Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic disruption of 2020, we were steadfast in leading our business with a responsible business mindset. It helped us to stay focused on the issues that matter most to our business for the long-term, which are consistent with the four pillars of our Sustainable Business Framework: our community, people, environment and economic performance.
All 42 Westfield Living Centres remained open.
I am proud of our team who rapidly adopted new ways of working and kept delivering for our customers in COVID-Safe environments.
At the time of publication of this report – 31 March 2021 – the Australian and New Zealand economies are on their way to recovery.
Despite the limitations on people movement, our annual customer visits were more than 450 million. This demonstrates how essential our business and brand are to our customers.
We have worked closely with government and industry stakeholders to support and apply COVID-Safe protocols to our industry and business so that our communities continue to feel safe when they visit us.
The cash flow shock of the pandemic on our small to medium sized retailers was severe. We led the development of a voluntary code of conduct which was designed to target appropriate assistance and support for small to medium sized retailers (SMEs). The Code was mandated by governments throughout Australia and we voluntarily applied these principles to our New Zealand SMEs. This meant we were directly supporting rental relief, something no other industry has equalled throughout the pandemic. By year-end, we had reached commercial arrangements with 94 per cent of the retail brands across our portfolio including 2,456 SME retailers in line with the Code.
We remained committed to our community initiatives and were agile in our delivery. We successfully delivered the third Westfield Local Heroes program and introduced new categories to recognise the community work focussing on crises such as the bushfire emergency.
Likewise, our people maintained their focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives, delivering connection and engagement across our team on key days of significance with a focus on mental health and domestic and family violence.
Momentum has been maintained on our environmental pillar and we announced our target to achieve net zero emissions by 2030 across our wholly-owned portfolio. We have agreed a pathway to achieve this and key initiatives are summarised in this report. We are encouraged by our ability to achieve our emissions intensity target five years ahead of its original date and will be resetting this target in 2021. We committed to the Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures and our annual report and Climate resilience section on pages 38–42 provide more detail on how we are addressing the recommendations. We have improved our performance on key investor surveys, moving into the leadership band of Carbon Disclosure Project with an A- score and recognised as a Sector Leader for Development by GRESB.
We have made progress on our supply chain commitments, including the introduction of our first Modern Slavery Statement, our Supplier Code of Conduct and a supplier industry database to strengthen our understanding of our suppliers and their needs. Our Modern Slavery Statement is available online.
Our economic performance during 2020 was impacted by COVID-19. We acted quickly to secure additional funding so that we were in a strong financial position to see Scentre Group through and beyond the volatile period. Ending the year with a $771 million cash surplus, having not received any financial support from government nor raising equity from our securityholders, has been a pleasing outcome given the unprecedented operating environment.
The targets outlined on page 9 are embedded into the initiatives that form our responsible business scorecard and govern key milestones for 2021. The leadership team is accountable for delivering these initiatives so we can continue to fulfil Our Purpose: creating extraordinary places, connecting and enriching communities.
Peter Allen, Chief Executive Officer