Commentary

Sustainability – the time is now

June, 2022

By: Lauren James

Network Sustainability Lead, BusinessNZ

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important for small businesses, and there is clear impetus for change. From corporate supplier opportunities to value creation, risk management to talent retention, the case for sustainability is clear. You may be aware of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These have been coined the “purchase order from the future” with an attached value of approximately US$12 trillion of market opportunities by 2030.

Overall, we’re seeing the rising importance of sustainability in the changing climate ‘outside’ just as we are in the changing climate of business.

The context

We are already learning climate change has been proven to be largely irreversible, and we see daily evidence of how the climate is changing. As part of the Zero Carbon Act, New Zealand has a legally binding target for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. New Zealand was also the first country in the world to mandate climate-related financial disclosure reporting for large corporates.

Climate change is not a thing of the future, New Zealand Searise recently released explosive new data showing the sea level is rising twice as fast as previously thought in some parts of Aotearoa, massively reducing the amount of time authorities have to respond. To address this, the Ministry for Environment released the draft National Adaptation Plan and Emissions Reduction Plan for consultation, both part of transitioning New Zealand towards a low carbon and climate-resilient economy.

Beyond a narrow climate focus, our natural environment is degrading and social inequalities increasing. There is a growing focus on circular economy, social responsibility and regenerating nature.

The business climate is also under pressure. Cost of living is currently the number one household concern amidst unexpectedly high rising interest and inflation. There is a need to change, but with less resources and a fundamentally shifted business landscape following COVID-19 disruption.
Businesses need to tackle this challenge and treat it with urgency. Sustainability is no longer just an option, a budget line item, or a ‘nice-to-have’. It is interwoven in both business risk and value, consumer expectations, investor expectations, staff expectations, Government policy, legal requirements and more.

There is evidence of increasing business commitment, e.g., Christchurch International Airport have announced they are now climate positive, which means they are offsetting more emissions than they produce. Eagle Protect, is NZ’s first B Corp. With members of the wider BusinessNZ Network, we are pleased to see these advances. Fortunately, there are many more examples.


Why sustainability for small to medium businesses (SMEs)?

  • With 97 per cent of New Zealand businesses being SMEs, there is an opportunity to uplift their capability, focus and sustainability performance
  • Larger corporates are increasingly setting commitments in their supply chain with the expectation that SMEs will meet increasingly strict requirements
  • Sustainability provides an opportunity to mitigate risk and add value in your business
  • Consumers expect it. Our commitment to living sustainably continues to trend upward – with 43 per cent of Kiwis committed to living a sustainable lifestyle according to Kantar’s recent Better Future’s report. The same report also revealed that 51 per cent of Kiwis are concerned about climate change.

Please click here to read more sustainability statistics

The BusinessNZ Network, goals and key activities

Our strategy recognises our collective function as a network and responsibility to mobilise on sustainability by connecting with multiple organisations.

We are mobilising on four Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – climate action (13), sustainable production and consumption (12), decent work and economic growth (8) and partnerships for the goals (17).

We are focused on – building capability, using our power as a network and networking with others to amplify potential, generating action on climate and building a resilient value chain (as part of lifting supplier capability).

What’s next, and upcoming introductory course for sustainability

Committed to our Sustainability Journey internally, our Network have developed a sustainability strategy and policy as a guiding principle for the BusinessNZ Network organisations.

In June, we launch an introductory course, “Introducing Sustainability – the what, the why and the how for Small Business” which aims to provide a broad understanding of sustainability, including carbon and climate change, waste and circular economy, communication and collaboration, with some practical implementation tools. This key initiative to lift capability is highly interactive and developed using the learning and development expertise that we are known for. If you’re interested in attending or want to know more, please contact: ljames@businessnz.org.nz

We are soon to launch our ‘All things Carbon’ webinar series covering how to measure, verify, reduce, and offset your emissions.

As we build our internal capability across the network, we have a goal of seeing 80 per cent of staff inducted in sustainability by December 2022.

We too are on the journey to make our whole network carbon zero and even climate positive in future, while also identifying how to reduce our carbon through a cleaner vehicle fleet in various locations. Staff volunteering is also an important commitment to our organisation. Sustainability represents so many opportunities, and the BusinessNZ Network is both excited and proud to join the New Zealand business community in making strides, (one step at a time), to be more sustainable.

For more information, please contact Lauren James – ljames@businessnz.org.nz

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