Thought Leader : Why NZ Can Gain From Climate Change Action

In the 1970s there was this public debate on whether smoking was bad for you. New research would come out and say it was. Other research would say there’s no link between cancer and smoking. Opinion was divided. Looking back don’t you wonder why on earth we were stupid enough to even entertain this debate? Surely simple old logic tells us, if smoke goes into your body many times day, every day, day after day – it will damage you somehow. It is just not right to put lots and lots of smoke into those bodily organs of ours. Surely we didn’t need research to tell us that.
In the first part of this decade there has been debate on climate change.
Is all that pollution that we pump up into the sky every day in massive amounts, year after year, in increasing amounts doing any harm? Those places where the pollution is so thick it blackens the skies every day of the year – in China, in India, in the US, in South America… Is all that changing the health of our planet?
This at the same time we remove more and more of our planet’s vegetation (its lungs) and therefore ability to cope with this. So do we really need science to provide us with robust rationale? Like we did in the smoking debate? Surely the logic and our instinct is bloody clear. This time around, the science to support our natural intuition has arrived more quickly than the smoking debate. Science tells us there is an issue. Potential sceptics, like Gareth Morgan, tell us there is an issue. But most importantly, common sense should tell us there is an issue. We have moved past the debate.
And here lies the business opportunity.
Demand for things that will be good for the environment, as opposed to being crap for the environment, is on the rise and will continue to escalate. Demand created by the concerns of climate change will be the biggest social movement in the first part of this century. Popular culture worldwide will react. Those businesses that create brands that fit an ‘environment healthy’ status will win over those that don’t. And this is the good part for any marketer with nose for match making – New Zealand has better environment credentials (perceived) than any other country. Do we think the world is going to buy global giving brands from South China, Chicago or the South Island? Yep we have the DNA for brands that global consumers will give cred to in this new age. We have the home-game advantage.
So while some are throwing stones at this new global movement, here are couple of things:
1. We won’t and we can’t stop it.
2. Therefore we should lead it.
3. This is our biggest opportunity as country to create wealth since we got refrigeration on ships and we could export butter and lamb.
Agriculture is and should always be big earner for New Zealand. Those agricultural brands that make the first moves for working with climate change will attract premium and get first-mover advantageIn fact all primary produce from New Zealand has this same advantage – we have the roots, the credentials, the birthplace to create brands/products that will fit better in consumers’ minds when getting our global health back.
Entrepreneurs here will have their test match trial. Send us into buyer’s room in Sainsbury, Walmart or Shanghai department store and we can take our home-game advantage with us.
So rather than debating the measures, the science and entertaining the naysayers, let’s get on with it. And do what business should always do – pick social change and win from it. In fact lead it. New Zealand made the first refrigerated shipment of lamb and created its greatest leap in wealth at that point. Let’s now ship our brands of global health to the world and profit again.

Geoff Ross is director of The Business Bakery, founder of 42 Below, winner of Kea World Class Leader Award and supporter of Greenpeace’s Sign On campaign –
see www.signon.org.nz

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