Update from Alex

26 April 2016

Joining the opportunity leaders

Last Friday, when Paula Bennett signed the Paris agreement on climate change, it marked the beginning of a significant shift for New Zealand. She stated, “New Zealand is absolutely committed to reducing our emissions and to achieving the ambitious target we set before Paris. For New Zealanders, it marks the foundation of our efforts to keep growing in a way that is sustainable for our planet.”

Regardless of whether New Zealand has set the right targets, the signing of the agreement marks an important philosophical opportunity for global, and New Zealand, businesses. Her second statement touches on the commonly held belief that we need to reinvent growth, or to create a new way of growing. At senior levels across the planet, it has become increasingly clear that there is a need to break the link between the pursuit of human ambition and depletion of the natural environment. This requires leaders, both at CEO level and on boards, to possess a new strategic mindset.

The recently released Global Opportunity Report 2016 (pdf) is the second report in a series focusing on the opportunities that climate change presents for the planet. Spearheaded by DNV-GL, the United Nations Global Compact (the world's largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative) and Monday Morning Global Institute (Scandinavia’s think-tank), their 2015 report pioneered the concept of ‘opportunity leadership’:

“Changing systems starts with people who look at the world from an opportunity perspective and take action. They have an eye for spotting risk on the horizon as well as the ability to navigate through it and come out on the other side with innovative opportunities…

“They are system thinkers able to see and understand how individual projects, single initiatives, and policy measures influence an entire system. They see the big picture and actively try to change it by creating value for society, the planet, and business. Secondly, they possess the courage to challenge conventional thinking, and they dare to introduce disruptive ways of working. To them, business as usual is just not good enough, and a risk is an opportunity to introduce needed change. Thirdly, opportunity leaders are capable of spotting the right mix of partners required to elevate change to a societal scale.”

Michael Treschow, Chair of Unilever, interviewed recently by Helle Bank Jorgenson of B Accountability said, “It is essential, not only to companies but to the legacy of the leaders of today, that companies have a purpose beyond being profitable — a purpose that also will help achieve the 2030 sustainable development agenda and all or some of the 17 goals.”

Supporting New Zealand’s building, construction and property sector leaders to re-think the role of sustainability in strategy is topmost in our minds when we work with NZGBC members. And this month, there are plenty of examples of companies starting to push those boundaries in New Zealand, from the EECA Awards finalists to the latest 10 Homestar Built rating, to NDY’s double NABERSNZ tenancy rating. This month we launch our very own ‘pushing the boundaries’ work, the Green Star Innovation Series, representing the opportunity to lead by integrating innovative opportunities into a Green Star project. The series will cover how to address the Green Star Innovation Challenges, starting with Culture, Heritage and Identity, and Social Return on Investment. Watch this space for more…

Finally, you will have received the news yesterday that I feel it is time to move on to fresh challenges, reconnect with my children and leave a little space for somebody else to step up and lead the change. I have loved this job so much, it’s been a very hard decision to step back when it’s in your DNA. I’m still passionate about the sustainable built environment, am not going far and will still be able to connect with many of you, just in a different way. There’s plenty of time over the coming few months to do a proper handover and introduce you to the new Chief Executive once recruited. I’ll keep you updated on progress.

Warm wishes,


P.S. Hope to see you all at Construction Rocks in a couple of weeks – it’s the industry’s very own ‘Battle of the Bands’ and a great night to let your inner wild child out!