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New Zealand Business Leaders Say Sustainability Trumps Profit In Ground-breaking Leadership Report

Auckland, New Zealand: BMW New Zealand has just published its Next Generation Leadership report, a research study that documents five crucial components New Zealand business leaders must embrace today, so that they succeed in the future.

The most ground-breaking takeaway from the report is a mindset shift from New Zealand’s top business leaders, with more than fifty-one percent of those surveyed now agreeing that sustainability has become more important than profit.

Sustainability Trumps Profit

This significant milestone has been driven by a younger generation of business leaders who place an increasing emphasis on sustainability. A mere 15 per cent of business leaders under the age of 40 believe profit is the only business metric to focus on, compared with 40 per cent of those above the age of 50.

The generation gap is also evident in how comfortable business leaders are addressing sustainability issues. Three quarters (76%) of business leaders acknowledge it will be a major challenge to implement sustainable practises across their entire business, with seventy per cent of leaders over the age of 50 believing it will be a difficult task. This contrasts with the 31 per cent of leaders under the age of 40 who see it as a challenge.

Diversity and Inclusion

The report also identifies improvements around diversity and inclusion implemented from the top, with more than half (57 per cent) of business leaders saying they put enough focus on inclusivity at the workplace.

However, further up the corporate ladder, the report finds many that are nervous about addressing the challenge head-on. Just 16 per cent of respondents believe it will be straightforward to reach gender and ethnic diversity in senior leadership positions.

Common misconceptions around diversity and inclusion linger. When examining the gender pay gap, 61 per cent of our business leaders say the pay gap is too large with 13 per cent saying it is acceptable.

There is significant variation between male and female respondents on the issue. One in five male leaders (20 per cent) don’t believe the gender pay gap is an issue, compared with just 5 per cent of females.

Seventy-one per cent of business leaders believe the LGBT community has enough exposure in senior leadership positions despite none of New Zealand’s Top 100 companies having an openly LGBT CEO.

This varies hugely based on age. Forty-two per cent of leaders under the age of 30 believe there is not enough LGBT representation, whereas only 17 per cent of leaders over the age of 60 feel the same.

Workplace Wellbeing and Mental Health

The Next Generation Leadership Report acknowledges workplace wellbeing and mental health as a key driver of productivity, with one in five business leaders believing workplace wellness (10 per cent) or mental health (10 per cent) should be the highest priority for the next generation of business leaders. Many are willing to adopt more flexible and contemporary wellness solutions.

Flexible working surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one in five employees (21.8 per cent) spending more than 50 per cent of their time working at home. Surprisingly, business leaders seem to be strong advocates of making a four-day working week permanent, with 59 per cent of respondents saying this is a sound concept.

This has typically been championed by younger leaders, or female leaders. 70 per cent of female respondents are supportive of the concept, compared with just half (51 per cent) of men. Two thirds (67 per cent) of leaders under the age of 40 strongly support the concept compared with just a quarter (24 per cent) of those over the age of 50.

Employee Assistance Programs are well established workplace wellness initiatives in New Zealand, yet our business leaders are unsure if they go far enough. In the report, two thirds of leaders (65 per cent) believe employees need a bespoke mental health program that stretches beyond the standard employee assistance program.

Research Methodology

The research was conducted by Pure Profile in February 2021 with a cross-industry sample of 500 business leaders.

The report also includes comment and opinion on issues from business leaders including:

  • Karol Abrasowicz-Madej: Managing Director New Zealand - BMW
  • Chris Litchfield: Managing Director New Zealand and Pacific – Coca-Cola Amatil
  • Ranjna Patel: Founder and Director – Tamaki Health
  • Craig Hudson: Managing Director – Xero
  • Doug Paulin: CEO – Sealord
  • Shama Sukul Lee: Founder and CEO – Sunfed
  • Geoff Ross: Director, Lake Hawea Station
  • Brooke Roberts: Co-founder and 3EO – Sharesies
  • Lyn Lim: Director, Restaurant Brands Limited and General Capital Limited

Karol Abrasowicz-Madej, Managing Director of BMW New Zealand, commented: “Next Generation Leadership is a relentless desire to be better and do better for ourselves, our communities and for the environment. We have worked alongside some of New Zealand’s most progressive and innovative business leaders to help formulate this report and their insights prove that today’s business leaders truly understand and appreciate tomorrow’s business challenges.”

To read the full BMW Next Generation Leadership report, please visit the BMW New Zealand LinkedIn page.

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