Mood of the Boardroom: Automation finds favour (NZ Herald)

Mood of the Boardroom: Automation finds favour (NZ Herald)

Conversations about the future workforce have been running hot lately, particularly following the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Recently, both IBM and British telecommunications giant BT Group cited automation and digitisation when announcing job cuts.

Automation is transforming almost all industries. Farmers are harnessing the power of automation to optimise every aspect of their operations, from herd management to milk production.

A recent Goldman Sachs study predicts that generative AI tools could see 300 million full-time jobs lost or diminished worldwide, leading to significant disruption in the job market.

Business leaders were asked whether Government should change the tax settings to accelerate investment in automation to lift productivity.

They overwhelmingly responded yes, with 68 per cent of respondents saying it should, underscoring the potential seen in automation to significantly boost productivity within various sectors.

“Technology can deliver significant efficiency, productivity, and sustainability benefits, and incentivising uptake across all levels of the economy will bring substantial benefits to New Zealand,” says Spark CEO, Jolie Hodson.

An education boss says “we need to ensure there is more investment in R&D to support locally led and developed AI and automation expertise, or this will become a process of offshoring and dependency on foreign providers (with many associated risks of both cost and missed opportunity).”

Just 15 per cent advocated against alternating tax settings.

Sam Stubbs, founder and CEO of Simplicity, notes that the crux of the matter lies in policy alignment rather than simply adjusting tax settings and deductibility.

Furthermore, a finance executive says the necessary incentives for promoting automation already exist within the current framework.

This perspective is backed up by a professional director, who says that businesses should already be actively pursuing automation, with current economic factors like inflation serving as additional driving forces.

Agribusiness & Trade: Evolving to rapidly changing consumer preferences

Agribusiness & Trade: Evolving to rapidly changing consumer preferences

Fonterra’s vice-president of food service for Greater China Justin Dai, says the $2 billion food service business the global dairy giant operates in China is evolving to keep ahead of rapidly changing consumer preferences.

Fonterra’s focus on localisation and innovation and the fusion of dairy goodness with local preferences in China has been a pillar of its success.

An example of this is the innovative “cheese dirty coffee” launched a year ago, a drink that combines espresso with milk, cream, cream cheese and butter.

“I know it sounds a bit odd,” Dai told the 2023 China Business Summit. “But when this dirty coffee was launched about a year ago, it was an immediate hit. It was launched by one of the large local coffee chains in China, and in the first week nationwide more than six million cups were sold.”

Fonterra’s commitment to innovation is underscored by the establishment of five application centres in China over the past decade, in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu and a newly opened facility in Shenzhen.

The centres are a base for collaborative creativity, both within Fonterra and also with external stakeholders including bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants and retailers.

“This is an advantage we have in China, to work together with our customers to drive innovation,” Dai says. “We have strong confidence in the outlook of China. Demand is coming back, and we have the confidence to continue innovation.

“We will continue to invest in our partnership with our customers, going broader and deeper with our partners to continue to bring the goodness of New Zealand dairy into Chinese consumers’ recipes.”

Through Anchor Food Professionals, Fonterra serves four major channels within China’s food service market: bakery, beverage, dining and the rapidly growing retail food service sector. Its reach spans over 470 cities, including all tier one and tier two cities, along with hundreds of tier three and tier four cities, in partnership with its authorised Anchor distributors.

Key trends shaping the market:

● Gen-Z’s affinity for traditional Chinese pastries infused with dairy is creating new culinary opportunities.

● Social media’s pervasive influence is revolutionising buying behaviour, prompting an intense marketing arms race.

● The interplay between premium and mass markets is intensifying competition and redefining strategies.

● Fast, bold innovation is blurring channel boundaries and redefining the industry.

● The shift towards varied dining occasions, encompassing online, offline and food service retail, is altering consumption habits.

● Niche brands and the untapped potential of lower-tier cities present vast growth opportunities.

Agribusiness & Trade: Comvita embarks on sustainable strategy

Agribusiness & Trade: Comvita embarks on sustainable strategy

Despite the pandemic and border restrictions, New Zealand mānuka honey exporter Comvita was able to elevate its market share in mainland China from 39 per cent to an impressive 60 per cent.

Andy Chen, Regional CEO APAC for Comvita, shared the story behind this success at the China Business Summit last month.

He explained that the brand’s New Zealand origin and reputation as the largest mānuka honey manufacturer had been key selling points in the past, but these narratives lost their effectiveness several years ago, resulting in a plateau in growth.

Chen explained that the China market is constantly changing. “In the last 5000 years of China, the only thing that has never changed is change,” he told the Summit.

“Chinese consumers are very open-minded. They embrace new stuff every day, but they are also impatient. We need new stories for them.”

In 2020, under the guidance of new leadership led by group chief executive David Banfield, the honey company began sharing the “Why Comvita?” story. Comvita began highlighting its strengths as a business — that it is not only a leader from New Zealand in terms of beekeeping, but also emphasising its position as the only brand worldwide to ensure quality control from “land to hand”, including comprehensive soil health management and rigorous testing procedures. Storytelling around these areas helped Comvita connect with Chinese consumers and secure rapid growth in the Chinese market.

In 2022, Comvita again adapted, this time asking: “What is more relevant to Chinese consumers after the pandemic?”

Chen says Comvita’s consumers tend to be upper-middle class, well-educated, and environmentally conscious even before the pandemic. As a response, Comvita unveiled its “Harmony Plan,” demonstrating its commitment to sustainability, carbon neutrality by 2025, and bee welfare initiatives.

As part of this, Comvita is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2025, and ultimately becoming carbon positive by 2030. It is minimising its environmental impact through carbon reduction and improving the circularity of its packaging.

Comvita has committed to the rescue of 10 million bees annually and aspires to extend this to 100 million. It is achieving this by being at the forefront of ethical bee welfare standards, and through its global partnerships with dedicated beekeepers and rescuers, uniting efforts to protect hives and uplift the welfare of bees.

Another key aspect of Comvita’s Harmony Plan is nurturing biodiversity and restoring natural ecosystems. It is planting native bush and trees across New Zealand and has plans to do so in China. It has committed 1 per cent of its profits to local communities, giving employees a day off each year to help people in the communities around them.

Chen told the China Business Summit that these narratives, underpinned by tangible and demonstrable actions, are resonating well among its customers — particularly those residing in Tier-1 Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou — and have enabled Comvita’s remarkable growth in the region to continue.

“We are real, we are genuine, and we are leveraging our industry knowledge and expertise to help people and the communities wherever we go,” he says.

China Business Summit 2023: Rebuilding tourism and education links

New Zealand’s thriving tourism and export education links with China were heavily impacted during the pandemic years, enduring significant challenges and setbacks. The reopening of borders has seen a remarkable revitalisation of these connections. The return of foreign tourists has been a prominent bright spot for New Zealand’s economy, and there has been a notable increase in study visa approvals, particularly for universities. This panel will share perspectives on the changed landscape, including new strategies adopted to rebuild business, and the inspiring wins and war stories that have emerged along the way, showcasing the resilience and adaptability of the sectors.

  • Lisa Li, Managing Director, China Travel Service
  • Grant Webster, Chief Executive, Tourism Holdings
  • Professor Dawn Freshwater, Vice-Chancellor, University of Auckland
  • Dr Wiremu Doherty, Chief Executive, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi
  • Moderator: Tim McCready


China Business Summit 2023: Marketing health, wellness and innovation to China

This session will uncover the strategies, insights, and innovative approaches that have made Comvita and Fonterra leading names in the industry. Speakers will share the intricacies of navigating and innovating for Chinese market and effectively promoting health and wellness to the region.

  • Andy Chen, Regional CEO, APAC, Comvita
  • Justin Dai, Vice President Foodservice, Fonterra Greater China
  • Moderator: Tim McCready


China Business Summit 2023: Summit close

MC: Tim McCready

Future of Consumption (Asia NZ Foundation & Auckland Business Chamber)

FUTURE OF CONSUMPTION – SESSION ONE from Auckland Business Chamber on Vimeo.

FUTURE OF CONSUMPTION – SESSION TWO from Auckland Business Chamber on Vimeo.


The future of consumption is constantly evolving, with new technologies and innovative practices transforming the way we consume foods to the sustainable practices we adopt. From sustainability and vertical farming to cell-based cuisine, the future of consumption is full of exciting developments.

To help you stay ahead of the curve and gain valuable insights, you will learn about the impact of sustainability, vertical farming, and cell-based cuisine on the future of food, as well as how these practices are being implemented in the industry.

Join the Asia New Zealand Foundation and the Auckland Business Chamber for two sessions delivered digitally on the 20th of June.  These sessions will take a deep dive into these seismic changes with business leaders from the Asia region to discuss the forces, the opportunities, and the challenges that are shaping the future of consumption.

Capital Markets: Can ChatGPT predict share price performance?

It’s clear that the capital markets will continue to face significant headwinds, with many of the same pressures and external forces that have shaped the sector in recent years still in play.

Persistently high inflation remains a top concern. While it remains stubbornly elevated, there are encouraging signs that it may have peaked after a considerable effort from central banks to rein in spending.

Much of the supply chain disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stabilised, but persistent geopolitical tensions and fragmentation, particularly between China and the United States, continue to pose a risk to economic and financial stability.

Adding to the complexity, the pandemic-induced global talent shortage is still acutely felt in multiple sectors, including certain areas of the capital markets.

Gaining momentum are several megatrends that have become entwined with the capital markets sector. These include the rapid technological evolution, the growing need for robust cybersecurity measures to protect against digital threats, and the ever-increasing demand for sustainable investment options.

Capital Markets: Rising appetite for NZ on the ASX

Capital Markets: Rising appetite for NZ on the ASX

The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) has been pursuing a strategy over the past five years to increase the diversity of stocks available.

Diversification is a central tenet of well-balanced portfolios, and that means companies in the technology and life science sectors are in high demand. Institutional investors, in particular, seek additional investment prospects beyond the long-standing dominance of mining and financial firms on the ASX.

Blair Harrison, head of New Zealand Listings at ASX, says investors are also looking for diversity in geography, and for that reason they also like to see New Zealand companies in the mix.

New Zealand’s burgeoning tech sector already has a formidable presence on the ASX.

Until recently, 10 of the 65 New Zealand companies listed on the ASX were technology companies, two of which were included in the ASX All Tech Index (earlier this month church donation company Pushpay was delisted after being sold to a consortium linked to a Melbourne-based private equity firm).

Xero has achieved “unicorn” status on the ASX as a technology company with a valuation or market cap of over $1 billion. With a market capitalisation of more than $10b, the New Zealand-founded accounting software company is now one of the largest on the ASX, the fifth largest company by market capitalisation in the All Tech index and a constituent of the ASX 50.

Harrison says from an investor standpoint, New Zealand tech companies are well respected globally.

“They tend to exhibit an entrepreneurial approach, demonstrate good governance, and possess a global mindset right from the outset,” he explains.

“This is largely due to the challenge of geographic distance. Being a country that is far away, these companies are aware they must target international markets and adopt an international perspective from the very beginning, which companies in Australia don’t necessarily have to do.”

The large investment community and significant number of companies in Australia mean that New Zealand technology stocks have greater scope to be covered by analysts. The ASX has close to 250 technology companies and around 200 companies that come under the umbrella of life sciences.

Harrison explains that this means that Australia has fund managers, researchers and brokers who can specialise and have greater familiarity with the sectors.

“Rather than one analyst who covers a range of sectors — from industrial to consumer products to technology — you can have a team of people focused on a particular sector, which means they have a very good understanding of how a company is performing.”

That research, in turn, raises the awareness of emerging New Zealand companies among Australian and international fund managers.

These companies can also be compared against similar ASX-listed healthcare and technology companies, which helps analysts determine company valuations and provides economies of scale in research.

Harrison says there is a robust pipeline of technology companies looking to list, and he expects to see New Zealand tech continue to thrive on the ASX over the next few years. This is driven by investor appetite, both from Australia and New Zealand, and further afield.

Beyond tech, other New Zealand sectors that are in demand from the ASX investor base are infrastructure stocks including airports and ports which are not common on the ASX. New Zealand’s aged-care sector is another of interest.

Looking ahead, Harrison says the scale of superannuation funds across Australia and New Zealand will have an impact on investment choices and companies that come to the stock exchange.

By 2041, the total superannuation assets of Australia and New Zealand combined are expected to approach A$10 trillion.

“We know that a lot of that superannuation fund money goes into the stock market,” he says. “That means there will be a huge demand for companies to come to the ASX, and in particular, demand for companies that meet the attributes that the demographic are looking to invest in.”

He points to the rise in economies focused on climate change and the future of food as an example of this.

“ESG is having a huge impact because investors are becoming more powerful. We are all becoming investors — either directly or indirectly — through our superannuation, which is growing exponentially.”

Listings down last year, but higher activity in follow-on offerings

When volatility and uncertainty sweep across global economies, the volume and value of initial public offerings (IPOs) on share markets fall. IPOs were down around the world in 2022, attributable to volatility in the markets brought on by significant macroeconomic events, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and surging inflation.

While this was also true for Australia, the ASX still managed 107 listings in 2022. Almost all these listings were in mining, particularly for battery materials like lithium, copper, nickel and gold, which are in high demand.

This figure is close to its annual average of around 135 per year, but down from a phenomenal 2021 that saw 241 companies debut on the ASX fuelled by the cash that was injected into the economy.

“We continue to engage with companies and stakeholders in the ecosystem,” says Harrison.

“Those conversations haven’t slowed down at all, and once the level of volatility returns to a normal level, we expect a lot of these listings to come to market.”

The ASX tracks volatility through the S&P/ASX 200 VIX, a real-time volatility index. This enables interpretation of investor sentiment and market expectations. Notably, the ASX tends to witness higher IPO activity when the VIX value falls within the 10-15 zone.

Despite the decrease in listings last year, the ASX saw higher activity in follow-on offerings as ASX-listed companies raised capital. Follow-on offerings, which include placements, rights issues and share purchase plans, can also be used to bring new sophisticated and institutional investors into a share register and help increase liquidity in a company’s shares.

ASX was the top-ranked exchange globally for the volume of follow-on capital offerings in 2022 with 1060. This was more than double the comparable volume on the Nasdaq exchange in the United States, more than triple the volume on the London Stock Exchange and was higher than any exchange in Asia-Pacific.

This is the third consecutive year that ASX has led global rankings for follow-on offerings by volume. By value of follow-on offerings, ASX was the fifth-ranked exchange globally in 2022. More follow-on capital was raised on ASX last year than on the London Stock Exchange or Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Some industries were hit hard through the pandemic and needed to raise finance to shore up their balance sheets and get through, but Harrison says that other raises were more opportunistic.

“For example, a company might have taken the opportunity to raise capital for an acquisition of a company at a good valuation compared to in 2021 when valuations were very high,” he says.

Blair Harrison

Blair Harrison is the Head of New Zealand Listings at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and heads the ASX New Zealand office, based in Auckland.

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.