Business

Message from Mike Bennetts, CEO

23/03/2016

Message from Mike Bennetts, CEO

Diversity in the workplace is something that is quite topical at present. New Zealand has recently been described as ‘super diverse’ given 25% of people living here were not born in NZ.

At Z, diversity encompasses gender, race, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, physical capability, family responsibilities, education and cultural background. We believe that diversity within our workforce makes our organisation stronger and more capable. With a diverse team we are more able to understand our broad ranging customer and stakeholder needs and to respond effectively to them.

Recently the NZ Exchange asked for submissions on potential changes to the Corporate Governance Best Practice Code (NZX Code), with one area being diversity. As a public company Z has responded and said public companies should “adopt a diversity policy, establish measurable objectives for achieving appropriate diversity within its senior management and board, and report on progress made in achieving such objectives”. We also said companies should “adopt numerical targets for measuring performance against diversity in the broader sense.”

This link will take you to the submission where we also state our views on transparency of reporting for executive remuneration and health and safety performance: https://z.co.nz/assets/NEWS/Z-Energy-NZX-Corporate-Governance-submission-171215.pdf

As good as I think diversity is for our business, my experience tells me that it doesn’t make that much of a difference if there is not an environment of inclusion. So you’ll often hear me talk about diversity and inclusion (D&I) together, as I believe they both need to be present. An inclusive environment means that whatever diversity you have is given the best opportunity to express itself, be heard, and be acted upon.

I also think inclusion is the most effective way to manage the risks that may arise from quotas or tokenism which, by the way, I think is very disrespectful to those from minority groups and does little to realise the tremendous benefits of diversity.

So what has Z been doing about diversity? A few examples:

  • When I first joined Z as CEO, I inherited no female direct reports. Today four of my ten reports are women.
  • When we first formed Z we had six male directors. Today we have three women on our Board of seven directors.
  • More than 85% of the people who have joined Z over the past six years do not have any downstream oil experience, i.e. we have deliberately recruited people with deep experience of other sectors like telecommunications, FMCG, financial services, etc.
  • Each year we have positively confirmed we have real pay equity, i.e. men and women are paid equally for the same job or at the same career level.
  • Our recruitment process has been changed to ensure diversity of interview panels and remove any systemic bias to recruit in our own image. 

I have no doubt that our improvements in profit, customer satisfaction and employee engagement are because our company is more diverse than it was, at all levels.

Recently in our procurement practices I have asked that our RFPs include an assessment of the diversity practices of our suppliers, much in the same way that we include other non-price elements like sustainability into our considerations. We do this because it is another way to demonstrate our commitment to a more diverse and inclusive NZ. We look forward to your support in ensuring we deliver on that.

Mike Bennetts, CEO