Most Reputable State Owned Enterprise: Solid Energy

Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder can be believed when he expresses surprise at his company’s sprint to top slot as NZ Management’s Most Reputable State Owned Enterprise. Not because his company doesn’t deserve the recognition, but because he spends so much time defending its activities.
“I’m genuinely surprised, flattered and honoured,” he says. “Solid Energy is high-profile company for range of reasons, but the feedback we usually get from those who bother to give it, is negative. We spend much of our time dealing with people who tell us we are disreputable company and an embarrassment to New Zealand.”
That is not, however, how an increasing number of New Zealand’s business and organisational leaders see the nation’s largest coal miner. They acknowledge its strong financial and management performance and its reputation for being innovative and strategic. The company climbed five slots to top this year’s reputation survey in the SOE category.
“Our peers must have recognised the challenges we face,” says Elder. “Perhaps they also respect us for how we manage those challenges. Having them step up for us like this is both humbling and hugely appreciated.”
Solid Energy’s strategic approach to reputation building is based on its company-wide risk management policies and processes. “There are five areas of predominant risk and these are built into our long-term sustainability principles,” he says. “The overall principle is that whatever we do today, we must do it in such way that it will not compromise our ability to do the same tomorrow and so ensure the business is sustainable.”
This approach is obviously understood by some survey respondents. “Solid Energy has quiet but strong commitment to sustainability,” said one. “They have consistent agenda for pushing long-term thinking in their sector,” said another.
“Our five risks are centred on value, people, health and safety, environment and reputation. All our risks and opportunities can be slotted into one of those areas. We identified these and put policies in place to manage them nine or 10 years ago,” he adds.
Reputation is critical risk for Solid Energy because of its high profile and because of the tensions created by the juxtaposition of mining and environmental management. Given the environmental lobby’s approach to miners like Solid Energy, modern communications technology has added another dimension to the company’s need to keep its reputation intact. “These technologies allow informed or otherwise comments to travel very far, very fast,” he says. “In our case, that reality can pose obvious difficulties. This is now fact of life for us and we try, where possible, to be proactive about it.
“Reputation is also differentiator of the way in which we do business,” says Elder. “We won’t be in business in the future if we don’t recognise that. We want to create long-term organisational value in ways that are commensurate with the New Zealand environment and our stakeholders’ needs and wishes. That is what I would most like the company’s reputation to be based on. Our longest term value and sustainability has to be our prime objective,” he adds.
Elder is also happy that his company has been acknowledged for being strategically innovative. “We are proud of our innovation,” he says. “When I joined Solid Energy in 2000 it was more or less to close the business down. It was seen as sunset enterprise with no future. From that point, we have taken different strategic tack. We have found opportunities in New Zealand and internationally that are now, and will increasingly be, good for both the company and the country. It is great to be recognised for this.” M


Finalists
Kiwibank

Paul Brock, CEO
Kiwibank entered the New Zealand banking market in 2002 promising to make difference. It challenged the status quo of the foreign-owned banks with more branches, better service, better interest rates, new and innovative products and being totally New Zealand owned.
Kiwibank made an undertaking to be upfront and honest with customers. If it got things wrong, it would put them right. The bank undertook to be open and honest in its dealings with customers. But it also promised to be competitor and to relentlessly find ways to provide better service and better products.
Our people really believe in what Kiwibank stands for and this is reflected in our values by doing what’s right. As result, we have great culture and strong employment brand. The bank now has more than 750,000 customers and more than 1000 staff. Kiwibank has made its mark and is here to stay.

New Zealand Post Group
Brian Roche, CEO
New Zealand Post Group’s positive reputation is built on 170 years of responsive and dependable service to the community, with some of New Zealand’s most trusted brands – such as Kiwibank and the PostShop network of stores – plus our posties serving as daily reminder of our service in the community.
Those highly visible aspects of our service are complemented by strong backroom services for business, as we assist them in effectively identifying and connecting with their markets. This focus on helping customers “work smarter” underscores the ongoing relevance of New Zealand Post Group, as we adapt and evolve in line with the changing ways people communicate.
Working in an organisation that’s well regarded by its customers and the wider market is undeniably positive for team spirit and morale. It also has positive impacts on recruitment and retention, with people recognising that ours is good organisation to work for.

Meridian Energy
Tim Lusk, CEO
I’m exceptionally proud of the culture Meridian has built over the years, which is underpinned by set of behaviours we call The Meridian Way. These behaviours are our roadmap to creating better energy future and inform how we are perceived globally as renewable developer and generator, and retailer of energy.
Our reputation is built on our authenticity. We have passion for what we do and The Meridian Way drives us to succeed in our goals, while always aiming to do “what is right”.

Mighty River Power
Doug Heffernan, CEO
In little over decade, Mighty River Power has evolved to become diversified energy business, with portfolio of power stations worth over $4 billion, an increase of over 200 percent. Development of this magnitude would simply not have been possible without others placing their trust in us.
Mighty River Power’s reputation as world leader in geothermal energy has led to the company being sought after as preferred partner in geothermal development, both domestically and offshore.
Reputation is of the utmost importance in everything we do; from our relationships with customers; to partnerships we enter into; to our ‘licence to operate’ in the communities surrounding our assets; and attracting and retaining the very best expertise.
Our reputation is vital to enable growth and ensure we continue to provide New Zealanders with secure energy supply for the future, and to leverage New Zealand’s global reputation in geothermal.

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