Improving Lives: The Societal Aims of Maori Businesses

Hapaitia te ara tika pumau ai te rangatiratanga mo nga uri whakatipu’. This whakataukī translates into English as, ‘’foster the pathway of knowledge to strength, independence and growth for future generations’.                                                                                                                                                 

This emphasis on the happiness and well-being of mokopuna as well as contemporary whānau over profit was a core message from the respondents of BDO’s 2019 Māori Business Report

Here, we’ll explore the ways in which Māori entities give back to the community, the challenges facing them in achieving these social objectives and how non-Māori business can learn from their example.


How do Māori businesses work to improve society?

People, culture and the environment have always been integral to Māori tikanga, so it was no surprise that improving the lives of whānau remains key to Māori businesses across the country.

In fact, our report showed that the majority of respondents viewed a ‘happy and well whānau’ as the most important key to success for Māori businesses, above both cultural wellbeing (second) and financial performance (third).

So, what does this look like in practice?

For smaller enterprises in particular, employing whānau is a commonly-used way of giving back to society, and improving the living standards of those around them.

This holds a dual benefit for the company, as Māori employees inherently understand the organisation’s non-profit based objectives, and can help the business further these goals.

For larger organisations that have multiple stakeholders and beneficiaries, other steps are taken on top of whānau employment. These can include distributions to local Marae, educational scholarships or offering health services and other social services.  

Pull quote: Employing whānau is a common social improvement tactic used by Māori businesses. 

Iwi organisations are also investing in training and mentoring that can help younger whānau identify possible paths for their lives. This is starting when rangatahi (youth) are at high school age, and aims at encouraging the development of skills as well as increasing Māori representation in tertiary education.


What are the challenges?

Lack of reporting

One of the biggest challenges to Māori organisations in achieving their social goals is a lack of reporting.

Generally, only larger bodies report on non-profit-based outcomes, such as the results of social and people-driven initiatives. This was one of the most surprising results from our 2019 report - especially given that over 80% of our report respondents have strategic plans in place. Without outcome reporting, however, it’s impossible to tell whether organisations are achieving their objectives.

However, the forthcoming introduction of Impact Reporting is something that can help Māori businesses improve on this. This reporting involves providing details on how the organisation benefits the world around it.

Impact Reporting for Tier 1 and Tier 2 PBEs (Public Benefit Entities) will start from 1 January 2021. So, if your business has a June balance date the first reporting period you would be required to provide impact reporting is 30 June 2022. This is already a requirement for Tier 3 and Tier 4 PBE organisations. BDO has already spoken to many Māori businesses about Impact Reporting, and every single one has expressed an interest in setting this up before the deadlines at which it becomes mandatory. This is something that BDO can help entities achieve.


Whānau employment is hugely important to Māori businesses. However, it’s not always possible to get the right person, with the right skill sets and values at the right time.  Again this is where helping whānau from a high school age can be of real benefit. Highlighting opportunities and enabling rangatahi to develop valuable skills and experience can provide them with better employment prospects, and businesses with the personnel they require.

What can non-Māori businesses learn from this?

Consumers in both B2B and B2C settings are becoming increasingly conscious of how businesses impact both the planet and society. This is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down, meaning that non-Māori businesses can learn a lot from how Māori entities go about achieving their societal improvement goals. One practical example of this is long-term planning. While Māori businesses include the same one and five-year plans that are common the world-over, it’s standard to also see them making 100-year plans. These focus on mokopuna, and how current decision-making will impact life for generations to come.

To read more about Māori businesses and their commitments to society, the environment and culture, download BDO’s full report today