Indigenous | Business

Helping hand for Māori businesses with global ambitions

A global organisation is backing Maori businesses to share their vision and values on the world stage.

Nine pakihi Māori (Māori-owned businesses) met NZ Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and B Lab officials to discuss the formation of a B Corporation group - the first of its kind.

B Lab communications director Angie Farrugia says they were excited to host such a significant hui.

“[B Lab] recognises that te ao Māori principles [are] very strongly aligned with the B Corp movement.

“And it’s a centuries-old approach that we have a lot to learn from.”

B Lab is a non-profit network best known for certifying B Corporations - companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Bringing to life te ao Māori values

Agrisea, ŌKU NZ, Manawa Honey, Tiraki, Miraka, Wai Mānuka, AWWA, Go Media and Ora Innovation Ltd. are the nine pakihi that met to discuss the formation of a Maori B Corp group.

AWWA, Manawa Honey and Tiraki are B Corp certified.

Miraka is actively pursuing its certification, though chief executive Karl Gradon acknowledges the B Corp values are not new concepts in te ao Maori.

“[B Corp is] a western way of bringing to life a lot of the te ao Māori values we believe in - tikanga, rangatiratanga and all of the other attributes that go within that construct,” he says. “It’s basically a western construct of catching up to the Māori way of being”.

Meanwhile, the company’s kaitiaki, Brendan Haigh, highlights the wider reach of this kaupapa.

Heading for global stage

“It’s being able to tell our story on the global stage,” he says. “We’ve got something very special here in Aotearoa and we think that B Corp could be one opportunity to tell that story more strongly around the world.”

This collaboration comes just after this year’s New Zealand International Business Awards, where AWWA won the He kai kei aku ringa for Māori Excellence in Export award.

AWWA, which aims to re-indiginise ikura (menstruation) through sustainable period products, exports to 57 different countries. Chief executive and fo-founder Michele Wilson (Ngāti Paoa) reminisces on her entrepreneurial journey, going back a whole decade.

Wilson says of all the awards she’s received, this taonga holds special significance.

“I quit my career on the passing of my nanny to follow and reconnect more with te ao Māori. So the journey for me has always been guided by my tupuna.”

She also highlights the unique qualities that pakihi Māori bring to the table.

Equity pricing

“I think that’s something that the world is craving — they’re hungry for knowledge on how they can connect more with themselves, with their whanau, with their community,” she says.

There are now 7500 businesses that are B Corp certified. In July 2023, B Lab introduced equity pricing - offering a 40% subsidy on annual certification fees for Aotearoa and Australian businesses.

B Lab’s Farrugia says this is just one way they hope to support more Maori businesses to become certified.

“It does open up opportunities to attract employees, to attract customers and to build partnerships with other businesses in and outside of the Maori economy,” she says.

This hui was also attended by Kaiya Bradley - a third-generation of the Agrisea dynasty - an award-winning seaweed company, renowned for its biostimulant technology.

“Agrisea is a taonga in my family and the whole Agrisea whanau is my whānau - that’s just how I’ve been brought up,” Bradley says.

Intergenerational wealth aim

“I’m so blessed to be sitting at this table with all these amazing business entrepreneurs because I’m only 17, I’m fresh out of kura tuarua (secondary school).”

Her attendance heralds a new generation of entrepreneurs, with a promising future for pakihi Māori on the horizon.

AWWA’s Michele Wilson encourages rangatahi Māori to get into business, which she says is now a “thriving industry”’.

“Just having that support and growing that community, growing forms of intergenerational wealth I think is super important for Māori.”

These pakihi will meet again in the coming weeks to determine the future of the Māori B Corp Collective.