SUSTAINABILITY : New Zealand’s Environment – Can we fix it? Yes we can

The recently released Environment New Zealand 2007 report, which looks at the state of New Zealand’s environment, makes for distressing read. If not responded to it will have knock-on effect for business. This is the second report of its type; the earlier version was published in 1997. Both reports have called for action, particularly in the areas of energy, transport, water and biodiversity. The latest report points to very important role for business. The good news is that not only is the sustainability agenda good one for the environment but the business case behind it now demonstrates that it’s very good for business.
Over the past two years sustainability issues, particularly climate change, have become part of daily conversations with regular pieces appearing throughout mainstream media and business magazines such as this.
This growing awareness has seen shift to more businesses seeking out information on how they can and should participate. Last year, the Sustainable Business Network saw much larger number of businesses join, with membership growth now at 25 percent. What was once marginalised strategy for ‘do-gooders’ has finally become business imperative of this century. Public awareness has meant that both government and business must be actively responding to the serious environmental threats now facing society. Our economy, society and environment need this to happen.
Many SBN members are demonstrating that by introducing good environmental management and sustainability actions throughout their business operations they are saving money, attracting clients, creating market niches and retaining great staff.
Last year, as part of our membership, the Sustainable Business Network ran the Get Sustainable Challenge, an assessment and improvement programme. This provides businesses with the practical support they need to turn their business visions into practical strategies for action. It also means we now have many more examples of businesses undertaking actions that can be readily adopted by nearly any business.
The Get Sustainable Challenge (GSC) is designed to help companies embed sustainability throughout their business operations. It provides each participant with face-to-face assessment and resulting improvement report, as well as range of practical support resources, including workshops.
Following are examples associated with energy and transport both of which have simple behavioural changes which require no financial expenditure but give immediate financial, environmental and social returns to the business.
• Energy management. Most businesses are now aware of the cost of energy to their business and have implemented simple energy efficiency, or switch-off actions. Ways to do this are included in the Get Sustainable Challenge. Companies such as AMP, along with consultants URS and Boffa Miskell, have seen immediate savings to their respective bottom lines. Heritage Design has gone further and invested in solar generator which is able to generate nearly all the power that runs its office.
• Transport. Sustainable Business Network members Urgent Couriers and Express Couriers both use travel planning tools, provided as part of the Get Sustainable Challenge, to reduce their vehicle kilometres and are reaping the financial rewards of saved staff time, reduced fuel and lower carbon emissions. Companies like insurers NZI and engineering firm Maunsell actively encourage staff to either carpool, bus, train, cycle or walk to work, while growing number of our members (from large corporates such as NZI to small ones such as FreshDirect) have chosen to review their vehicle fleets and move to hybrid cars and small vehicles. Others like research and design company Catalyst R&D and bed maker Design Mobel are actively recording and reducing their carbon emissions and Urgent Couriers, Meridian Energy and Contact Energy have certified CarbonZero accreditation.
These companies provide proof that addressing sustainability has positive bottom-line benefits for businesses. Another SBN initiative assisting businesses is the GreenFleet programme.
GreenFleet is designed to help companies reduce the environmental, social and economic costs associated with transport via six practical actions:
1. When you buy new car, choose more fuel efficient and low emission vehicle.
2. Check your tyres weekly to ensure they are properly inflated and keep your car regularly tuned.
3. Reduce the number of kilometres you, your staff and your family drive by walking, biking, or taking passenger transport wherever possible.
4. Carpool with your colleagues even just two days week.
5. Plant trees to absorb the carbon your travel generates.
6. Try telecommuting from home.
Sustainability is the business imperative of the century. There is now an expectation from government, consumers and business leaders to participate in good environmental and social actions. Financial benefits, market loyalty and staff retention are some of the benefits supporting the business case behind it.

Rachel Brown is CEO of the Sustainable Business Network. For more information go to www.sustainable.org.nz or email [email protected]

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