Thought Leader: What has NZ got to tell the world?

So, the cat is out finally of the bag, eh? New Zealand is not-so-clean-and-green. Almost feel bit relieved… so what’s the big deal?
The big deal is this: New Zealand explicitly and implicitly leverages its unique clean/green brand to peddle its goods and services to offshore markets and tourists. The value of that brand is estimated to be around $18 billion per annum. But in order to demand premium for our exports, we must ensure that our brand promise meets the scrutiny of world increasingly focused on ‘pure’ credentials. Market access restrictions, negative brand sentiment and generally being outperformed by other nations would lead to an erosion of our unique position, and the revenue that goes along with it. This is the ‘stick’.
The ‘carrot’ is this: There is no better brand in the world from which to claim chunk of the global $6.8 trillion green industry. New Zealand has all of the major pieces of the green growth puzzle already. Our government agencies like MSI, Scion and CarboNZero are teeming with capability in sustainable agriculture, low-carbon engineering, biomaterials, carbon accounting and much more. But what we need is the political and commercial willingness to build and deliver coherent Green Growth strategy.
Government should be congratulated over its green growth taskforce. It’s good step, albeit small one given the focus on SMEs, which are typically high on enthusiasm but low on cash and expertise. However, whilst we play in the margins, other countries are committing, literally, hundreds of billions to scaling green growth initiatives.
That’s not to say it’s all government’s responsibility. If the COP Process (Conference of the Parties) has taught us anything, it’s that industry needs to take the first step. Enter, Pure Advantage – group of businesspeople focused on delivering green growth paradigm shift in New Zealand.
Behind the corporate branding is an aggressive strategy to get the public of New Zealand on board, prove the green growth business case through world-leading economic research, and deliver roadmap for activating government and corporate momentum.
The aim is wealth creation for New Zealanders, or as chairman Rob Morrison puts it: “You can’t distribute wealth if you don’t create it in the first place.” The tone of the campaign may be too money-focused for some, but in this instance it will unquestionably be the root-of-all-evil that delivers us to healthier, wealthier green salvation.
Cleantech has been touted as possible golden goose, and it is to certain extent, but only where it makes sense to compete with other nations – lot of the premium seats have already been taken.
It’s also important to recognise that profitable cleantech industry is an outcome of the green growth process, not means to an end.
Before indulging in cleantech dessert, New Zealand needs to first eat its greens. Which means investing in energy-efficient buildings, reducing agricultural emissions, substituting imported liquid fuels, and improving water quality and ecosystem performance. Fortunately these activities will also help to build our domestic capabilities, which in turn will correspond to rapidly growing areas of niche international demand. Exporting our low-carbon and sustainability technical know-how to our neighbours will be most valuable only once we have cleaned up our own back yard.
Anyone who thinks that the market demand for sustainably produced low carbon goods and services will fade, is seriously out of touch. Within the next 10 years, sustainability will be as entrenched in day-to-day business as computing is now.
So, if New Zealand has something to tell the world, is it progressive wealth-creating green growth strategy that is in step with global shift? Or is it continued foot shuffling and mumbled excuses for our declining economic and environmental performance? M

Duncan Stewart is director of The Greenhouse and campaign manager of Pure Advantage.

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