SBN Annual Conference: The End of Plastic As We Know It

Empowering NZ business and acting on plastic

Thank you to everyone who helped make our conference such a success! Check out the photos and read our summary of the key take-outs.

We are in the middle of a worldwide movement away from the waste and pollution of discarding fossil fuel-derived plastics. It is having profound impacts throughout every business and sector. This is an exciting time of innovation, where opportunities await those getting ahead of the curve.

New Zealand’s relative remoteness and small scale provide unique challenges, yet our internationally heralded innovations make huge waves. We have the opportunity to lead the world. This is especially true with regards to new materials development and packaging use.

The Sustainable Business Network hosted this special event on 26 Augusts 2019. Together business leaders and experts we took an in-depth look at the issue of plastics. We explored what it means for your business and for sustainable business in New Zealand.

If you are interested in viewing the conference, please go to the following video links: each link includes the relevant Q&A for the corresponding session:

Full Conference

Introduction/ Plenary Session

Eliminate! Session

Innovate! Session

Circulate! and Closing Sessions

Turning around our plastics problem

This video, created by the Royal Society and the Sustainable Business Network for our conference, outlines the problem of plastic waste and how we can turn it around.

View the full programme here.

The day provided practical information and inspiration to thrive in the emerging low carbon circular economy. Together we investigated how to eliminate, circulate and innovate. Unrivalled networking opportunities gave system-wide connections to help you succeed.

Who it’s for

The NZ business community. The people at the heart of creating a new thriving sustainable economy – SMEs, social enterprise, government, SBN members. This conference connected solutions providers, innovators and entrepreneurs, youth, expertise and those ready to take action.


The speakers are leaders in plastics innovation and the circular economy. View the speaker bios here.

  • Phil Somerville – former Hollywood stuntman, in 2018 Phil sailed across the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness about plastic pollution. Phil is an environmentalist, actor, sailor and philanthropist. His Pacific expedition gathered data on ocean-based microplastics, often in remote locations, while filming a documentary called Eat Less Plastic.
  • Minister Eugenie Sage – Minister for Conservation and Associate Minister for the Environment
  • David Trubridge – renowned NZ furniture and lighting designer. David is instigator of the trend of ‘raw sophistication’ and environmentally responsible design. He recently removed products containing high levels of plastics from production.
  • Barbara Nebel – CEO thinkstep Australasia, Barbara translates sustainability into traditional business language, delivering strategy, materiality and Life Cycle Assessments.
  • Brianne West – Entrepreneur and biochemist, Brianne West is the Founder of Ethique, a plastic-free beauty company. So far Ethique has prevented the manufacture and disposal of more than 3.3 million plastic containers worldwide.
  • Professor Juliet Gerrard – Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. Juliet’s research cuts across biochemistry, chemistry, health, agricultural and food science and biomaterial design.
  • Dr Florian Graichen – Science Leader for Scion’s circular bioeconomy science and innovation. Florian works on biobased polymers and chemicals, to solve new product and process challenges.
  • Rui Peng – Director and Founder of Critical Things, a social enterprise focused on environmental sustainability through waste reduction while creating local employment opportunities.
  • Nada Piatek – Founder of Again Again, innovating new systems to tackle single-use consumer behaviour, for convenient takeaway coffee without the landfill. 
  • Peter Thorne – General Manager Business Development of Reclaim. Peter navigates the ever-changing recycling climate to ensure all products collected retain their integrity.
  • Kelly McClean – Sustainable Packaging Project Manager of Foodstuffs. Kelly is working to help drive change across the co-operative towards reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging.
  • Kath Dewar – Founder of GoodSense, an ethical marketer with over 25 years’ experience shaping marketing into a profession that serves society and nature, as well as an organisation’s stakeholders.
  • Louise Nash – Founder of Circularity, and former Chief Strategy Officer, Louise empowers businesses and organisations to make a shift from a linear to a circular model, while unlocking greater economic value.
  • Monique Kelly – Co-founder of Revology, redesigning everyday objects through renewable, sustainably sourced materials – products that are timelessly elegant and durable enough to last for generations.
  • Rachel Brown ONZM – CEO, Sustainable Business Network. The founder of SBN, Rachel has played a critical role in advancing sustainable business for 20 years.
  • James Griffin – General Manager Projects and Advisory, Sustainable Business Network. James is leading SBN’s work to accelerate the circular economy in New Zealand.
  • Andy Kenworthy – Communications and Campaigns Lead, Projects and Advisory, Sustainable Business Network. Andy is an experienced facilitator and event host, and will be the Conference MC.


Optional additional activities included:

Early-morning guided walk

This featured stories and history of a precious resource now hidden under Auckland’s city infrastructure: the once-sustaining waterways of Tamaki Makaurau.

Ocean Plastics Field Trip

After spending the previous day immersed in revolutionising the plastics system, attendees could learn up close about what happens to plastics when they travel down through our landscape and end up in our freshwater and marine ecosystems.

SBN partnered with Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari to take you on a deep dive into ocean plastics out on the waters of the Hauraki Gulf. Expert speakers explained the local-to-global scale of the impacts of plastics in the ocean. Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari’s Ocean Health Module took participants up close and personal with what’s actually in the waters of the Hauraki Gulf.

Speakers include:

  • Devina Shetty: Institute of Marine Science, University of Auckland
  • Camden Howitt: Co-Founder, Sustainable Coastlines
  • Phil Jones: Gulf X programme Lead, Sustainable Business Network

Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari won the Restoring Nature award at the 2018 NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards. They put marine conservation and responsible tourism at the heart of everything they do.

The Ocean Plastics Field Trip took place on Tuesday 27 August from 8.45am-12.30pm. The trip is out on the Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari boat.

Date and venue

Monday 26 August from 8.30am-5.30pm, followed by networking

ASB Waterfront Theatre, Auckland

Tickets include early-morning guided walk and the day’s catering.

With thanks to our conference partner Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), and to our supporters Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and thinkstep.