A group of emerging leaders has published a letter calling for CEOs and other leaders across the country to enable a better, safer and more inclusive New Zealand following the Christchurch mosque attacks on 15 March.
The letter, already supported by organisations including the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and Ernst & Young (EY), commits to addressing discrimination and creating more inclusive environments within New Zealand workplaces.
“As leaders, this is a critical time for us to reflect, listen, learn and most importantly empower change to enable a better, safer, more inclusive country that embraces diversity for our people,” the letter reads.
“Unfortunately, racism and discrimination are still a part of daily life for many New Zealanders. We have a responsibility as leaders to ensure this ceases – not just for ourselves, but for our children, families, friends, colleagues, communities and future generations. Now is the time to act with strength and to use aroha and respect to forge a pathway forward.”
The letter, published at www.nzstandtogether.co.nz and on the LinkedIn page ‘NZ Leaders Stand Together’ was initiated by a group of emerging leaders graduating from the Darden Executive Programme as the events in Christchurch unfolded on 15 March.
Executives across New Zealand are being encouraged to become signatories to the open letter and join the dedicated LinkedIn group which has been set up for leaders to chat and share resources that support organisations to undertake the actions laid out in the letter.
Organisations that sign the letter are pledging to create a culture where people are empowered to speak up when they observe casual or systemic discrimination in the workplace. The organisations are also promising to provide the training, tools and techniques to support inclusive behaviour, to regularly review internal processes, and to celebrate and acknowledge the value of diversity in the workplace.
Spokesperson for the group, Sharon Davies, CEO of Talent Propeller and a 2019 Darden alumni member, said two of the key threads in the programme were inclusive growth and leadership that embraced diversity.
“While many might argue New Zealand is already a progressive and inclusive country, the mosque attacks highlighted that we still have a long way to go before we can say racism and discrimination aren’t problems here,” said Ms Davies.
“So, as emerging leaders within a range of New Zealand organisations, we recognised that we could leverage our own networks and drive real change within New Zealand workplaces to build a better future for all New Zealanders.”
Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr and EY NZ Managing Partner Simon O’Connor said they were committed to ensuring a positive and inclusive environment for their organisation’s employees today and in the future, and called on others to show their support for the initiative too.
“Being a signatory to the open letter is a public way of sharing our commitment to developing and promoting inclusive, diverse and safe workplaces. Some organisations are further along in this journey than others, yet collectively we will work together to empower change. We hope more organisations will join us,” Mr Orr said.
“The events in Christchurch have been a wake-up call for many New Zealanders. Now is the time to make real change that fosters a safer, better future for all of our people and we are pleased to be making that commitment today along with many other New Zealand organisations. We hope more will join us today,” Mr O’Connor said.
Organisations already signed up to the commitment laid out in the letter include Aeroqual, Auckland Transport, Ernst & Young, Grounded Packaging, Heartland Bank, LMAC New Zealand Limited, Plant and Food Research, Porirua City Council, Propellerhead, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Refining NZ, Synlait Milk Limited, Tainui Group Holdings, Talent Propeller, Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki, The Babysitter’s Club, and Waikato-Tainui College for Research & Development.
The Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, Paul Hunt, supports the initiative.
“It’s up to all of us to stand up to racism, including in the workplace. I applaud the business leaders who have signed the open letter for speaking out today,” Mr Hunt said.
“I encourage organisations to leverage the resources available on the Human Rights Commission’s Give Nothing to Racism website to support their pursuit of more diverse and inclusive workplaces,” he said.
The initiative is also supported by Hon Lianne Dalziel, Mayor of Christchurch, who is also an alumnus of the Darden Executive Programme.
“We will not be defined by what happened on the 15th of March 2019, we are defined by what followed – the unity, the love, the compassion and the kindness,” Ms Dalziel said.
ABOUT NZ LEADERS STAND TOGETHER
How did this initiative come about?
This Open Letter is an initiative led by a group of the 2019 cohort of the New Zealand-based Darden Executive Programme (which is offered by the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in the US). This cohort graduated from the programme on 15 March – the day of the Christchurch mosque attacks.
A large part of the Darden Executive Programme is focused on diversity and inclusion and the continuing need for leaders across business, Government and the non-profit sector to lead the way in acknowledging, understanding and engaging difference.
These discussions and learnings have inspired the cohort to commit and contribute to influencing positive societal change in our country.
What are you hoping to achieve with it?
We hope New Zealand leaders and their organisations will get behind this campaign to support a more tolerant, inclusive and safer New Zealand.
We’d like to see real change made within New Zealand workplaces and society so prejudice and discrimination, whether intentional or casual, are no longer accepted.
We want to establish this initiative as an ongoing discussion so that the commitment organisations make as specified in our open letter remains a priority and isn’t forgotten over time.
We’re proud to have the support of the Human Rights Commission to align ‘NZ Leaders Stand Together’ with their ‘Give Nothing to Racism’ campaign. Our goals are aligned, and we are committed to working with the Commission to make positive change. More information is available at https://givenothing.co.nz.
What are your expectations of organisations who sign up to support this initiative?
We hope that organisations:
- Commit to leading and ensuring implementation of the changes and behaviours as listed in the Open Letter.
- Develop, if they haven’t already, diversity and inclusion policies that reflect this commitment.
- Act as champions for a better, safer, more inclusive New Zealand to support positive change and ensure it remains a priority for New Zealand leaders and their organisations.
We will utilise our Linkedin page to foster and encourage discussion and information sharing about the progress being made to eradicate prejudice and discrimination.
The Human Rights Commission has tools and resources that are available to organisations to use to work towards these outcomes. Those can be found at https://www.hrc.co.nz/resources/ and https://givenothing.co.nz/download.
What are some examples of procedures that organisations already have in place?
The signatories to the letter come from a diverse range of organisations, and accordingly their journeys to embrace diversity and inclusiveness are at different stages. As signatories they are actively and openly committing to undertaking the actions set out in the letter, which will help to enable all these organisations to continue this journey to influence positive societal change in New Zealand.
We encourage signatories to share their experiences, case studies and resources with each other via our LinkedIn page to ensure that we all learn from good practices and outcomes.
How many graduated from the Darden programme?
Forty-three emerging leaders from a diverse range of New Zealand business, public sector, non-profit and iwi organisations successfully completed and graduated from the two-week Darden programme, which was held in Taupo from 3-15 March 2019.
When did the Darden programme begin? What is the history? What is involved in the programme?
The Darden Executive Programme is designed to challenge participants to push their limits in leadership and strategy. It is currently in its 26th year of delivery in New Zealand and alumni now number more than 1,400. Who are the individuals behind this initiative? What are their roles/level of seniority?
Members of the working group are:
Aaron Kenny, Strategic Finance Manager, Synlait Milk Limited
Ben Grant, Founder and Director, Grounded Packaging
Bridget Jolly, Associate Director, Ernst & Young Limited
Darryn Grant, Manager City Growth & Strategic Property, Porirua City
Jane Small, Group Manager Property & Planning, Auckland Transport
Ruth Russell, Associate Director, Ernst & Young Limited
Sharon Davies, Founder and Director, Talent Propeller
Sonya Haggie, Communications Advisor, Tainui Group Holdings
Vanessa Rayner, Manager Industry Insights & Thematics, Reserve Bank of New Zealand