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Gordon McLeod: Supporting the arts should be part of the social licence as a successful New Zealand company

Full disclosure: I am a chartered accountant and I like Holdens, Elvis and rugby. I don’t have a collection of fine wine. I imagine that, when the marketing teams at the ballet or the orchestra sit down to dream up their perfect customer, I am not top of mind.

That said, I am a strong believer that our company – and businesses in general - should support the arts. I can see the beauty in an opera performance, a ballet, and I can certainly see why they are things that people love. Because beauty and the sound of a voice can move you in ways you can’t explain.

September is Arts Month, where the Arts Foundation of New Zealand is encouraging us to have a national conversation about what the arts – in all their forms - mean to us. I write as a businessperson and, like everyone running a company or organisation, I field countless requests for sponsorship.

Increasingly, consumers and clients expect businesses to give back to the communities we serve but there are many more requests for help than we have money available. It means we look to support organisations which reflect our values.

It shouldn’t be seen as an obligation or a duty but part of the social licence as a successful New Zealand company. For me, it is an absolute privilege to be in a position to support beautiful art, music and dance that brings so much joy to so many people.

When we sit down as a team to consider what to spend sponsorship money on, we try to reflect on what is most likely to be dear to the hearts of the people most important to us. In our case, that’s more than 11,000 Kiwi and Australian retirees and a team of 5500 people who look after them.

Our residents turn up in force when the ballet or the orchestra comes to town; our regular art shows are well attended. Relationships with the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the NZ Symphony Orchestra mean extra benefits for our residents. As well as sponsoring concerts, the NZSO’s string quartet plays concerts in our villages so that those who can’t make it to a big event get a chance to hear beautiful music at home.

If I ever have cause to wonder whether what we allocate for the arts is money well spent, I pause and imagine what Val Murray would say. Val lives at Edmund Hillary Retirement Village in Auckland and has been teaching ballet in Auckland for 60 years.

Her adult ballet classes at the village attract 60 pupils; we had to install a special barre after her Friday classes became a runaway success. Val and her classes are proof that the arts are a lifetime habit, not a nice to do or an indulgence.

I’d encourage any other companies thinking about adopting this habit to get on board - and sometimes some Mozart makes a nice change from The King.

Gordon Mac Leod CEO Ryman Healthcare