Sustainable Business Awards—Finalist.

Isthmus are among 75 finalists announced for the Sustainable Business Awards.

Good businesses operate with a conscience, making sure people involved in or affected by their activities are better off than they would be otherwise. They bring about positive outcomes for the environment and economy. They create change for good for the people and planet around them.  

In 2016—Ralph Johns—our CEO wrote: “We want to evolve our business to be led by a representative and diverse group of talented people. We think that’s good for business, as well as being firmly in line with our values.”  

We are really pleased to be finalists for the Social Impactor awardThis award will be presented to an organisation that is deliberately and consistently improving people’s lives through its day-to-day business practices—one where social good is integrated throughout the whole organisation 

We are committed to closing the diversity gaps that exist in our industry through many interlinked and overlapping initiatives with an environmentally and socially conscious studio culture. We are a founding partner of The Diversity Agenda. The evolution of our business leadership to a representative and diverse group of people began with our Women in Leadership discussion which began in 2016.  

We developed a navigational design tool—Te Kāpehu—to help make conscious choices about how our work can uplift the mauri of people and the environment.  

Engagement with mātauranga māori grew from our purpose: Advancing the relationships between land, people and culture. This kaupapa is core to all our actions. It saw the introduction of Matariki celebrations in 2008 and has become a more strategic focus in recent years. In 2013 we introduced Matariki Day—an extra day of annual leave for all staff.  

With Auckland Council’s He Maunga He Tangata internship programme we provide opportunities for Māori and Pacific Design graduates.  

Our focus on wellbeing comes from recognising and taking responsibility for stress, as one of our industry’s key workplace health and safety risks. We also support and include neuro-diversity and people who are struggling with their mental health.  

Rachel Brown ONZM—founder and CEO of the Sustainable Business Network—says: “The latest IPCC report on climate change has left no doubt about the imperative to change our ways of living and working. Businesses need to step up—their customers, employees and the planet are demanding it. The 75 finalists in these Awards are leading the way. They include corporates, small enterprises and individuals from the public and private sector, showing that whoever you are you can play your part.” 

The winners will be announced on 25 November.

Te Kāpehu.

Land People Culture permeates everything we do to authentically elevate a holistic approach—connecting the health and integrity of people and culture with the health and integrity of the environment. Our Isthmus tikanga uplifts our values, guiding our actions as people and as a design practice to acknowledge Te Tiriti ō Waitangi, engage with mātauranga māori and connect with place through local partnerships.

Te Kāpehu is a navigational design tool developed by Isthmus. It is for making conscious choices about how our projects can uplift the mauri of people and the environment in Aotearoa. Based on national and international sustainability indicators, it is a graphic tool that focuses on using our transparent design process to influence healthy environments for healthy people.

We can set aspirations for impact through the project, and hold ourselves accountable as a design team for how well we fulfilled those aspirations alongside our clients and collaborators. Impact is revisited and evaluated several times throughout a project lifecycle—from commencement to completion. That way we are continually tracking and evolving our knowledge and implementation of sustainable and regenerative practices as a Design Studio. The results then feed back to our Toitū Enviromark accreditation.

Te Kāpehu is collaborative. For every project, at least two people score project aspirations using the Compass indicators, and moderate the scores accordingly. A ‘champion-network’ group traverses disciplines and specialisms to guide use of the tool, and embed learning and development as an iterative process. It generates discussion about what project types and sectors are able to achieve and where the limitations lie, mapping the balance across the four P’s—purpose, profit, planet and people.

The compass points represent where our design process and the subsequent built environment can most influence beneficial outcomes in Aotearoa, benchmarking against MFE Environment Aotearoa 2019, The Treasury Wellbeing Indicators and The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs’s).

Transparent project impact measures are key to open communication and a shared vision. Within project teams we grow diversity and relationships that enable us to challenge, test, influence and evolve beneficial outcomes for communities and for the environment. Te Kāpehu is the Isthmus way of committing to kaitiakitanga in Aotearoa—as we explore the potential of this tool we will share more about our discoveries.

Mauri ora!

Toitū Envirocare.

Land People Culture permeates everything we do through sustainable and regenerative practices to help the environment, promote biodiversity and design for resilience. We elevate mauri as the holistic measure of sustainability in Aotearoa—connecting the health of people with the health of the environment.

For a couple of years now, our business operations have achieved Toitū Enviromark Gold standard accreditation. Toitū’s sustainability benchmarks are a great fit with our values, and it is absolutely worth the time it takes to pull together evidence for the annual audit. Because it is externally managed through Toitū Envirocare, it legitimises the actions and initiatives we take as a company to reduce our environmental impact. It is a group effort—we make a plan, set goals, monitor and review them with our EMS (Environmental Management System). Everything counts—our bike culture, paper recycling, honey bees on the studio roof, using city car-share schemes and other smarter transport choices, planting days and koha, waste and energy reduction … all that and much more.

This commitment includes recording our project based efforts as measurable goals against the four P’s—purpose, profit, planet and people, which is where Te Kāpehu—the Isthmus Project Impact Compass comes in (you can read more about this in a future post).

It goes back further though. As a business we have been ‘giving back’ to the environment for more than a decade, offsetting our carbon footprint through the Isthmus Environment Fund (IEF). We use a carbon calculator to capture and offset—by investing in carbon sequestration aligned with our kaupapa of Land People Culture. A good example is our ongoing relationship with the Motuihe Trust, a conservation project on Te Motu-a-Ihenga (Motuihe Island) that has been close to our hearts for eight years now. Every year, Isthmus whānau board the boat to Motuihe and spend the day potting in the nursery or out restoration planting to enhance biodiversity in the catchment we look after. Kaitiaki Kiwi in Waipoua Forest is another worthy initiative we have contributed to.

Isthmus has now gone a step further and is also proud to have joined the Toitū Carbonzero certification programme. This will enable us to verify our carbon footprint and offset this through accredited carbon credit projects, alongside continuing our continuing mahi with Motuihe Trust and other biodiversity projects.

Through our mahi—our project work, studio resources and personal time, we continue to invest in the future of Aotearoa for generations to come. We have aligned our values with Toitū and continue to ramp up our efforts to take Isthmus beyond achieving Carbon Zero toward becoming a climate beneficial business.