A strategic plan for engaging with stakeholders to deliver better social, environmental and economic outcomes

Ports and shipping are vital to the Australian and NSW economies, carrying 99.5% of Australia’s trade by volume. Although shipping represents the most sustainable means of transporting goods long distances, Port Authority recognises that there are associated impacts, including on local communities, and opportunities for improved outcomes.

In November 2019, Port Authority committed to developing a sustainability plan and saw this initiative as an opportunity to shift organisational ways of thinking and working, while supporting its purpose of providing safe, efficient and sustainable maritime services and port assets within a culture that demonstrates caring, accountability, integrity and collaboration.

The resulting Sustainability Plan is a product of a new approach, embracing the role our people and stakeholders play in designing and implementing the plan, and utilising co-design activities to engage broadly throughout the process. It incorporates contemporary thinking in organisational dynamics, design and sustainable development into a coherent, strategic plan.

The brief

In late 2019, Port Authority committed to publishing a Sustainability Plan by mid 2020.

Port Authority saw this initiative as an opportunity to shift ways of thinking and working across the organisation; helping to achieve its goal of being a robust and sustainable organisation with a culture that is honest, open, caring and accountable.

Our primary challenge was to design a Sustainability Plan that:
a) Staff and stakeholders feel ownership of and will act on.
b) Integrates sustainability into Port Authority’s culture and operations.

Our second challenge was to support the Port Authority’s commitment to sustainability planning despite COVID-19 challenges.


Port Authority invested in staff and stakeholder collaboration upfront, with the goal of reducing implementation challenges and improving ownership and pride in the Plan.

The team used a range of engagement methods and digital collaboration tools to make the entire process possible and transparent to staff across NSW from Yamba to Eden. This included in-depth interviews using the Natural Inquiry research methodology, surveys, workshops, a digital project wall, regular showcases, and e-newsletters.

Almost 20% of staff (at all locations and representing a diversity of roles, experience and seniority), and key external stakeholders were actively engaged and participated in the co-creation of the Plan.

Using digital collaboration tools from the beginning enabled the team to maintain connection and productivity during COVID-19 lockdown. It also demonstrated Port Authority’s ability to collaborate remotely as a new norm.

This open, collaborative approach is an innovative way of working for Port Authority and an innovative approach to sustainability planning in general. For many organisations, sustainability planning results in a document describing high level goals with initiatives and targets, but does not delve into the organisational change required to embed sustainability and shift mindsets and behaviours.

“Initially I thought we were after a glossy PDF, but since undertaking the process, the real plan is to have our employees engaged, setting their own targets, and being able to achieve more than just our group could ever imagine.”

Amy Beaumont, Group General Counsel


The resulting Sustainability Plan includes:
  1. 44 social, environmental, economic and organisational initiatives prioritised by staff across the organisation.
  2. A ‘stakeholder engagement framework’ to help staff co-design and deliver initiatives together with communities and partners.
  3. An ‘operating model’ for continuous planning, monitoring and transparent public reporting.
The plan will be published internally and externally in the coming months.


Embracing a design mindset and approach enabled Port Authority to create a Sustainability Plan that:

  1. Describes the collaborative journey it should go on to help ensure a positive legacy for future generations.
  2. Provides a roadmap and operating model for embedding sustainable practices and decision-making into its organisation.
  3. Inspires staff to act because they were actively involved in creating it.
  4. Demonstrates the open and accountable culture Port Authority aims to embed.
  5. Demonstrates digital ways of working, reducing Port Authority’s carbon footprint as a quick win and giving staff confidence that it can be done.

You can follow the progress of this initiative on the Port Authority website –

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