When the international community says it’s the end of the fossil fuel era you know it’s time to take it seriously. When research shows there’s a $13.5 trillion market opportunity for a low carbon energy sector, it makes headline news around the world. And when some of the most eminent scientists in New Zealand state, “there is a clear case for immediate action” on climate change, you know you’d be a fool not to sit up and listen.
On 22 April, 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement on climate change - the first time all major world economies have committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Five days later, a Royal Society of NZ report made a clear case for immediate action on climate change in New Zealand. But what do they mean for business and what should you do about it?
The New Zealand economy relies on income from exports and international tourism. With the global spotlight on climate change, there will be high expectations for a ‘clean, green’ New Zealand economy. This will impact all our businesses and the pressure will be on to sharpen up our act.
What the Paris Agreement means for business
The Paris Agreement gave much-needed long-term certainty and a more stable (global) regulatory environment about low carbon expectations. It's brought opportunities for investment and a shift in requirements for our supply chains in New Zealand.
The implications are neatly summarised in a statement from We Mean Business, a coalition of seven international business networks: “Together governments are sending a decisive market signal that the transition to a thriving clean economy is inevitable, irreversible and irresistible. Paris calls to businesses and investors to accelerate this transition, and to seize the trillions in opportunities to bring clean energy and prosperity to all.”
Closer to home, the Royal Society report Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy for NZ makes clear that there are good opportunities to reduce emissions in all sectors in New Zealand and transition to a thriving low carbon economy.
How your business can act
There are a series of steps all companies – large and small – can take.
Get smarter with your transport
Through smarter transport, you can drastically reduce the amount of emissions your business creates. You can use biofuels instead of petrol or diesel. You can follow the lead of Mighty River Power, Air NZ and NZ Post and shift your fleet to electric vehicles or include a Toyota/Honda hybrid. Alternatively, use car-sharing or car-pooling schemes, such as Your Drive, MyCarYourRental or Cityhop. If you need to take a taxi, use companies like Green Cabs or Uber.
Even electric cars won’t stop congestion so think about ditching the car altogether: walk or cycle more to work or between meetings. Ricoh NZ actively discourages the use of cars, with its head office having a limited number of parking spaces. It encourages its staff to take up cycling instead.
Incentivise your staff to use public transport (and disincentivise free car parks). You can also promote flexible working arrangements for your staff including remote access and video conferencing.
Purchase low carbon products and services
Support companies focusing on energy efficiency and renewables through your procurement policy. Or purchase items produced locally as they will have lower emissions from transport. Auckland Council, Fuji Xerox, IAG and others are looking at sustainable procurement with some 25 corporates learning from their leadership. The Sustainable Business Directory makes it easy to find a sustainable supplier in your area.
Be resource efficient
More than switching off lights and equipment at the end of the day, your business can make real energy reductions – and financial savings – by implementing an energy saving programme. Most New Zealand businesses can save 20% on their energy bill simply by being smarter with their energy use – for example by using Philips’ energy efficient LED lighting. Ceres’ new building has some 90% re-use of materials onsite, combined with massive energy efficiency.
Measure your emissions
You can measure – and set a target to reduce – your business’ annual carbon emissions by using the free online Annual Carbon Emissions calculator. It’s a simple way of monitoring your business’ impact on climate change.
Offset your emissions
Where you can’t eliminate all emissions you can offset them. A planting programme, such as the Million Metres Streams Project, not only helps to absorb carbon emissions, it offers many other benefits including restoring our waterways. Businesses that have already donated include Westpac, LeasePlan, TetraMap and Apex Insurance.
The Sustainable Business Network works with many New Zealand organisations that are already ahead of the game. They’re raring to go with renewable and energy efficient solutions. They’re future-proofing their businesses against impending climate change and looking to grab a chunk of the global opportunity in low carbon. They’re the ones who will be first to reap the rewards. Will you join them?
Rachel Brown, CEO, Sustainable Business Network
This article was first published in the National Business Review, 13 May 2016