Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

A framework for reporting cultural sustainability

A proposed reporting framework and cultural indicators for indigenous businesses, using a discussion of Māori businesses to illustrate the concepts

The challenge for many indigenous organisations and businesses is how to balance aspirations for cultural enrichment (e.g., retaining strong elements of traditional culture such as values, language and knowledge) with more modern elements of advancement, growth, commerce and economic development.

In New Zealand, these challenges are being addressed by a large number of Māori groups and organisations that emphasise good governance is required in order to carry out strategies for capacity building, planning, leadership, and accountability. Māori values are often reflected in the organisation’s goals and objectives, custom and protocols, collective relationships, economic direction and strategic planning. The values are apparent in behaviour, transparency, accountability, participation, ethics, marketing, social and cultural responsibility and performance, and environmental standards.

Achieving the right governance has been identified as significant in forming the strategic framework, leadership, and intrinsic behaviour for incorporating and practising values — our research with a number of Māori businesses shows that it is extremely difficult to integrate cultural heritage and values into an organisation without first establishing effective corporate governance. Belief in these values is critical from the top. It is also essential to have a robust organisational and planning context, or reporting framework, in which to articulate, implement, measure and report performance and progress towards desired goals and outcomes.

Governance provides the essential framework and systems to establish and achieve:

  • purpose (single or multiple) and focus
  • leadership, management, and decision–making
  • alignment of shareholder aspirations and cultural values with the organisational vision, goals and objectives
  • successful integration of cultural values into the business
  • organisational performance
  • accountability
  • effective methods to measure and report performance and regular evaluation
  • sustainable development aspirations and goals.

We propose that a cultural dimension could be added to many reporting frameworks. Landcare Research uses the GRI G3 framework to guide its sustainability reporting so this suggested cultural framework is also aligned to and parallels that format.

This is a discussion document only; it is not part of the GRI’s G3 framework.

Standard disclosures

1. Strategy and analysis

1.1  Explanation of business model:

There is no one model for effective governance. Māori businesses often have a different relationship with shareholders than a mainstream company or business because a large proportion of Māori businesses have Māori shareholders or beneficiaries that all share a common ancestral lineage or connection. This places a unique set of almost family type pressures to meet responsibilities, be transparent and accountable, manage assets and property to successfully meet stakeholder expectations and aspirations for business success and cultural sustainability.

1.2 Description of key impacts, risks and opportunities:

Most Māori organisations try to achieve multiple goals in the non–Māori and Māori worlds, and successful performance is measured across a range of dimensions including:

  • Long–term financial success and profitability
  • Legislative responsibility
  • Economic, social and environmental performance
  • Cultural responsibility
  • Shareholder and stakeholder expectations.

For Māori, core cultural values and principles may include concepts such as:

  • Whakapapa (ancestral lineage, ancestral rights)
  • Tikanga (custom, tradition, protocols)
  • Rangatiratanga (status, authority and control)
  • Mana, mana whenua, mana moana (based on whakapapa, represents power, control, status, leadership)
  • Manaakitanga (caring for, looking after, hosting)
  • Whānaungatanga (relationships, family connections)
  • Kotahitanga (unity, consensus, participation)
  • Urunga–Tu (participation)
  • Tohungatanga (the retention and use of knowledge to benefit the tribe or business)
  • Kaitiakitanga (environmental guardianship)
  • Tau utu utu (reciprocity, giving back what you take)
  • Wairuatanga (spiritual wellbeing, taking into consideration the spiritual dimension)

These concepts are generally reflected in the values of most indigenous cultures.

2. Organisational profile

Include explanation of tribal affiliation, number and location of sub–units (e.g., runanga, rohe) and number of shareholders, as well as any subsidiaries, or brands associated with the organisation. If applicable, the asset base should be explained and how the organisation separates the management of the asset base and the distribution of income earned from the assets back to shareholders.

3. Report parameters

Explanation of which parts of the organisation or business are being reported on, and which parts, if any, are excluded from the reporting.

4. Management approach & performance indicators

The following checklist of performance indicators is suggested for use when specific cultural reporting is required. As in the GRI reporting framework, we propose that indicators are grouped under a number of key aspects (categories). In each aspect, reporters should consider the degree to which the management style encompasses indigenous cultural values, the degree to which cultural values are integrated into all levels of the organisation or business, and whether cultural values are used strategically to reinforce cultural identity.

For each aspect, we give examples of some of the Māori values (Harmsworth 2005) that are reflected in the performance indicators.

Cultural Performance Indicators

Aspect: Governance

As discussed above, governance is a key issue. Māori governance models integrate varying levels of cultural responsibility and process to deliver multiple outcomes across the financial, environmental, social and cultural dimensions. Priorities, goals and objectives are determined by directors and managers working cooperatively with an ancestrally or tribally related constituency (shareholders, beneficiaries) and reflect the origin and purpose of the business.

Some key considerations are:

  • communal ownership (and distribution of resources)
  • guardianship over ancestral lands
  • guardianship over resources (taonga) and sacred areas
  • non–transferability (out of the collective), and
  • multiple accountabilities/relationships

The key issue is the extent to which cultural values are integrated at all levels into the organisation.


Mission; goals; policy; strategic plans; asset management; values; cultural responsibilities; indigenous rights

Māori values

Whakapapa, tino rangatiratanaga, whakakotahitanga, manawhenua, mana moana, whakapono, matakite

Key performance indicators

  • Business goals are aligned with shareholder aspirations (e.g., list organisation strategic goals and cultural priorities) (core)
  • The business has a core set of cultural values and principles on which it operates and governs (e.g., list the values and how these are integrated into strategy and policy) (core)
  • Māori values are recognised and endorsed by the board of directors (core)
  • The business measures and reports its economic, environmental, social, and cultural performance (core)
  • Describe the mandate and performance measure for executive members and managers tasked with direct responsibility for integrating cultural values across the organisation (optional)
  • To what degree are cultural values applied across the whole organisation in different regions/departments/units? Give evidence (optional)

Aspect: Cultural practices/tikanga

To what extent does the organisation play an important role in retaining, promoting, and advancing cultural values, practices, and activities?


Cultural training; taonga; marketing; intellectual property; community

Māori values

Tikanga, te reo, kawa, manaakitanga, akoranga, mauri, tapu, noa

Key performance indicators

  • The development of, and contribution to, cultural and social capital is recognised. Strategies and practices are being implemented (e.g., Ngai Tahu, (core)
  • State the degree to which cultural heritage and values are taken into account in all decision–making? (optional)
  • Describe successful outcomes for protecting and maintaining cultural values in any activity or situation – where decisions have been cognisant of and achieved shareholder goals and objectives?  Identify planning decisions that have achieved desired cultural goals and outcomes, such as preserving and promoting cultural practices (e.g., restoring mahinga kai, cultural harvest sites, food gathering sites), protecting wahi tapu (sacred sites) and other cultural sites (e.g., pā), developing cultural parks?, retaining and promoting cultural identity (core)
  • Provide a description of any significant adverse impacts or activities the business has had on cultural values (optional)
  • Give examples of indigenous branding for any products or services, use of marketing to reflect culture, to create a point of difference, where marketing and branding affirms and advances a cultural identity for the business (optional)
  • Identify a list of cultural taonga (treasures) within the business (e.g., artworks, carvings, paintings, weaving, symbols etc.) where cultural heritage is recognised, protected, conserved and promoted. The business uses Māori art in the workplace (e.g., carvings, paintings, photographs, weaving, ornaments) as a statement of Māori pride, identity and authority (mana).(optional)
  • Provide examples of activities that advance cultural training/cultural practice/tikanga in the workplace, such as: training courses/wananga, percentage of staff receiving some type of tikanga or te reo training, use of tikanga in the work place (e.g., protocols, procedures, cultural responsibility), karakia, waiata, te reo Māori, haakari (feasting) (core)
  • Cultural performance is regularly reported to shareholders and stakeholders (core)
  • State policy and main mechanisms in the organisation for protecting indigenous cultural property and cultural values (core)

Aspect: Economic

Are profits are used to advance and reinforce cultural values?


Financial accountability; financial performance; financial reports, e.g., financial performance is fully reported to shareholders and stakeholders in annual reports

Māori values

whai hua, ngākau tapatahi, pono, tika, pūtea, kaikōkiri

Key performance indicators

  • Proportion of spending profit and revenue to integrate cultural values (e.g., cultural development, heritage, cultural practices, cultural activities, cultural investments) within the organisation (core)
  • Proportion of spending profit and revenue to achieve cultural goals and objectives (e.g., cultural capital investments) outside of the organisation (core)

Aspect: Environmental sustainability

Does the organisation play an important role in environmental and cultural guardianship?


Kaitiakitanga practice; environmental policy and management; compliance

Māori values

Kaitiakitanga, awhinatanga, arohatanga, manaakitanga, tau utuutu, taonga tuku iho, te ao turoa

Key performance indicators

  • Describe kaitiakitanga practices in place to achieve ‘sustainable’ best practice including: environmental strategies, plans, kaitiaki plans, adopting integrated pest management strategies, limiting agri–chemical application and use (e.g., managing and limiting pesticide use, herbicide use, insecticide use), increasing sustainable resource use, resource allocation, recycling, energy conservation, minimisation of CO2 emissions, water, energy and paper, resource management, recycling and waste management (core)
  • Identify kaitiakitanga practices in place to safeguard and protect cultural values, such as culturally significant areas, cultural sites (core)
  • State the environmental policy, registers, manuals, records, procedures, such as an environmental management system (EMS), that includes a set of specific objectives and targets consistent with ISO 14001 standards (core).

Aspect: Social

Is the success and wealth of the organisation redistributed back to the community, shareholders, and stakeholders?


Community; employment; training and education

Māori values

e.g., Whānaungatanga, manaakitanga, awhinatanga, whakakoha, turangawaewae

Key performance indicators

  • Indicate programmes that advance cultural practices and activities in the community, such as through a community involvement strategy (e.g. staff involvement, community partnerships, and capacity building (core)
  • List training and educational funding to promote employment opportunities. Such as no. of scholarships, bursaries etc., total funding spent annually, education benefits to the wider community, rewarding talent – to advance Māori achievement (core)
  • Identify the number of jobs created and the proportion of Māori employed – to advance Māori achievement (optional)
  • Provide examples of housing or building development to benefit shareholders or the community e.g. strategies and actions to help rangatahi, pakeke, elders, kaumātua and kuia (optional)
  • Provide examples of savings schemes, bank loans for shareholders, businesses, or as part of tribal or development or social capital initiatives (core), (e.g. Ngai Tahu, Whai Rawa scheme:;;
  • Provide examples of business mentoring to the community, or to Māori entrepreneurs, other Māori businesses, or to advance cultural entrepreneurship (optional)

Aspect: Spiritual

Does the organisation have a soul?


Policy; tikanga; ethics; principles; practices

Māori values

e.g., Wairuatanga, tohungatanga, taonga tuku iho, atua, ihi, wehi

Key performance indicators

  • Identify cultural frameworks and policy (or policies) that define the organisations commitment, sensitivity, and adherence to cultural practice(s) and protocols (i.e. tikanga, kawa). Identify key spiritual values central to the company philosophy, vision, and mission (core)
  • Provide examples where cultural values are incorporated and practised routinely, with the aim to increase cultural awareness and understanding (e.g., use of te reo Māori, whaikōrero (oration, speech), karakia (prayer), and waiata (song) in appropriate situations, health and cultural safety,  ethics (tikanga), hosting and caring for visitors (manaakitanga), decision–making process (whakakotahitanga), integrity, and in risk management (core). 
  • State policy that includes bereavement (tangi) leave for all staff in accordance with cultural beliefs and practice (core)

For the full paper, see:
Harmsworth, G.R. 2006: Governance systems and means of scoring and reporting performance for Māori businesses. Landcare Research paper for Mana Taiao Ltd. FRST (2003–2007) Waka Tohu programme – Māori business branding: achieving competitive advantage in global markets, Objective 3 “Māori values and business”. 31 pp.