from ninth place in 2021 to 11th in 2022.

Top Profits

The top profit for 2022 was $693m, reported by retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare (91st in the Top 200 Index). Ryman was ranked fifth for profit in 2021 with a profit after tax of $423m. Fair-value movement of investment properties of $746m contributed to its strong profit in 2022.

Last year’s top profit was held by Fonterra (ranked first in the 2022 Top 200 Index on a revenue basis), reporting a net profit of $532m in 2021. Fonterra also increased its profit after tax in 2022 to $661m, which sees it in second place in the profits ranking. The overall total of top 20 profits for 2022 has increased by 30.3 per cent year-on-year.

Further to this, the average profit after tax across all 200 companies has increased from $39.5m in FY21 to $52.6m in FY22 – a 33.2 per cent increase.

Mercury (21st) has moved up to third place in 2022, from 24th in 2021. Its profit after tax increased by 232.6 per cent from $141m in 2021 to $469m in 2022.

Meridian Energy (10th) has maintained its position of fourth place in 2022, with profit after tax increasing by 5.4 per cent from $428m in 2021 to $451m in 2022.

Fletcher Building (3rd) has moved up to fifth place in 2022, from eighth in 2021. Its profit after tax has increased by 38.5 per cent from $317m in 2021 to $439m in 2022.

F&P Healthcare (24th) and Auckland Airport (135th) have moved out of the top five profits for 2022, but remain in seventh and 18th place, respectively.

Biggest Losses

The biggest loss for 2022 was reported by Air New Zealand (ranked 17th in the Top 200 Index), with a loss of $591m.

Air New Zealand’s loss is larger than its 2021 loss after tax of $292m, moving the airline from reporting the third biggest loss in 2021 to the biggest loss in 2022.

Air New Zealand also incurred the biggest loss in 2020, reflective of the challenges faced by the air travel industry caused by border restrictions limiting international travel in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Channel Infrastructure (174th) and KiwiRail (54th) respectively hold the second and third biggest losses in 2022. Channel Infrastructure was previously known as Refining NZ and operated the Marsden Point refinery. Its loss is due to the change in operations from a refinery to an import terminal business.

KiwiRail was profitable in 2021 but had the second biggest loss in 2020.

CPB Contractors (98th) and Westland Dairy (63rd) respectively hold the fourth and fifth biggest losses in 2022. This is reasonably consistent with the loss positions they occupied last year — CPB Contractors was ranked 8th and Westland Dairy was 12th for 2021.

In 2021, hydrocarbon producer OMV (78th) reported the biggest loss ($567m). This has been turned around in 2022 with a profit of $123m.

Pacific Aluminium (43rd) has also moved out of the top biggest losses, from being placed second in 2021 (reporting a loss of $366m), to having a profit in 2022 of $140m.

Most improved profit

Oji Fibre Solutions (ranked 34th in the Top 200 Index) recorded the most improved profit out of all the entities on the Top 200 index, with a 4375.5 per cent increase from a $0.8m loss in 2021 to $34.1m profit in 2022.

Energy distributor Powerco, in 99th place, has the second most improved profit, recording a profit of $44.5m in 2022 compared to a $4.8m profit in 2021. This is an increase of 833.3 per cent.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients (35th) holds third place for most improved profit, with an increase of 617.2 per cent. In the current year, Ballance Agri-Nutrients recorded a profit of $55.8m, compared to a 2021 profit of $7.8m. The only overlap in the most improved profit list in 2022 relative to 2021 is agricultural cooperative Ravensdown (50th) in 12th place. Ravensdown was top of the most improved profit rankings in 2021 and has continued to grow in 2022, reporting a profit of $57.3m — an increase of 273.0 per cent.

Most Improved Revenue

Commodity merchandising and supply chain management company Wilmar Gavilon (ranked 90th in the Top 200 Index) reported the most improved revenue for 2022. Its revenue increased to $513m in the current year compared to $267m in 2021. Wilmar Gavilon was also second on the 2021 list of most improved revenue.

Second, for most improved revenue is Mitsubishi Motors NZ (58th). Mitsubishi Motors NZ had reported revenue of $429m in 2021, increasing to $795m in 2022 — an 85.6 per cent increase in revenue.

John Deere NZ (168th) has also seen a strong increase in revenue. It reported an increase of 63.3 per cent from $151m in 2021 to $245m in 2022, placing third for most improved revenue. This increase has meant John Deere NZ enter the Top 200 index for the first time.

China Forestry (40th) is the only other company to be included on this index for two years in a row.

Summit Forests (154th), Tetra Pak (164th), Sumitomo Chemical (165th), BMW NZ (182nd) and Blue Sky Meats (199th) are also new entrants to the Deloitte Top 200 Index in 2022 that have featured on the most improved revenue index in 2022.

Z Energy, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Ravensdown and Blue Sky Meats are companies included in both the most improved profit and most improved revenue index in 2022.

Top Return on Assets

Return on assets (ROA) provides an indication of how efficiently a company manages its assets in order to generate earnings. It is calculated by measuring profit against the total assets reported. TAB (ranked 112th in the Top 200 Index) holds the top spot for return on assets having previously been in second place in 2020 and 2021. TAB has maintained a strong ROA of 81.4 per cent in 2022 compared to 94.5 per cent in 2021.

Two newcomers occupy the second and third place for return on assets. Sumitomo Chemical (165th) is in second place with a ROA of 34.2 per cent and Blue Sky Meats (199th) is in third place with a ROA of 31.8 per cent.

Top Return on Equity

Return on equity measures how effectively a company can generate income relative to the number of money shareholders have invested in the firm.

It is a useful tool for investors, particularly when comparing firms within the same industry and is calculated by measuring the revenue earned against the average equity held over the past two years — to prevent changes in shareholder contributions from skewing the results. Essential services provider Ventia (ranked 105th in the Top 200 Index) has taken the top spot for return on equity. It has moved from 197th place in 2021, with a return on equity percentage of 2454.6 per cent. Harvey Norman (33rd) has moved up from sixth place to second place for its return on equity of 564.8 per cent.

Bunnings (26th) maintained its third place with a return on equity of 355.9 per cent for 2022. TAB (112th) has dropped from second place to fifth place for its return on equity of 243.6 per cent.

The Newcomers

This year, 16 companies were added to the Deloitte Top 200 Index. This compares to last year when 22 companies were added to the Index.

Investment holding firm Oregon Group entered the Index at the highest rank (85th in the Top 200 Index) with revenue of $532m.

Also entering the Top 200 Index within the top 150 is energy distribution company Horizon Energy at 144th.

Just Missed the Cut

United Steel (ranked 201st) just missed the cut in the Top 200 Index by $2m, with the 200th ranked company (Strait NZ) achieving revenue of $208m. Mediaworks (202nd), Arvida Group (203rd), CablePrice (204th), Precinct Properties (205th) and Sealed Air (206th) were close to breaching the Index in the current year, all achieving revenue around the $200m mark.

Precinct Properties and Sealed Air have fallen out of the Top 200 in 2022, previously holding 189th and 194th places in 2021, respectively.

Top 30 Financial Institutions Index

The Top 30 Financial Institutions Index sees one new addition to the index, Fidelity Life (ranked 27th).

The Top 30 have once again grown their total asset bases, this year by $36,244m from $635,617m in 2021 to $671,861m in 2022. This is a 5.7 per cent increase which is consistent with the increase seen from 2020 to 2021.

The top bank is once again ANZ, holding assets of $184,769m which have increased by 2.8 per cent from its 2021 total asset value of $179,744m. ANZ sits comfortably at the top spot with a $63,247m gap in total asset values between first place and second place (ASB).

Furthermore, ANZ also outpaces all other banks in terms of profit and equity.

The second spot in the Index is now held by ASB, moving up from the third place in 2021, with total assets of $121,522m — an increase of 7.9 per cent from the previous year.

Westpac has dropped to third place in 2022 from second place in 2021, with total assets of $119,848m.

BNZ has stayed in fourth place in 2022, with total assets of $119,122m.

All of the big four banks — ANZ, ASB, Westpac and BNZ — have seen an increase in their total assets in the current year.

Of the big four banks, ASB has both the highest return on assets ratio at 1.3, and the highest return on equity ratio of 15.4.

Kiwibank has retained its fifth-place spot, with total assets of $31,547m. Kiwibank’s total assets have increased by 11.8 per cent from $28,229m in 2021.

Cumulative profits for the Top 30 financial institutions have increased by 34.0 per cent from $5200m in 2021 to $6969m in 2022.

All of the top four financial institutions have had an increase in profit year-on-year.

ANZ reported an increase in profit from $1373m to $1939m (41.2 per cent), ASB reported an increase in profit from $1321m to $1471m (11.4 per cent), BNZ reported an increase in profit from $762m to $1322m (73.5 per cent), and Westpac has increased profit from $681m to $1057m (55.2 per cent).

Cumulative equity has increased by 10.0 per cent from $56,248m in 2021 to $61,870m in 2022.

The top eight financial institutions have remained the same eight entities from 2021 to 2022.

Heartland Bank has moved up to the ninth place from 11th place in 2021, pushing AMP Life (10th place) and MUFG Bank (11th place) down one spot each.

  • It is noted that certain financial institutions may have released unaudited earnings announcements that are not reflected in the indices or commentary above.

Deloitte Top 200: Sustainable Business Leadership: KMD Brands

Deloitte Top 200: Sustainable Business Leadership: KMD Brands

For the second year in a row, KMD Brands has been acknowledged for its relentless focus on sustainability, taking out the Deloitte Top 200 Sustainable Business Leadership award.

The global outdoor, lifestyle and sports company, formally known as Kathmandu Holdings, is the parent company to three iconic brands — Kathmandu, Oboz and Rip Curl.

Kathmandu gained B-Corp certification in 2019, becoming the largest Australasian retailer to be certified through the stringent process which recognises the highest standards of environmental and social performance. The company continues to push for sustainable practices with both surfwear brand Rip Curl and hiking footwear brand Oboz also working toward gaining B-Corp certification in FY23.

KMD Brands’ consistency and leadership in putting sustainability at the heart of its strategy, along with its strong targets and transparent approach was why the Deloitte Top 200 judges awarded it in this category again — a company they say others should compare themselves to as part of their own sustainability journey.

“Kathmandu has significantly influenced Oboz and Ripcurl and the three brands combined are making real evolutionary strides,” says Top 200 judge Hinerangi Raumati-Tu’ua. “KMD Brands’ focus on sustainability is broader than just themselves — they also work closely with their suppliers. It is clear that KMD Brands is focused on being a global leader in environmental, social and governance (ESG).”

Chief Legal and ESG officer at KMD Brands, Frances Blundell, says that love of and connection to the outdoors is a foundation for all the company’s brands. “We are very aware of our responsibility to protect and preserve the natural environment and the communities around it — otherwise there won’t be anywhere left for our customers and our products to get out there and enjoy.”

The judges were impressed with KMD Brands’ action towards its science-based targets to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement goals. It aims to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions by a minimum of 47 per cent by 2030 from an FY19 base year, and absolute Scope 3 emissions by a minimum of 28 per cent.

Last year, KMD Brands secured what was then New Zealand’s largest sustainability-linked loan. The A$100 million loan is tied to ESG targets. In the first year, the emissions reduction target was achieved for Kathmandu, triggering a discounted interest rate.

KMD Brands’ transition to a circular business model will see it eliminate what it calls a “take-make-waste” approach to business. The concept now forms a core base for its work, including boosting the responsible material content in its products from materials that are regenerative, recycled or recyclable, bio-based, biodegradable, responsibly farmed or grown.

Blundell says the starting point for circularity is durability and making products that last many years and can be used for a long time.

“We want to avoid resources becoming waste and ending up in landfill,” she says. “This is a huge industry-wide issue. Each of our brands are setting their own specific goals, including using materials that can be regenerated, that come from recycled sources or can be recycled.”

As part of this commitment to circular thinking, KMD Brands is working on repurposing and recycling its own waste products. Taking neoprene offcuts from Rip Curl’s factory and recycling them into carpet underlay has diverted 133 tonnes of neoprene from landfill in the past year.

Rip Curl also introduced a world-first wetsuit take-back programme across Australia. It accepts wetsuits from any brand and repurposes them into soft-fall matting for playgrounds and outdoor gyms. The programme is now being expanded into the US, France, Spain and Portugal.

To ensure recognition of the interdependence between people and the planet is embedded into the mindset and expectations of employees, KMD Brands has amended its group code of ethics. ESG responsibilities have been added to job descriptions for all KMD Brands employees, and ESG-related objectives are now part of its employee goal-setting and performance review process. “The team is engaged with our sustainability values and motivated by the conversations happening in the business to embed ESG within decision-making,” Blundell says.

“Most people now know that they have a responsibility, and they want to contribute. Being part of something bigger than yourself is a really empowering feeling.”

Finalist: Meridian Energy

New Zealand’s largest renewable generator, Meridian Energy, generates its electricity from 100 per cent renewable sources — wind, hydro and solar.

Top 200 judge Hinerangi Raumati-Tu’ua notes Meridian has done a significant reset on its sustainability strategy that has driven ambitious targets and meaningful actions that are shifting the dial.

“It is good to see them embracing their role in New Zealand’s low carbon transition over and above ‘business as usual’ and committing capital in a way that is focused on delivering at pace given the urgency of climate change,” she says.

As part of its refreshed Climate Action Plan, Meridian plans to take ambitious action to achieve its “Half by 30″ target, reducing its gross operational emissions by FY30 from an FY21 baseline — including all scope 1, 2 and 3 categories.

Meridian has recently widened its focus from clean energy to bring a lens on “a fairer and healthier world”, which is driving a more holistic approach to its sustainability efforts.

This includes the adoption of the updated GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) standards that move away from evaluating materiality based on issues that immediately influence stakeholder decision-making to actual and potential positive and negative impacts on the environment, economy and people — including human rights.

Head of corporate affairs and sustainability Claire Shaw says this is part of the company’s efforts to future-proof its approach to sustainability.

“We have to act with integrity — which means doing all the big things really well, but also thinking about the impacts on others,” she says.

“You make different decisions when you put people at the heart of the transition. This is pushing us to think more broadly about ESG beyond delivering on decarbonisation.”

Since 2019, Meridian has achieved net zero carbon across the operations of its business. Where it can’t currently reduce its operational emissions, Meridian has purchased and surrendered gold standard, and verified emission reductions.

Meridian’s Forever Forests programme will see it displace this by creating its own carbon sink, investing in permanent forests in New Zealand and transitioning them to be 100 per cent native over time.

The judges were particularly impressed with how Meridian is leaning into its role to support New Zealand’s net zero by 2050 targets and its transition to a more sustainable, low-emissions economy.

Meridian continues to develop its renewable energy development pipeline to grow generation capacity, which will help the Government meet its target of 50 per cent of total final energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2035.

Meridian continues to work with customers to accelerate the electrification of industrial heat away from coal and of transportation, and is exploring the economic, environmental and energy security opportunities of green hydrogen production.

Shaw says that Meridian’s size and scale means it thinks carefully about the impact of the systems that it operates in as it grows renewable energy for the country.

“We continue to respect our role as kaitiaki of the assets we are responsible for and we challenge ourselves to create long-term positive impact for New Zealand as a whole. If we do it well, we’ll unlock a future that’s good for tangata whenua, good for our customers, good for communities and our shareholders.”

Finalist: Fisher & Paykel Healthcare

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare (FPH) considers corporate social responsibility and sustainability to be inextricably linked to the way it does business.

The health equipment manufacturer, designer and marketer has a strong focus on the environment, responsible sourcing and efficient use of materials, waste reduction, and modern slavery, and has articulated its intentions in these areas in a new environmental and social responsibility policy.

“We have always had waste reduction optimisation in our DNA,” says Jonti Rhodes, vice president — supply chain, facilities & sustainability.

“But more recently we made a strong commitment to leaving a positive lasting impact on society and the environment. Not only through the products we provide, but also the environment, the community, and our carbon footprint.”

FPH recently formed a governance group with representatives from across the business to provide long-term strategic direction on how the business will continue to make progress in the most material areas.

The Top 200 judges note that there is real evidence of the company’s sustainability commitments and a clear intention to embed them into the nature of the business.

They were particularly impressed with the sustainability and social responsibility coverage in FPH’s annual report, and the balanced reporting that discusses the trade-offs between doing what is right for the patient and the many challenges to the environment this brings.

“Fisher & Paykel Healthcare has undergone a significant ramp up in sustainability initiatives in the last few years with key efforts on engaging with people across the business and making real change,” says Top 200 judge Raumati-Tu’ua.

“There is a real focus on key initiatives that can affect the wider industry and not just its own operations, including eco-design, sustainable packaging, bio-based and circular materials, and environmental lifecycle assessment.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for some of FPH’s key products increased by four to five times. This necessitated the need to work 24/7, resulting in higher electricity use and other direct emissions during the 2021 financial year.

But in the long term as Covid-19 diminishes, FPH is committed to decoupling carbon emissions from production levels. It has been piloting an internal carbon price during FY22 to factor carbon impact into its business decisions.

FPH has been measuring its carbon footprint since 2012, and since 2019 has set ambitious science-based targets for Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions, along with a Scope 3 supplier engagement target.

It will launch a new sustainable procurement framework to suppliers in FY23 and FY24, selecting and collaborating with those that align with its values, while also providing education and support on relevant standards.

“As a large company, we have some resources that others don’t,” says Rhodes. “You can’t just expel those companies that aren’t meeting your standard — we are engaging the supply network and bringing them up to speed with what is needed.”

The judges also commend FPH’s efforts to nurture a positive and inclusive culture based on trust and respect. As part of this, it has established employee groups formed around shared identities and experiences and the judges recognise the improvement in the company’s diversity and inclusion statistics over the last year.

The Sustainable Business Leadership award is sponsored by The Aotearoa Circle.