SUSTAINABILITY What Ordinary Kiwis Want

Don Brash and John Key must have been left wondering why, after the promise of such great tax cuts, they were left out of government. There is an answer. There is an undercurrent of values, so strongly held by so many New Zealanders that it will sublimate personal financial benefit.
It will also put proposals for economic development in second place. And it will potentially move significant number of voters in country where just 1.5 percent separated the two main parties at the last election.
The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development has talked with scores of New Zealanders in focus groups, and thousands through nationwide polls, to uncover what Kiwis most want. Their answers form powerful basis for any business and political strategy.
The warning signs about what New Zealanders truly value and want were posted in 2003 by the Government’s Growth and Innovation Advisory Board (GIAB). It published research showing the paramount focus of New Zealanders’ values is around lifestyle and their environment, closely followed by health and education.
The GIAB also found other attitudes and attributes that are deeply ingrained in the Kiwi character: resourcefulness, practicality, fairness, cooperation, and ‘give it go’ attitudes. These provide an important foundation for growth and innovation.
So two years before the last election, the most astute strategists would have known the factors necessary to resonate with what we now call middle majority New Zealanders. These factors include the ability to grow our nation while also enhancing our lifestyle. They include directing some of the benefits back to help retain that lifestyle and boosting go-getter Kiwis’ chances of improving themselves. They encapsulate community that looks after its own.
Late last year, the Business Council picked up where the GIAB had left off to see which issues would resonate with middle majority New Zealand. In six focus groups in Auckland and Taranaki – three involving small to medium enterprise operators – we again found that same mainstream value. In 20 years’ time, most want the New Zealand quality of life preserved. They want to be able to take their kids to the beach, to go fishing and have the family relationships they enjoy today.
We then probed what issues were most important to ensure that wish would be delivered.
Focus groups and follow-up nationwide UMR omnibus polling showed that New Zealanders were well informed about key issues. They were especially clued up on the issues surrounding the future security of their energy and fresh water supplies, managing skills shortages and an aging population.
This down-to-earth, practical, innovative, outward-looking lot of lifestyle-happy Kiwis is asking for leadership. They know the problems. They want Government to open up ways in which they can help solve them. And 86 percent believe business has role in operating in ways which preserve or improve the New Zealand quality of life.
No business is immune from social or political influences. Ask Nike when it comes to supply chain labour issues. Or McDonald’s which is currently being targeted by the anti-obesity lobby. The message from middle majority New Zealand is clear. Products and services are going to appeal when they add to the quality of life here. Being sustainable in this way is an excellent way to minimise risk and maximise profit.
There are some commonsense solutions to some of our major problems. Take, for example, the idea of providing an incentive to buy fuel-efficient, low-emission cars. Voters are backing our policy for cash grants of up to $3000 for cars by up to 61 percent. Support stays solid at 55 percent when we talk of $2000 penalty for buying vehicle guzzling gas at 12 litres per 100km or higher.
The idea of cutting petrol bills by up to half, getting back $3000 in cash and improving both air quality and quality of life, is practical way of letting Kiwis engage in helping beat climate change. Given what we know about our underlying values, no one should be surprised at its runaway popularity. The Government now has it firmly on its climate change policy review agenda.
The Government could also think about ending its nationalisation of the Kyoto carbon deficit. By creating market in which carbon credits are traded, those doing the right thing will earn credits. Those adding to the pollution will need to buy them. At the “down home” level, why can’t we issue carbon credit to home owner too for doing the right thing such as insulating their home or installing solar water heating? Suddenly the disconnect between the problem and the answers is removed. In the nicest possible way.
There are score of other policies that could achieve similar results on number of fronts. The opportunities for business in these are immense. The wise will wake early to them: especially our leaders in politics and business.

• Peter Neilson is chief executive of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Visited 3 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window