SUSTAINABILITY : Social Sustainability in the Spotlight

Quite often the word ‘sustainability’ brings up notions of environmental awareness and protection. Sustainability is linked to being green, but for the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) it includes integrating environmental outcomes with the financial and social dimensions of your practice. Valuing your staff and suppliers as much as your customers is vital to ensuring that your business doesn’t lose vital corporate memory – this isn’t news to anyone – but it can be overlooked by small businesses keen to be seen to be doing the right thing by the environment.
We have five offices around the country and asked our regional managers for suggestions of businesses that were doing the best thing by their staff. Jo Wills, our Bay of Plenty manager, said immediately “Try Formula One Results – they seem to have very inclusive environment and would have to be three of the most positive and happy people I work with as members.”
Formula One is an on-demand marketing company based in Tauranga with three staff. It has helped with the marketing of many companies including Logis Information Systems, Creative Space architectural designers and Cucumber Software. Founder Chantelle Laurent says that she learned her management experience from sitting on the board of her parents’ company, Shoof, followed by undertaking the I-South programme at The University of Auckland.
Laurent’s approach is collective goal-setting and weekly, monthly and six-monthly reviews of goals. The small team ensures closeness – and Laurent says she “wanted to create workplace I would enjoy being at, somewhere we could also enjoy some relaxation”. Laurent has also been honest from the start that her intention has been to make the business marketable proposition, to either franchise the business or sell it to start another branch. “The staff regard the company as their own. The structures and systems I’m creating are all in aid of creating successful business model,” Laurent says. She is working alongside Jo Wills to undertake the Get Sustainable Challenge, so that Formula One can begin to understand the sustainability challenges her clients will be facing too. “Jo is helping us formalise our processes which is brilliant.”
A Wellington-based SBN member, The Laptop Company, has instigated programme called Project Eden which aims to value staff in the context of the environment. Since taking all his staff to see An Inconvenient Truth, owner David Pettengell has offered huge subsidies for public transport, or employees who choose to walk, through the purchase of transport tickets or walking shoes. Those who wish to cycle to work can receive up to $350 towards the purchase of bicycle and helmet.
Initially, there wasn’t stellar start to uptake. There were concerns amongst staff that clients might not be receptive to the initiatives. Some staff members were reluctant to change and didn’t see the need.
“They didn’t recognise the problems and viewed climate change information in the abstract,” says Pettengell. “If there had been typhoon heading towards New Zealand then this would have been quantifiable threat to them but since there wasn’t, they weren’t feeling any urgency to change. At the other end of the spectrum, there were those who were really keen on being part of the initiative and went so far as to contribute their own ideas as to the content – eg subsidising bins for recycling disposable nappies.” Now about 80 percent of staff have taken advantage of Pettengell’s initiatives.
The Laptop Company paid for the entire purchase and installation of solar water heater for the home and bed and breakfast business of The Laptop Company’s account manager Vince Eggels. Eggels, who has been with The Laptop Company for 10 years says that Pettengell is “a very generous man, especially when he’s passionate about something. My friends are blown away.
“At The Laptop Company there is very little politics: we’re very good at what we do. And we know what we don’t do. lot of people have been here long time. I set my targets with my co-workers and the team is accountable to one another,” says Eggels.
Engaged workers, low staff turnover, sustainable policies: it’s the secret for better business environment. We’re thrilled to see more companies embracing sustainability – environmentally, financially and socially – here every day in New Zealand.

Rachel Brown is CEO of the Sustainable Business Network.

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