How did this initiative come about?

This Open Letter is an initiative led by the 2019 cohort of the New Zealand-based Darden Executive Programme (which is offered by the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia, USA). This cohort graduated from the programme on 15th March – the day of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

A large part of the Darden Executive Programme is focused on diversity and inclusion and the continuing need for leaders across business, Government and the non-profit sector to lead the way in acknowledging, understanding and engaging difference.

These discussions and learnings have inspired the cohort to commit and contribute to influencing positive societal change in our country.

What are you hoping to achieve with it?

We hope that New Zealand leaders and their organisations will get behind this campaign to support a more tolerant, inclusive and safer New Zealand.

We’d like to see real change made to New Zealand workplaces and society where prejudice and discrimination, whether intentional or casual, are no longer accepted.

We want to establish this initiative as an ongoing discussion so that the commitment organisations make as specified in our open letter remains a priority and isn’t forgotten over time.

We’re proud to have the support of the Human Rights Commission to align ‘NZ Leaders Stand Together’ with their ‘Give Nothing to Racism’ campaign. Our goals are aligned, and we are committed to working with the Commission to make positive change. More information is available at

What are your expectations of organisations who sign up to by support this initiative?

We hope that organisations:

  • Commit to leading and ensuring implementation of the changes and behaviours as listed in the Open Letter.

  • Develop, if they haven’t already, diversity and inclusion policies that reflect this commitment.

  • Act as champions for a better, safer, more inclusive New Zealand to support positive change and ensure it remains a priority for New Zealand leaders and their organisations.

We have established a LinkedIn group ( where we will foster and encourage discussion and information sharing about the progress being made to eradicate prejudice and discrimination.

The Human Rights Commission has tools and resources that are available to organisations to use to work towards these outcomes. Those can be found at and

What are some examples of procedures that organisations already have in place?

The signatories to the letter come from a diverse range of New Zealand organisations, and accordingly their journeys to embrace diversity and inclusiveness are at different stages. As signatories to this letter they are actively and openly committing to undertaking the actions set out in the letter, which will help to enable all these organisations to continue this journey to influence positive societal change in New Zealand.

We encourage signatories to share their experiences, case studies and resources with each other via our LinkedIn page to ensure that we all learn from good practices and outcomes.

How many graduated from the Darden programme?

Forty-three emerging leaders from a diverse range of New Zealand business, government, non-profit and iwi organisations successfully completed and graduated from the two-week Darden programme, which was held in Taupo from 3-15 March 2019.

When did the Darden programme begin, what is the history? What is involved in the programme?

The Darden programme is an executive education course which is a collaboration between EY New Zealand and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in the US. The programme is designed to challenge participants to push their limits in leadership and strategy. It is currently in its 26th year of delivery in New Zealand and alumni now number more than 1,400.

Who are the individuals behind this initiative? What are their roles/level of seniority?

The 2019 cohort has established a working group for this initiative. Members are:

  • Aaron Kenny, Strategic Finance Manager, Synlait Milk Limited

  • Ben Grant, Founder and Director, Grounded Packaging

  • Bridget Jolly, Associate Director, Ernst & Young Limited

  • Darryn Grant, Manager City Growth & Strategic Property, Porirua City

  • Jane Small, Group Manager Property & Planning, Auckland Transport

  • Ruth Russell, Associate Director, Ernst & Young Limited

  • Sharon Davies, Founder and Director, Talent Propeller

  • Sonya Haggie, Communications Advisor, Tainui Group Holdings

  • Vanessa Rayner, Manager Industry Insights & Thematics, Reserve Bank of NZ