As being a good corporate citizen becomes increasingly important embracing ethical business practices is proving to have tangible pay-offs. By Amanda Ogilvie

As much of NSW experiences a housing boom, it’s an unfortunate reality that many people across the state struggle to find affordable housing. The waiting list for social housing in NSW currently has around 60,000 names, ranging from the elderly to the long-term unemployed, on it. The average waiting time is between 10 and 15 years.

Helping to address the problem is Evolve Housing, a not-for-profit organisation that works with developers and property owners to increase the availability of affordable housing and to provide practical assistance to people on the waiting list.

By doing so, Evolve Housing aims to help break the cycle of intergenerational dependence on welfare, become less reliant on government subsidies and become more economically independent.

“We call it ‘the journey home’,” says Evolve Housing’s CEO, Andrea Galloway. “It’s about moving people along a pathway to independence.”

Transparency key to better business practices

Evolve Housing prides itself on conducting every aspect of its business according to its core values: Integrity, Honesty, Empathy, Accountability and Respect, known internally as “I HEAR”.

“We are very participatory and transparent in how we approach everything,” Galloway says. “Our strategy, policy and procedures are all available online.”

Being transparent has had tangible pay-offs for the organisation, allowing them to build stronger and better partnerships, including with the property developers and welfare organisations they work with.

“If people understand how you run the business, it opens doors for opportunities,” Galloway says.

“Our ethical practices have allowed us to go toe-to-toe with some larger private companies and large banks. They know we are ethical and well-governed so it’s given us the ability to grow our balance sheet, to be able to do more things and to provide better outcomes for people.”

Embracing ethical business practices from the top down

While most businesses are keen to be transparent in the way they do business, implementing changes to business practices has to be led from the top down, according to Galloway.

“It’s about getting the right executives around you, focusing on the transparency and the values, and living those values,” she says. “Leading by example pushes it down through your organisation and to your clients.”

She also highlights the importance of actively including employees in the journey. Happy, motivated staff with clear direction are less likely to leave.

“The more ethical you are, the better the outcomes you get from people, and the more they are committed to the business.

“Every time a person leaves it costs three or four times their salary to replace them and get them up to speed. If the employees are happy and motivated and have direction you will get better outcomes.”

Ultimately, running your business along ethical lines doesn’t have to come at a cost, she adds.

“This year we made about $9.5 million dollars. It’s just as important for us to make a profit as it is in any other business.

“All our surplus is put back into assisting clients, so the more we make the more we can put back in to helping people along their journey to independence.”
"Our ethical practices have allowed us to go toe-to-toe with some larger private companies and large banks. They know we are ethical and well-governed so it’s given us the ability to grow our balance sheet."