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Marrying commerce with conscience

woman flicking hair in greyscale

The words ‘gambling’ and ‘social responsibility’ appear to be unnatural bedfellows.

However, Lotto NZ (responsible for all lottery games in New Zealand) is an organisation that truly cares about their players and society.

This is evident when you first step into Lotto NZ’s office where a large LCD screen shows their wide-reaching contribution to New Zealand communities.

By enabling a lot of Kiwis to spend a little on their games, Lotto NZ then returns 100% of profits back to New Zealand communities via the Lottery Grants Board, supporting more than 3,000 good causes around the country every year. Few areas at the heart of New Zealand society are left untouched.

Lotto NZ’s approach to social responsibility and responsible gaming provides some clear inspiration for other Kiwi organisations. Given the unique category context in which they operate, Lotto NZ have managed to walk the line of marrying commerce and conscience.

We sat down with Lotto NZ’s CEO Chris Lyman to learn more about how the organisation puts social responsibility at the heart of everything they do.

AC: Let’s start by telling us a bit about how social responsibility fits into your organisation...

CL: Given the purpose of our organisation and what we do, there is an inherent need for social responsibility, heavily focused around harm minimisation to our players. It is something that’s always been a part of the business, but it’s something we’re working to elevate to a much higher level.

On top of that, we have a wider corporate social responsibility framework which encompasses things like the environment, people and diversity.

AC: How have you become a purpose-driven organisation? How has that journey changed throughout your time at Lotto NZ?

"The great thing about this business is that our purpose is very clear – we’re not searching for a purpose, and we’ve never had a need to search for one."

CL: The great thing about this business is that our purpose is very clear – we’re not searching for a purpose, and we’ve never had a need to search for one.

Since Lotto NZ was established in 1987, our statutory purpose has always been about maximising funding back to Kiwi communities, while at the same time minimising harm from our products.

Gradually we’ve grown into these two spaces. When I moved into the CEO role, I felt that we needed to add more support and focus to both aspects of our purpose. We have dedicated resources looking at minimising harm and are focused on telling our community story.

I believe it’s more important than ever that people understand the positive effect of buying a Lotto ticket, not just for themselves but in terms of where that money goes back to in the community – it’s really important to have a strong connection.

AC: What does social responsibility mean in the context of gambling, and how is that actioned?

CL: First and foremost, it’s about taking care of your customers. This should be something that organisations do anyway. It shouldn’t have to be written down – you should just want to do it, and that’s the approach we take.

In terms of gambling there are many frameworks that are held up as best practice around the world, whether that be for casinos, sports betting or lotteries. We want to be the benchmark in New Zealand for taking care of our customers and harm minimisation, but we also have an expectation to be world leaders in that space – and we are. The World Lottery Association provides a responsible gaming framework for lotteries globally, and we are accredited at the highest level, so we’re leading the pack.

AC: If you’re communicating your social responsibility message, there’s a fine line between communicating it and it being seen as a marketing spin. How do you balance that as an organisation?

"Corporate Social Responsibility often sits in a marketing team and is thought about as sponsorship and communications. We’ve taken a different approach, which is to sit it in our strategic area – it’s a strategic intent, not a marketing intent, and as such we don’t attach marketing dollars to it."

CL: Corporate Social Responsibility often sits in a marketing team and is thought about as sponsorship and communications. We’ve taken a different approach, which is to sit it in our strategic area – it’s a strategic intent, not a marketing intent, and as such we don’t attach marketing dollars to it.

I think that’s our one key difference. We’ll even be questioned quite happily from the Board around whether CSR would typically sit within the marketing team. My response has always been “yes”, but we don’t want it to be a marketing activity. It sits within strategy because we want it to be genuine.

AC: What is your advice for companies who are getting into the space of social responsibility?

CL: You need to be genuine. From what I’ve seen, organisations quite often try and find something specific to latch onto. But whatever you do in this space has to be authentic to your business, it has to fit, it has to be believable, and it has to be a strong connection.

If it has that then you’ve got a pretty sound framework from which to build on. Be very clear about why you have a social responsibility function and make sure you challenge yourself on every aspect of what you do across the business – difficult conversations are the best conversations in this space. And finally, make sure you can deliver what you say you’re going to deliver and be consistent with it.

Amber Coulter
Partner at TRA

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