Sanford — a finalist for the category in last year's awards — has taken the MinterEllisonRuddWatts Excellence in Governance award in 2018, in recognition of the company's strong focus on being a good corporate citizen, with broader considerations beyond its commercial activity.

Sanford, New Zealand's biggest and oldest seafood company, has been using the internationally recognised "Integrated Reporting" framework since 2014. This has been recognised by the market, for providing a balanced picture of their economic, environmental, and social performance, facilitating comparability, benchmarking and assessing performance; and addressing issues of concern to stakeholders.

The Deloitte Top 200 judges recognise the hard work that has gone into Sanford's impressive integrative reporting, and say the effort being made to be a good corporate citizen stands out in terms of their overall governance.

The Sanford board chaired by independent director Paul Norling, includes Abby Foote, Bruce Goodfellow, Peter Goodfellow, Peter Kean and Rob McLeod.

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Sanford embarked on a significant culture change a few years ago.

As part of this, Sanford has placed a strong emphasis on offering meaningful opportunities for continual learning and development, setting a goal to maximise the prospects of all its people.

In line with this, Sanford introduced its 'Keeping it Fresh' numeracy and literacy initiative three years ago, a programme that puts participants together into groups of around eight people for a 10-week course which takes them out of their regular roles for four hours a week. Participants are given a group project to work on, and many have produced a result that has helped them and the business.

Recent examples include work on reducing plastic in Sanford's day to day operations, a project on how to respectfully demonstrate the company's values across a multi-cultural work environment and one on how to impart technical knowledge to new staff through storytelling and mentoring.

In the last year, Sanford has run Keeping it Fresh across four sites and graduated 88 of its employees. The company says participation in the programme has extended beyond the workplace, with one of the standout changes being in people's confidence to manage their money through numeracy skills training.

"We are delighted with the results we are seeing from our Keeping it Fresh programme, for us as a business and for the Sanford people who are taking part," says Sanford's chairman Paul Norling. "It has become clear that they are deriving real benefits in both their working lives and their personal lives, which is excellent."

In Sanford's sustainability policy, the company acknowledges that sustainability sits at the heart of its business: "It is fundamental to our connection with New Zealand and the growth of our business. We understand our environment, economic and social choices have an impact, now and in the future."

Sanford recognises that climate change is a key risk for its business, with the potential to change the distribution and abundance of fish stocks, increase the number of biosecurity incursions, and increase the ocean's acidity, affecting marine ecosystems and causing a loss of income to the industry.

"We believe that the right to fish our precious marine resources under New Zealand's Quota Management System and the right to utilise New Zealand's beautiful marine space for farming has to be fundamentally and continuously acknowledged through the commitment by Sanford to doing the right thing," says Norling.

"This goes well beyond fishing and farming in a sustainable and environmentally responsible fashion and includes activities ranging from community involvement to reducing plastic waste. Our business sets high standards for itself in this regard and many of those are laid out in our annual report."

The Deloitte Top 200 judges commended the leadership role Sanford has taken alongside other organisations to initiate climate change and carbon emission discussions, and actively engage in collaborative, multi-stakeholder initiatives to support climate change action.

In 2016, Sanford was a signatory on an open letter to the New Zealand Government, calling for ambitious targets to reduce emissions, a long-term plan to achieve them, the implementation of strong policies, and the necessary information to be provided to empower New Zealanders to make low carbon choices.

Sanford's vision is to be the best seafood company in the world through the sustainable growth of its business, and is embracing the contribution it will make towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

"The Sanford board's commitment to transforming the company towards rigorous management of environmental performance and sustainability across all areas of the business will help generate outcomes that will bring Sanford closer to its vision to become the best seafood company in the world," the judges said.

Sanford has also formed relationships with community organisations including Paralympics New Zealand and the Graeme Dingle Foundation. Sanford's staff across New Zealand have been able to partner with these groups to work on community projects such as beach clean ups, and produce and give presentations for schools on sustainable fishing and caring for the marine environment.

Says Norling: "Sanford management have been focused on weaving those relationships into the fabric of what we do. For example, this year we worked with Paralympics New Zealand to produce a Sanford health and safety video, presented by Paralympian Cameron Leslie. This was a daring and eye-catching way to share the message that we want our people to think safe, be safe and get home safe.

"We have shared this video around the company and it has had a profound impact on our staff, stirring real emotion and provoking some serious thought about how we can all do more to ensure we have a safety-focused workplace."

Finalist: Trade Me

Trade Me continued to grow over the past year, with net operating profit up 39 per cent on last year to $96.6 million, and revenue up 6.6 per cent to a record $250.4m. Trade Me's Classified businesses continued to grow strongly, with all three verticals — Trade Me Property, Trade Me Motors, and Trade Me Jobs — delivering double-digit revenue growth in the 2018 financial year.

But it was the responsible approach in how Trade Me works with the community to build trust in its platform that the Deloitte Top 200 judges were particularly impressed with when selecting Trade Me as a finalist for the Excellence in Governance category.

"Maintaining trust is critical to the success of Trade Me — without it no one is going to use the platform," says judge Jonathan Mason.

"They have to be transparent, and to do that, they must show excellence in governance."

Trade Me's board is led by independent chairman David Kirk, alongside directors Joanna Perry, Paul McCarney, Katrina Johnson, and Simon West.

The popular buy-and-sell platform releases a transparency report each year, which details how and why New Zealanders data has been shared.

The transparency report notes that "we want to make sure our customers' personal information is only released to government agencies and the New Zealand Police when it's legally requested of us and we're satisfied it's appropriate".

This year's report shows data was requested by police and other Government agencies 1795 times in the past year — for reasons that include stolen goods, drugs, non-delivery of goods, and even homicide or missing persons.

Trade Me chairman David Kirk says: "We think Kiwis have a right to know when, how often and for what reasons government agencies are requesting their information from companies like Trade Me. The Trust & Safety team's keenness to be open to members inspired the production of the inaugural Trade Me Transparency Report in 2013, and the board has wholeheartedly supported the initiative ever since.

"Telling our members how their data is used helps them feel confident that we do the right thing by them, and that we take our responsibility for protecting their data very seriously. In New Zealand, regular transparency reporting by public companies is still unique to Trade Me, despite calls from the Privacy Commissioner and Internet NZ for others to report the same way."

Trade Me was one of two inaugural recipients of the Privacy Trust Mark this year, a new initiative released by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to recognise excellence in privacy-friendly products or services, and in this instance acknowledged the work of the company in its transparency reporting.

Trade Me was named the eighth most influential brand in NZ by Ipsos in July 2017, and the sixth most trusted NZ brand by Colmar Brunton in September 2017.

The judges say it is a testament to the actions of the board and the company's focus on trust that have helped cement Trade Me as a strong, trusted, well-known and much-loved brand.

Finalist: Ports of Auckland

Ports of Auckland received high praise from the Top 200 judges for its shift towards transparency, and the subsequent improvement in its public profile — acknowledging the challenges that come with the management of such a publicly visible council-owned entity.

The Ports of Auckland board is led by Liz Coutts, who became the first woman to chair Ports of Auckland in 2015, and oversaw a strong result over the past year with revenue and profit both up.

Coutts is joined on the board by Rodger Fisher (deputy chair), Andrew Bonner, Patrick Snedden, Sarah Haydon, Karl Smith, Bill Osborne and Jonathan Mayson.

Last year, Ports released a 30-year master plan, in response to community concerns about ongoing port expansion into the Waitematā Harbour.

This was the first time Ports developed such a detailed plan, including all projects that will be needed in the next 30 years in order to keep up with Auckland's growing freight demand. The master plan was endorsed by Auckland Council earlier this year, and Ports of Auckland has now begun to implement it with a mandate for the next three decades.

Coutts says providing this high level of detail to the public is in line with a commitment to be more open and transparent.

Coutts recognises in her most recent chair's statement that "businesses — even lifeline utilities like ports — can't take their positions in the community for granted. We have to earn our place in the city, something we haven't always done well in the past."

The judges credit the board for its progress in moving toward the International Integrated Reporting Framework. This extends beyond financial reporting to include social and environmental performance, and reflects Ports' integrated thinking culture and goal to become a zero-emission port by 2040.

The board say this ambitious goal for emissions has helped to spark conversations with manufacturers, and is acting as a catalyst for innovation and new thinking for the industry.

Ports of Auckland is progressing towards becoming New Zealand's first automated container terminal, due to go live in the second half of the 2019 calendar year. While this automation will provide a significant capacity and productivity boost — and help them work towards sustainability goals — it will also mean the loss of around 50 straddle-driving roles.

To mitigate against these losses, the board has helped put in place a comprehensive "Future of Work" programme of education and retraining, helping people through changes, and preparing them for the radically different world of the future, which impressed the judges.