UpFront More sociable than green?

Businesses in New Zealand are reasonably active on the recycling front and half of them at least consider the environmental impact of their products, processes or services – but social or community-based projects seem to be more their thing.
Findings from the first part of longitudinal study on the sustainability practices of New Zealand businesses carried out by the University of Waikato and the Sustainable Business Network show not only what various companies are doing but what’s driving them to do it – or preventing them from doing more.
Of the 811 firms that responded to the survey, 56 percent have recycling programme but only 10 have produced public environment or sustainability report; nearly one quarter have environmental management systems. Just over half think environmental management issues will become more or much more important to their business over the next five years.
The personal beliefs and value systems of managers emerged as more significant prompt to action than any external forces – and of the latter customers were more influential than either local or central government.
What the survey did highlight was the number of businesses actively engaged in social practices. The majority of respondents have given time and money to local community projects, over two thirds contribute to charities, 57 percent consider diversity in hiring decisions, three quarters provide on-the-job training and almost half provide assistance to staff to gain tertiary education.
The survey authors note that “social practices dominated even though firms reported less external pressure to adopt them compared to environmental practices”.
However, there was significant internal pressure from staff/employees to engage in social practices.
The report also found that larger firms are more heavily engaged in sustainability practices with greater proportion having recycling schemes, environmental policy statements and environmental management systems. That’s perhaps not surprising given larger companies are likely to have more resources and more external pressure from shareholders or customers.

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