Leading through tikanga: Māori business in 2019

Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu koe, me he maunga teitei - seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.

This whakataukī speaks of the importance of aiming high for what is truly valuable, as well as being persistent in achieving your goals. For as long as they've existed Māori businesses have made it clear what's truly valuable to them - people, planet and profit. 

With ethical consumerism on the rise across the globe, 2019 offers a unique opportunity for Māori businesses to focus on these three goals, and share the benefits of their tikanga principles.


1. Tikanga and sustainable business practice

From the pepeha, a Māori introduction where an individual introduces themselves by referencing (among other things) their mountain and lake, to a concern for future generations, the Māori world view is deeply rooted in a connection to the natural environment.

Businesses are no exception to this. While profit is clearly important, looking beyond this and recognising the potential consequences of a business' choices on planetary resources will drive decision making to a greater extent than in many non-Māori companies.

With increasing public awareness of the threats facing the planet, consumers are also thinking more about the sustainability of the products and services they invest in. Indeed, 55 per cent of customers say environmental considerations are very important to them, according to consumer.org.nz, however as many as two-thirds believe that companies aren't doing enough to limit their impact on the environment.

As this trend shows no signs of disappearing, there's an impetus for all businesses, Māori and non-Māori, to continue working towards sustainability in every aspect of their workflow.

2. Tikanga and people in business

Ultimately business is about people, and here again tikanga principles set Māori organisations in good stead. This is evident in two ways:

The community - Māori companies have always placed great emphasis on the wellbeing of their iwi, or local community.  As with environmental awareness, the public is also keen to spend their money with businesses they believe to be socially responsible.

Their staff - This awareness of the wider world is evident in how Māori firms acknowledge the commitments of their staff to their whānau and hapū outside of work. A key concern for organisations across the globe in coming years will be holding onto quality staff. By 2025, millennials are expected to make up 44 per cent of the workforce, and research has shown that this group is drawn in by the short term contracts of the gig economy. By providing flexibility in their work arrangements, Māori businesses make themselves attractive to emerging talent who value such understanding attitudes.

3. Tikanga and profit

In a world where reputation is everything, and where relationships dictate success, tikanga principles can also help Māori organisations attract clients. Companies that enter into business with Māori organisations can expect to be treated honestly and ethically, and to get to know their new business partners at a deeper level than in many other scenarios.

While tikanga has existed for as long as Māori have, these principles are more relevant than ever in an increasingly socio-environmentally conscious market. The coming year offers great opportunities for Māori businesses to continue to thrive.

At BDO, our years of experience working with Māori businesses means that we understand what matters most, and how we can assist you achieve both your long and short term goals. For more information, get in touch with our team today.