Our approach

‘Relationships creating success’ is Downer’s tagline – and it has always been our fundamental operating principle.

We understand that strong relationships with our customers, supply chain, communities and each other form the platform our success is built on.

Relationships are central to the four other sections in this report, and crucial to each of Downer’s 13 material issues:

  • Governance and ethical conduct – Downer’s relationships are built on trust, which is made possible by our robust governance frameworks and unyielding ethical standards
  • Health and safety – Downer’s Zero Harm commitment is built on a culture of looking out for our colleagues and communities to ensure they stay safe. It’s about forming strong relationships so we can respectfully challenge someone when they are operating in an unsafe manner, and constantly looking out for – and checking in on – our mates to make sure they are OK
  • Environment – we rely on relationships with colleagues, suppliers and customers to appropriately manage the environment in a responsible manner to mitigate the impact of our activities on the natural and built environment
  • People – the relationships our people form with each other is what drives our commitment to building a strong, diverse and inclusive workplace culture. We celebrate our differences and we celebrate each other’s successes.

Creating and maintaining lasting, genuine relationships is Downer’s focus in everything we do – from pre-planning to tenders, to the delivery of our projects and contracts, and the long-term maintenance and management of our customers’ assets.

Our performance

The materiality assessment Downer undertook in 2021 confirms that the relationships we have with our communities, customers and supply chain are essential to the sustainable success of our organisation.

Extensive work has been done in FY21 across our Australian and New Zealand operations to create, nurture and maintain the relationships we have built with our stakeholder groups.

Community relationships

Downer actively supports the communities in which we operate, through good times and bad.

We recognise the significant and lasting socio-economic benefits our presence in the community can bring.

We seek to engage with local suppliers and contractors and actively participate in regional business groups and chambers of commerce. In addition to providing local employment opportunities, Downer is focused on making a difference through partnerships, sponsorships and donations. We implement a range of strategies focusing on social responsibility, cultural heritage management and stakeholder engagement.

Community support

We understand that relationships are forged and trust is built during times of stress, and we are committed to supporting our communities when they need it most.

In recent years, we have seen an increase in the frequency and severity of adverse weather events across Australia and New Zealand.

Downer recognises we have the equipment, resources and capability to help communities get back on their feet following a natural disaster.

While 2020 saw unprecedented weather events in both countries, these significant events continued during FY21 as well.

In February 2021, three earthquakes, all above 7.0 magnitude, struck off the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The earthquakes prompted Civil Defence warnings of potential tsunamis and the subsequent evacuation of towns in parts of the North Island. As news of the earthquakes broke, our local management teams quickly mobilised to assess risks in their area, and provide emergency response support to local

communities. Through a combination of innovative technology and traditional methods, our teams were able to rapidly alert their workforces and ensure that any risks or potential impacts on our people, networks, customers and surrounding communities were quickly mitigated.

In February 2021, three earthquakes, all above 7.0 magnitude, struck off the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The earthquakes prompted Civil Defence warnings of potential tsunamis and the subsequent evacuation of towns in parts of the North Island. As news of the earthquakes broke, our local management teams quickly mobilised to assess risks in their area, and provide emergency response support to local communities. Through a combination of innovative technology and traditional methods, our teams were able to rapidly alert their workforces and ensure that any risks or potential impacts on our people, networks, customers and surrounding communities were quickly mitigated.

Less than one month later in Australia, most of New South Wales and parts of Queensland were flooded by the heaviest rainfall to hit the region in nearly a century. As these communities started picking up the pieces from another natural disaster, Downer teams were on the ground assisting with the clean-up and recovery. As soon as the rain subsided, our DM Roads crews were out helping repair damage caused to the road network across New South Wales, opening up traffic to towns and communities that were cut off by the flood damage.

Downer donated $100,000 to the Business Council of Australia’s Community Rebuilding Initiative in April to assist with flood recovery. This was on top of the $500,000 Downer donated to the Community Rebuilding Initiative in 2020 in response to Australia’s bushfire crisis. The Community Rebuilding Initiative was established to build a permanent capability to mobilise and coordinate the business community’s response in times of tragedy and to act as an interface with Federal and State authorities and established recovery agencies.

The funds donated by Downer and other businesses will support individuals, businesses and communities in affected areas.

In addition to this donation, Downer also has a number of key strategic partnerships with community, not-for-profit and sporting organisations. In FY21, Downer’s community investment equaled 0.7 per cent of total profit. The following is an overview of Downer’s major charitable and sporting partnerships in FY21.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Wall of Hands

Downer has been a proud supporter of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation’s (ALNF) Wall of Hands Appeal since 2013. The ALNF works with Indigenous communities and schools around Australia with the aim that five out of five kids will learn to read – the vital first step to a satisfying and successful life. The ALNF is the first national charity dedicated to raising language, literacy and numeracy standards in Australia. Closing the Indigenous literacy gap is a serious, long-term issue and Downer is a proud supporter of this very worthy cause.

Beyond Blue

In May 2021, Downer joined national mental health organisation Beyond Blue as its Major Partner. Downer also matched donations from the public for Beyond Blue’s 2021 national fundraising campaign, up to a total of $250,000.

Australian Veterans
Employers Coalition

Downer is proud to be a Founding Member of Australian Veterans Employers Coalition (AVEC), which connects transitioning service members, job-seeking veterans and their partners with Australia’s largest community of employers.

AVEC was founded in 2017 by six leading Australian organisations, who recognised their collective strength in offering a wide variety of opportunities, across numerous skill levels in almost all sectors and industries.

Downer employs hundreds of veterans – in the Downer Defence business and across the Downer Group. As a Steering Committee member, we actively drive the ongoing development of AVEC to promote awareness for sustainable engagement and improved employment outcomes for veterans.

Workplace Giving Australia

Downer is currently working with Workplace Giving Australia on the introduction of a workplace giving program for Downer employees. It is anticipated there will be a soft launch of the program in October 2021 with a whole-of-business launch in February 2022, progressively maturing the program over FY22 to FY24.

Major Sporting Partnerships

Sunshine Coast Lightning

Downer has been the Principal Partner of Sunshine Coast Lightning Super Netball club since the team’s inception in 2017. In October 2020, Downer re-committed its support for the Lightning for a further two years, taking our partnership into its fifth and sixth seasons.

“The alignment between Downer and Lightning centres around both organisations recognising that people and relationships are the cornerstone of enduring success,” Lightning CEO, Danielle Smith, said. “Securing Downer as a Principal Partner long term plays a pivotal role in ensuring Lightning’s future viability and it is a partnership that we are excited to maximise in years to come.”

New Zealand Rugby Union

Downer is the first organisation to partner with the Māori All Blacks as well as the Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens women’s teams.

Our partnership with NZRU is founded on a core set of values held by both organisations, including: the celebration of diversity; inclusion of all cultures, people and genders; investment in high performance; and investment in the mental and physical wellbeing of our people.

The partnership is a cornerstone of Downer’s diversity and inclusion initiatives in New Zealand and also includes sponsorship of the referees in New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup provincial competition.

We strengthened our relationship with NZRU in FY21 by hosting a workshop on sustainability initiatives and goals for the women’s Rugby World Cup, which will be played in New Zealand in 2022. It was an opportunity for Downer to share our sustainability knowledge and expertise, focusing on the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

New Zealand Masters Games

Downer was proud to again be naming rights sponsor of the New Zealand Masters Games in 2021. The Downer New Zealand Masters Games is held every second year in Whanganui, and is a key event for the local community. Our people are also active participants in the games. Downer had over 100 employees participate in the 10-day event, after we paid the entry fees for Downer, Hawkins and Spotless employees.

In addition to Downer’s Group-wide partnerships, we also encourage our teams to form strong relationships in their local communities.

An example of the community spirit we strive for is the Downer FKG joint venture, which is delivering the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) Remediation Project for the Australian Defence Force in Central Queensland.

In FY21, the team proudly donated over $28,000 to charities and sporting groups in the local Rockhampton and Yeppoon communities. The funds have been raised from the proceeds of sales at the Raspberry Creek Camp museum canteen and recycling via the container refund scheme. In addition to these donations, the team also partnered with veteran support charity, Legacy, assisting with local fundraising activities and taking part in backyard assist mornings for widows and families who have lost veterans.

Community stakeholder engagement

The services Downer delivers for our customers enable the lives of millions of people across Australia and New Zealand. However, we understand that these services cannot always be delivered without some short-term disruptions to the local community (such as temporary road closures, changed travel conditions, or construction noise).

Cultural engagement

In Australia, Downer operates across approximately 300 sites, covering all corners of the country. Our operations are deeply embedded in local communities, and we are committed to developing genuine long-term relationships and working closely with Traditional Owners to ensure we respect their traditional lands that we work on.

Case study

Supporting the mental health of our people and communities

Customer relationships

Customer engagement was highlighted as a key issue in the materiality assessment Downer conducted in FY21, rising from our eighth-highest material issue in 2019, to our fourth-highest in 2021.

At Downer, customers are at the heart of everything we do.

Our Purpose is to create and sustain the modern environment by building trusted relationships with our customers. Our Promise is to work closely with our customers to help them succeed, using world-leading insights and solutions.

To achieve our Purpose and Promise, we:

  • Investigate the markets in which we operate and identify the key customers in these markets that we want to work with, now and into the future
  • Foster a customer-centric culture across the business where we value our customers and support their strategic and operational objectives
  • Engage with our customers and key stakeholders to understand their business drivers, challenges, opportunities and priorities
  • Bring expertise and innovative thinking from across our business, and the broader industry, to help solve customer issues and position Downer as a thought leader
  • Constantly seek to understand our customers’ expectations, communicate these to our employees and contractors, and strive to exceed them
  • Actively seek feedback from our customers on our performance against their expectations. We respond positively to this feedback, actioning areas for improvement and communicating strategies and outcomes with our customers
  • Establish Account Plans for our key customers to map and manage our relationship
  • Work collaboratively across the organisation, sharing knowledge on our mutual customers and coordinating our engagement to provide a consistent customer experience that represents the best of Downer.

When The Downer Standard was established in 2018, a key driver was to support the end-to-end Delivery Lifecycle and provide a more consistent and collaborative approach to servicing our customers. In FY21, significant work has been done on the adoption of The Downer Standard to embed Group-wide policies, standards and procedures that support our Delivery Management Methodology and customer management processes. One of the key initiatives currently underway is the roll-out of a Delivery Governance Management app which facilitates adherence to The Downer Standard for Delivery Management. This simplifies the process, requires key planning activities to be completed and improves governance to enable successful delivery.

In FY21, some teams invited customers to work through the requirements of Delivery Governance Management to ensure expectations are aligned and a strong foundation is established from the outset of each project.

Customer feedback and insights

Downer maintains two integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, which are crucial to understanding our markets and customers and capturing feedback. In FY21, we continued to review, update and improve both systems.

Seeking and capturing customer feedback helps Downer adapt and evolve with our customers’ changing needs, and maintain our reputation as a thought leader in our industry.

In FY21, we monitored customer satisfaction with Downer’s performance through a range of survey and feedback approaches, including:

  • Project/contract-specific customer surveys and reviews
  • Strategic customer reviews
  • Multi-customer survey programs
  • Tender debrief sessions (won or lost)
  • Informal feedback
  • Materiality assessment.
surveys and reviews

We use this process to assess how well Downer understands and delivers on the customer’s service expectations. Through this, what is important to the customer is validated and we learn where Downer is doing well and where improvements are required. This information helps to identify improvement strategies and opportunities to create more value for the customer and position Downer for ongoing work with the customer, which can be retention of an existing service contract, extension of scope or future project and service contract opportunities.

Strategic customer reviews

This involves a more detailed assessment of Downer’s relationship with a key customer, going deeper than assessing their satisfaction with Downer’s performance on any individual project. We do this to validate what is important to them at an organisational level, and how they perceive Downer as a service provider. These reviews typically involve several surveys, with the aim of sourcing feedback at operational, management and executive levels. This information helps us identify opportunities to bring new services and create more value for Downer’s customers.

Multi-customer surveys

Surveys of customer groups (for example all customers within a specific market or service offering), which we use to gauge Downer’s strengths, weaknesses and market positioning, as perceived by key customer personnel.

Tender review sessions
(won or lost)

At the completion of a tender process, Downer will typically seek a tender review or debrief session with the customer for both successful and unsuccessful bids. These sessions offer additional insight into our customer’s drivers and provide valuable information about how successfully Downer articulated its value proposition, to influence our current and future customers to work with us.

Informal feedback

We seek informal feedback regularly throughout the year on our projects and contracts, for example through a general customer conversation or meeting. These are often a source of valuable feedback, capturing insights into potential issues with performance, as well as areas that Downer is performing strongly in and should leverage further.

Materiality assessment

Downer conducts a materiality assessment every two years to identify the issues that matter most to our stakeholders, which can therefore most influence their assessments and decisions. In FY21, we revisited our materiality assessment, using an independent research company to engage selected internal and external stakeholders (including a representation of our customer base) to identify and understand our material economic, social, environmental and governance risks and opportunities.

These customer engagement streams provide Downer with a deep understanding of our customers and markets. This understanding drives innovation and enables us to tailor our services to deliver added value for our customers and shape future offerings to address what Downer’s customers value.

In May 2021, Transport for NSW (TfNSW) awarded the Keolis Downer joint venture a $900 million contract to operate and maintain bus services in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and the lower North Shore for eight years.

The contract is an example of how we leverage our knowledge of customer and market requirements to include value-added initiatives in our contracts.

Under the contract, Keolis Downer will work closely with TfNSW to deliver a range of innovations that will further enhance passenger experience, while delivering more sustainable transport solutions.

The contract will see the introduction of 125 electric buses over the next eight years, delivering more sustainable transport options for the local community from two newly electrified depots in Brookvale and Mona Vale.

Keolis Downer will also introduce innovative headway technology to further increase the reliability and quality of the successful B-Line bus service. The technology will enable staff to actively manage routes and monitor bus running times, improving the frequency of bus services.

The popular On Demand transport service, known as Keoride, will also become a permanent part of the network. We have operated the innovative On Demand service in the area since 2017, allowing passengers to book a service for when and where they want to travel, with buses or smaller vehicles meeting this demand in place of fixed transport services.

In FY21, Keolis Downer also secured a new eight-year contract to operate Adelaide’s rail network for the South Australian Government. This provided an opportunity to integrate other Downer service offerings into the contract to deliver greater value for the customer – and its customers.

Keolis Downer engaged Spotless to undertake a facility maintenance contract as well as a cleaning service delivery contract, which includes the cleaning of all 89 stations throughout the network, trains and four depots, consisting of various workshops and offices throughout the State. Keolis Downer and Spotless worked together on innovative solutions through technology and equipment to deliver on their promise to the customer to improve the cleaning standard across the network efficiently and safely.

In FY21, Downer also adapted our services in response to customer feedback. In June, we made organisational structure changes to allow us to better engage with our customers in the Defence industry.

Australian Government spending on Defence acquisition and sustainment has grown significantly over recent years in response to increasing uncertainty in our region.

Downer has a long and distinguished history supporting the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) dating back more than 80 years. However, a strategic review of our opportunities in Australia’s Defence sector in FY21 revealed Downer could benefit from improved name recognition and a better understanding of our core services and capabilities among key Defence decision makers.

In response to this feedback, Downer created a new Business Unit, Downer Defence, through the merger of Downer’s Defence Systems and Spotless’ Base and Estate Management businesses. This new Business Unit combines all our Defence services under one roof, and better coordinates our capabilities. In addition, we commenced development of a customer engagement strategy which better engages with the customer and communicates our strengths with clarity and consistency.

Following customer feedback, we also changed the name of our consulting and managed solutions business from Downer Defence Systems to Downer Professional Services. This better describes to customers the nature of our offering and better positions our brand in the market.

These changes demonstrate Downer’s understanding of our customers and market, and position us to take advantage of the significant pipeline of Defence opportunities.

In New Zealand, our customer-focused mindset guides our activities across all levels of the business.

From industry level involvement to stakeholder management and community engagement, we work hard to ensure that our work has a positive impact on the people of New Zealand. We are proud to be paving the way in this space, with passionate advocates leading by example to achieve positive outcomes for all.

Two examples of the New Zealand team’s customer-centric approach from FY21 are the America’s Cup 36 project, delivered by the Wynyard Edge Alliance, and the Hamilton Infrastructure Alliance.

America’s Cup 36 (AC36)

Local and central government knew they needed an exceptional customer engagement approach to deliver the AC36 yacht race on time.

The first phase was to nominate owner participant champions (Owner Interface Managers) who were skilled operators, able to crystallise public expectation, policy, and event operational issues into questions that constructors and designers could understand and solve. Owner Interface Managers deliver structured engagement making for confident customers.

The second phase was to involve Emirates Team New Zealand into both the specification and early optioneering processes – this allowed them to understand the cost of trade-offs being proposed. This effort filtered back through owner participants and event organisers, stabilising the decision-making discourses.

The third step was to start and sustain an operating rhythm of engagement with Mana Whenua. This engagement enabled the Wynyard Edge Alliance to anticipate the kind of engagement process and outcomes that Mana Whenua would need to ensure their narration was wrought into final design and build outcomes. Taking the time to evolve this kind of customer into a true partner pushed our design further than anticipated – it made it deeply human.

Finally, co-location with designers, constructors, workers and officials facilitated greater collaboration and turned risk resolution into a world without emails and minimised design re-drafting, which was all invaluable to the customer. One typical example was sustained debate, then agreement, about replacing all concrete 3.5m diameter pipes with HDPE, and forming all breakwaters out of HDPE encased piles, thus achieving 100-year asset renewals.

Hamilton Infrastructure Alliance

Hamilton City Council (HCC) has formed the Hamilton Infrastructure Alliance (HIA) in partnership with Downer to maintain Hamilton’s roads. Formed in October 2013, this is a 10-year contract and involves staff from Downer working in co-location with Hamilton City Council staff. The HIA is designed to deliver shared goals on integrated planning, customer service and delivery, efficiencies and value for money.

The ongoing success of the HIA requires a collaborative approach between Downer and Council, with the customer at the heart of every decision.

We know that a customer-centric approach is essential. People will accept change, but they want timely and accurate information so they can plan and make informed choices.

Underlining the collaborative integration that exists in the partnership, the HIA team works directly with HCC’s social media team to make announcements of upcoming works on its Facebook and Twitter pages. This complements more traditional communication means, such as letterbox drops and VMS boards. As a sign of trust and depth of the relationship between Downer and Council staff, Downer’s Stakeholder Coordinator has access to HCC’s Facebook page. These notifications enable customers to plan their journeys with an awareness of planned/unplanned works.

Our customer services staff receive over 7,000 service requests each year. To reduce the number of customer enquiries, we introduced a KPI for the number of issues reported by all staff in the HIA team, including office-based staff. The whole team was asked to take ownership and not walk past an issue without reporting it by email, including a photo. We actively seek feedback and have a 98 per cent success close-out rate. This improved team culture has ensured that we can address issues before the public reports them. This also delivered significant improvements to customer-related KPIs in a short period.

In order to maintain strong relationships with our customers, we rely on successful relationships with our suppliers and subcontractors.

We recognise that our relationships with our supply chain are critical in the initial planning or development phase of a contract or project. If materials, parts or services cannot be supplied to meet the scope requirements, deadlines or expected cost, Downer will not be able to adhere to cost and time considerations required to deliver on the promises we make to our customers.

Supply chain relationships

Our future focus


Relationships will always underpin Downer’s success.

We are committed to nurturing and strengthening our existing relationships, and seeking to build new ones with both internal and external stakeholders.

  • We will continue to focus on building trusted relationships with our customers by delivering on our promises with excellence. Launching Downer’s Delivery Governance Model app in Australia to automate and simplify adherence to the Delivery Management Methodology, a core process area within The Downer Standard, will significantly help our teams to consistently deliver outstanding results for our customers
  • We will aim to increase engagement with our supply chain, through the CDP supply chain survey. Our goal is to achieve an increased response rate to the survey in FY22, which will not only form an important part of our Scope 3 emissions portfolio but will also provide an important opportunity to engage with our suppliers and assist them on their own decarbonisation journeys
  • We will seek to actively build relationships in the communities we are part of. An important focus of FY22 will be to identify a nonprofit Indigenous organisation to support, both financially as well as via the capabilities and expertise of our people
  • We are committed to introducing a workplace giving program for Downer employees during FY22
  • We will continue to review our sponsorships and partnerships to ensure all initiatives are aligned to our Purpose, Promise and Pillars and deliver value for the communities in which we operate.