INBOX : Green divide

The economic downturn has created growing sustainability divide, separating New Zealand businesses which “get” sustainability from those which see it as “nice to do”, says University of Waikato Management School’s Dr Eva Collins.
The university talked to more than 700 firms in the third in series of surveys, making it one of the first studies in the world to track the impact of recession on sustainability practices with longitudinal data.
The previous surveys, conducted in 2003 and 2006, showed increasing uptake of sustainability practices, but the 2010 survey reveals general decline, says Collins.
“Firm size was one of the best predictors of uptake of environmental practices,” says Collins. “In recession, small businesses are hardest hit by the upfront costs of sustainability practices, and our survey shows they cut back the most.”
However, small but significant group of firms have actually increased their uptake of environmental sustainability practices, such as recycling, reducing energy and water use, and environmental awareness.
“The recession shook out firms which had sustainability as an ‘add-on’,” says Collins. “For those firms, sustainability wasn’t aligned with their core business, so when things got tough they let it go.”

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