First to join our community

Interview: Michael Saddington Corporate Services Manager Westpac Group, Barangaroo

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Westpac Group was the first to join the International Towers community. Over three years in the planning, it provided the two-century old organisation a unique opportunity to transition to a leading, contemporary workplace culture and operation, within an environment that shared the organisations values, and was actively engaged in delivering world-class support services.

Michael Saddington is the Corporate Services Manager for the Westpac Group at Barangaroo. He shares his personal story, and insights into the journey of joining Australia’s most progressive workplace community.

I’ve been with Westpac for three and a half years. My professional history is a little unusual actually, as I managed theatres, both in the West End of London and in Sydney for most of my working life. It just so happened I was working for a theatre owned by Lendlease at the MLC Centre in Sydney, and they asked if I’d be interested coming to help their team at their Australia Square head office. And that’s how my career in property began! I think Lendlease was looking for someone who understood the various aspects of property management, along with front of house services, customer service, even food and beverage operations, all of which you deal with when running theatres. So on the surface it may appear that theatre management has very little in common with managing property or a corporate workplace, however in practice, there are far more commonalities than not.

So my most significant role with Lendlease was working on the Campus MLC project in North Sydney, which was a pioneering development at the time, and that was my first foray into the world of the workplace as a cultural change enabler. I’ve been fascinated by that ever since, and that’s the area I’ve worked in for the past 18 years.

More recently I’ve worked with Westpac in consolidating team working in over a dozen different buildings into two central locations, one being at International Towers.

What became evident is that if there is a need for cultural change, it must firstly come from within the organisation itself. There has to be a deep belief and commitment to the change. However the act of physically moving to a new location provides a very real and tangible opportunity to enable that change. In a way, it allows you to tear up the old rule book, and introduce new ideas, a new vision and new processes. Westpac is a 201 year old company, and it’s an organisation that wants to continually evolve and improve, which means having a solid strategy for managing change.

Our WorkSMART program was a great example of that – the move from a static, somewhat traditional way of working to a much more dynamic, agile workplace, with the ability to build teams that can contract or expand as needed in a way that is far more flexible, agile and much faster than would have been possible previously, and of course harnessing the power of technology to help enable this level of progress.

There’s so much talk about employee engagement and productivity, and it has so much to do with placemaking – not just the physical attributes of an individual workspace, such as ergonomic chairs, laptops, apps, etc., but the entirety of the space itself – big open spaces, high ceilings which provide healthy access to natural light, the sustainability programs and commitments that both Westpac and International Towers share, the quality of the air, indoor greenery, the views – all of these things combine so powerfully. Both Westpac as a tenant and International Towers as host share so many of the same values and have made significant investments to make the well-being of everyone within the community here the absolute top priority.

This is now such a thriving, dynamic precinct, and that itself is an enabler of some of the changes needed to evolve and grow an organisation.

Apart from the ongoing task of helping to physically relocate people from one location to another, and to help them transition to a new way of working, the one thing that keeps me personally challenged and interested is something that is I believe unique to Westpac, which is a mandate to treat our employees the way we would our customers. So, trying to build a service culture for the organisation, which ties into our vision to be one of the world’s great service companies, by providing a concierge service to everyone in our workplace. When we started that concept – to provide workplace concierge services to support people on their new agile workplace journey, and provide them all the help and technology to enable that successfully – we very quickly realised the benefits of being able to deal with any issues almost immediately, purely because there was now a dedicated resource to service all their needs.

There are so many things that we as an organisation, and that International Towers share in common – and I believe this likely to be true for all of the partner tenants within the International Towers community – such as support for diversity in the workplace, whether that be a commitment to equal representation of women in leadership roles, support for people with a disability, support for the LGBTQI community, support for our Indigenous communities, commitments to sustainability and recycling – there are so many conscious and active areas of support that are aligned, which provides a powerful and very solid foundation on which to build a highly positive and effective organisational culture.

I have the responsibility for the Westpac Group tenancy at Barangaroo, which is a community of about 6,000 people. So our team is responsible for all the property specific elements, such as maintenance, air conditioning systems, housekeeping, etc, basically all the property management relating to our individual workplace, and working very closely with the services team at International Towers to ensure everything is operational and functioning as it should be.

And this is where it gets extraordinary, in my view, because you have an organisation in Westpac that believes absolutely in having the one of the world’s best service cultures, working in a world-class precinct, and within a workplace, in International Towers, that is equally committed to delivering a world-leading service culture. So the marriage of these two bodies, with aligned values, creates a remarkable environment for both the prosperity of the individual, as well as the business.

The experience coming in to International Towers was different from the start. We knew this was going to be a flagship building, we knew Lendlease was going to create something very special in terms of the precinct. It was a bold and ambitious project, and not many organisations have the capacity to execute that the way Lendlease do, so when we first had a conversation about coming to International Towers, it was framed by our understanding that this was a historic moment for the Westpac Group.

However, right from the beginning, the experience working with International Towers was unique. At the very start, all the teams and future tenants who would be working together at Barangaroo were taken to Cockatoo Island for a cultural alignment day, focusing on how we could all work together to create a service culture. That in itself was something I had never experienced, and truly demonstrated how aligned our values really were. And in some ways, having a “landlord” that believes so strongly in service and culture actually helps to inspire us to do things better – in my experience this normally works the other way around!

That degree of care, of thinking, of investment in the ambition to make this one of the best workplaces in the country, is one of the things that enables us as a tenant to reach our own goals.

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The business of ethics

Interview: Maria Claudia, Samambaia, Florist and Owner, Samambaia flowers


Procurement - the what, how, where and why of buying goods and services - can play a significant role in the health and sustainability of communities, and the environment all over the world. An insatiable desire to prioritise quantity over quality, and a single-minded focus on cost reduction over the past several decades has created long-lasting, environmental and social effects all over the world, most often in communities that already struggle with poor living standards.

Thankfully, this is changing. As technology continues to shrink the global marketplace, and simultaneously improve the transparency and awareness about how things are made, companies and individuals are increasingly empowered to make better choices and insist that provenance and ethics are the solid foundation on which procurement decisions are made.

As is often the case, profound change often begins in small, simple ways; fuelled by a determination to do good. It was a small group of coffee-roasting entrepreneurs who began sourcing beans directly from farmers to ensure they received fairer remuneration that sparked consumer demand for ethically sourced product and the birth of Free Trade coffee, which is now a standard for major distributors all overthe world. This in turn has enabled increased investment in small farming communities through way of improved infrastructure, education and equipment; ensuring the long-term sustainability of thousands of micro- farms around the world.

The fashion, technology and food industries have had similar recalibrations relating to the role of ethics in recent years, as consumers collectively demand increased transparency in provenance, forcing global brands to take greater responsibility for supply chains and to improve the wellbeing of the millions of people tasked with making the things we
use and rely on every day.

“Change can only come about if we insist on it,” says Liam Timms, Fund Manager, International Towers. “If we only do business with people and organisations that share our values, and if we refuse to purchase from those that don’t, we’ll see changes in behaviour that will ultimately be better for everyone. Someone needs to be the first to take a stand before others follow.”

International Towers has been committed to the highest standards of sustainability, diversity and inclusion from the very beginning of operations. In fact, a Responsible Procurement Policy was developed well in advance of the community coming alive and outlines a detailed and robust commitment to the responsible and sustainable procurement of goods and services. The policy reflects the international conventions and frameworks, such as the UN Global Compact’s principles on Environment, to which a number of International Towers’ tenant partners are signatories, including Accenture, David Jones, Lendlease, KPMG and Westpac.

In the current globalised economy, it’s reasonable to assume that many products may have been manufactured overseas and that business standards can vary widely across Australia and internationally.

By asking questions of our supply chain, we aim to better understand and support suppliers who are committed to business practices which enhance the environmental and social outcomes that align with those of International Towers. These questions ensure the products we source are: responsibly produced and from socially sustainable sources; avoid contributing to or directly using forced, bonded or involuntary labour; provide workers with safe working conditions free from bullying, physical, verbal or sexual harassment; pay staff appropriately and in line with all applicable laws; ensure no child labour or illegal labour is employed in the business; remove any discrimination on the basis of gender, faith, ethnicity, age, disability, marital status or sexual orientation.

The policy also extends to supporting our local Indigenous communities. The long cultural tradition and heritage of First Australians has a deep influence on every aspect of life at Barangaroo and, as such, International Towers is committed to improving Indigenous participation in the workforce by either directly employing Indigenous staff, or sourcing goods and services from Indigenous-owned or controlled businesses.

In a tangible example of our commitment to support Indigenous communities, we commissioned Indigenous artists from the Northern Territory to create 44 unique Dilly Bags to adorn the lobbies of International Towers, Tower Two and Tower Three, during the festive period.

The installation brought the work of Bula’bula Arts Aboriginal Corporation in North East Arnhem Land, home of the Yolngu people, to Barangaroo, the traditional home of the Gadigal people.

Dilly bags were historically used by Aboriginal people to gather food, carry tools, babies and receptacles for various cultural purposes, but today have a more decorative purpose. The artists from the Ramingining community craft their work to convey the region’s ritual and spiritual significance.

The artists, who hail from clan families and language groups in the area, used natural materials - Pandanas leaf from the Screw Palm being the essential material. The Pandanas leaf is dried and dyed using pigments from the surrounding country, compounded and applied by the artists using ancient knowledge and techniques.

Celebrating stories of diversity

The story of Australia is inseparable from the story of migration itself

Australia is often described as a nation of migrants. Apart from First Australians -
our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities - our population has its origins
in a uniquely diverse mix of other lands and cultures. The story of Australia is inseparable
from the story of migration itself, a tale that marries despair with hope, struggle with opportunity, and oppression with freedom.

In their search for a new life in a better place, Australia’s migrants have given
so much more to their new home than they’ve received. Despite an enormous
diversity in language, culture and beliefs, there is a commonality amongst
all that have settled on this land: an inspiring determination to succeed,
an entrepreneurial work ethic, and an unblemished optimism and belief in the
moral value of a ‘fair go’.

Global fintech TransferWise was inspired to create a photographic exhibition to
celebrate the achievements of Australian migrants and their incredible journeys.

The exhibition, ‘Faces of Australia’ - a portfolio of 20 curated images by
photographer Kurt Tilse, displayed in the ground foyers of International Towers,
Tower Two and Tower Three - inspired a panel discussion event, held to give a
voice to some of the individuals featured in the exhibition.

Opening the event, Liam Timms, Fund Manager for International Towers Sydney,
stressed the importance of providing a platform to support the diverse networks in Australia, such as through the exhibition and its ensuing spotlight on the importance of  diversity.

“One person doesn’t do anything alone, corporate Australia has a big role to play. At International Towers, we are proud of the rich fabric of our community,” Mr Timms said.

Co-founder of TransferWise, Taavet Hinrikus said, “We believe being Australian is more about recognising where and who we are now and where we hope to go, as much as where we’ve
come from.”

International Towers General Manager Tony Byrne said the inspiring exhibition was as much about the stories and storytelling as it was about the exquisitely-shot images. 
“Diversity, in its truest word, means acknowledging all forms of background and identity. At International Towers, we are committed to celebrating the heritage, beliefs and values of our
diverse workforce and visitor base. We are proud to host this exhibition which shows on a macro level the contribution migrants make to Australia and, on a micro level, the diversity of
our own thriving business community,” Mr Byrne said. Many of the other exhibition subjects attended and shared how they were able to achieve their dreams, drawing on support
such as startup incubator Catalysr. Since its launch in 2016, Catalysr has helped 66 “migrapreneurs” start more than 15 successful businesses. Its professional community has more than 500 advisors and investors, who help these migrapreneurs with advice, support and forming valuable business connections.

Catalysr “graduate” Walid El Sabbagh founded vegan, Egyptian eatery Koshari Korner.
He arrived from Egypt in 2015 with experience as a marine engineer but couldn’t find work in his field. The change of course gave him a change to bring a piece of Egypt to Sydney. 

Faces of Australia is proudly being  exhibited at International Towers throughout summer 2018 /2019.