SURVEY : Poll gives green light – Business backs sustainability

It seems there is bunch of business decisionmakers who agree with Prime Minister Helen Clark that sustainability is essential across the whole economy to help manage climate change and protect New Zealand’s trading position.
What’s more they believe green consumerism and eco-labelling will play major role in the future and back sustainable or ‘green’ procurement by government agencies – even to the extent of making this mandatory.
That’s according to an online ShapeNZ Survey conducted by the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development late last year. This aimed to determine the views of business decisionmakers about:
•the Government’s recent announcement that New Zealand should aim for sustainable development and carbon neutral economy;
•government agencies’ procurement policies;
•the value of eco-labels;
•the degree to which the Government should direct its agencies to procure on ‘whole of life’ versus ‘day-one’ cost basis;
•what support there is for government involvement in promoting eco-labels on goods and services.
Results were compiled from 190 business decision-maker respondents weighted according to their party vote at the last general election to remove potential political bias from the results.
These showed sustainability as business philosophy is now mainstream with 90 percent of respondents agreeing that sustainability is required across the whole economy – only seven percent disagreed. The majority (78 percent) believe New Zealand would be more competitive internationally if it was to become the first ‘truly sustainable’ country – though 31 percent saw some risk to our competitiveness in the short term.
If truly representative, the survey indicates sea change in attitude towards planning for long-term benefits rather than short-term profit-taking and an acknowledgement by the business community of the need for government intervention to accelerate adoption of sustainable business practices.
There is overwhelming support for government procurement to be conducted on ‘whole-of-life’ cost basis (89 percent). There was also strong support for positive government action to promote green procurement by government agencies and for the use of tax revenue to promote the use of sustainable products and services.
Fifty-six percent of respondents agreed that government agencies should only procure goods and services which meet verified sustainable, or green, criteria. If this philosophy was translated into government policy there would be huge flow-on effect in the New Zealand economy – the Government’s 47 core departments and agencies each year spend $6 billion in operating costs.
Results also indicated general support for the concept of eco-labels but little knowledge of the specifics. Although most respondents were not aware of the eco or sustainability labels currently in use, 85 percent agreed that the government should promote eco-labels in New Zealand, and 88 percent believed eco-labelling would be more important in the future.
There was also significant support for extending the eco-label influence beyond environmental considerations alone. Most respondents (65 percent) believed fair trade criteria should be developed for the issuing of labels, and substantial minorities supported extending this concept to consumer protection (48 percent), sustainable employment practices (46 percent), investing in research and development (34 percent), investing in equal opportunity and employment practices (30 percent), staff training (29 percent), and philanthropic support (15 percent).
The survey gave strong indications that sustainability issues could have dramatic impact on consumer purchasing patterns in the future. More than 90 percent of those responding believed green consumerism exists in New Zealand but that it didn’t have significant current impact on the way New Zealanders shopped. They foresaw major turnaround however, with 63 percent believing it would impact New Zealanders’ purchasing decisions in the future.
(For more details or to join the ShapeNZ decisionmakers panel, visit www.shapenz.org.nz.)

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