Few companies want to be sustainable out of the goodness of their hearts, admits Calum Revfem, but he says most CEOs get excited about changing if they understand that any savings go straight to their business’ bottom line.
Every year more businesses – like Winstone Aggregates, Toyota New Zealand and Chevron – are using the environmental consultancy Revfem founded, Envirostate, as one-stop shop to help them adopt sustainable practices over many parts of their business.
Revfem started Envirostate five years ago as general sustainability consultancy, but soon found people couldn’t understand the services they offered, which range from transport, energy, waste and procurement to environmental management.
Once he listed the ways Envirostate worked, people could better understand how its consultants can drive culture of sustainability through their businesses, which “was critical shift for us”, he says.
“We work with businesses that want to improve their environmental performance.
We still work through communications image and brand, but really we’re the level behind that, working on management plans and auditing services.
“We can advise on smarter travel, we suggest initiatives like video conferencing to save travel, show how to build energy-efficient buildings, advise on waste minimisation.
“It’s simple, why have something removed when you can use it again? Why are you paying to have something taken away that you didn’t want in the first place? It’s about getting concepts over to business people so they can understand the value of it.”
The steps they introduce can be culture changing for businesses, says Revfem, and have brought worldwide recognition to the small company, based in offices in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty.
“Companies find that their staff say ‘I love to work for company that is trying to make positive environmental change’ and you see increased productivity.
“Really it’s the people in business that make the difference.”
He cites the case of Winstone
Aggregates, which wanted to reduce its fuel bill and carbon emissions. Envirostate started by asking the company’s drivers for their suggestions, says Revfem.
“It was the drivers that said, ‘Someone’s asked our opinion, so we’ll start changing behaviours’ – and they’ve got so much knowledge. People know how to do things better.
“They made 15 percent fuel saving. That was $335,000 year and they save that every year. It all starts with the buy-in and you can introduce smarter policies that are both more efficient and environmentally beneficial.”
He says it’s deeply satisfying to drive innovation and watch the culture change within company.
Revfem’s environmental expertise spans the globe. First attending Lincoln University in Christchurch, he then studied for an environmental management masters in the Netherlands, where he built an extensive range of contacts with other sustainability initiatives.
“They are really on the cutting edge over there.”
His experience overseas shows one area New Zealand lags behind the rest of the world is in global reporting standards. He says many small companies here feed into international companies’ supply chains and those companies are demanding higher standards of sustainability.
He gives the example of Fonterra, which is big exporter. It has 15,000 suppliers, many of them small farm owners.
“There are risks in managing these people, and ensuring their environmental credentials. This is coming our way in New Zealand. We want to be at the forefront. Whether we export or supply locally, our standards have got to be international, it’s the way things are going. Local doesn’t cut it any more.”
As step to bringing global reporting standards here, Envirostate has become the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) training partner for New Zealand and Australia – the only one. GRI is global network-based organisation that has pioneered the development of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework.
As work builds, Revfem says Envirostate has had to grow. In its first six to eight months the company took on one staff member, but this year alone they’ve employed four graduates working from two offices, in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty. “We’ve got wealth of projects,” he says.
He says the biggest part of the business is working with large corporates one on one, but now government agency, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), has employed them to run co-ordinated training programmes for SMEs, dealing with groups of 20 to 30 companies.
A new sub-brand, Green Events, focuses on sustainable practices for events like seminars and conferences, including the recent Bizzone events in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Now the business is well established, Revfem has found he can return something to the community, founding Envirochallenge, not-for-profit organisation to encourage green awareness in high schools.
The students treat their school like business, creating ‘green team’ with managers and reviews, and they have mission – to sell case for sustainability to their school’s trustees.
For Revfem, green practices should start in the classroom and move into big business. “If people want to move towards sustainability, let’s help them move in that direction,” he says.
“Worldwide there is shift in thinking, so we’d better get our house in order.”
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