But for many of New Zealand's SMEs (small and medium businesses), embracing sustainability is more of a challenge. They know they need to start, but lack the time, knowledge and resources to take the first step. That's where the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) – New Zealand's largest sustainable business organisation – comes in.
This year SBN celebrates 20 years of helping SMEs set and achieve their sustainability goals. It's the only organisation in the country that specifically supports SMEs with sustainability. So if businesses are keen to get cracking but unsure where to start, they're your 'Sustainability 101'. As CEO and founder Rachel Brown explains, their work "makes it easier to do the right thing".
"We support a network of organisations to act on issues such as climate, waste and nature. The challenge here is no one business or individual is going to solve our global challenges alone – we all have a role to play," says Brown.
"An essential and core part of our network are those businesses, pioneers of sustainability, who offer solutions. They are practical, pragmatic and inspiring. SBN profiles these businesses in order to show others what business can and should be doing."
One way SBN connects businesses is through its Circular Economy Directory. It's an online showcase of local suppliers providing low-carbon and circular solutions, making it super-easy for organisations to 'green' their supply chains.
"We provide free resources to help businesses get started on a range of sustainability topics," says Brown. "They range from calculating your emissions and reducing waste through to smart purchasing. We create and share news and insights so businesses can stay up-to-date on the latest in sustainable business."
As well as creating tools and resources, SBN promotes solutions and builds capability within businesses.
"We help with access to tools, training and contacts businesses need. For example, we run a series of 'starting out on sustainability' workshops and keep businesses ahead of the game by showcasing leading practices with our awards and various communications channels.
"Importantly, and so as not to leave SMEs behind, SBN forms partnerships with the private and public sector to co-invest in creating and sharing practical tools to help business act."
Human resources consultancy PeopleEX launched its business under two years ago and has been working closely with SBN to translate its beliefs into sustainable action. According to PeopleEX director Karen Meredith, SBN's support has been pivotal to the success of their 'Logical, Achievable, Sustainable and Targeted' (LAST) strategy. This includes action items such as smart purchasing and carbon offsetting.
"Our business is based on the belief that human resources, through an organisation's people, can help stimulate better social and environmental outcomes," explains Meredith. "We joined SBN when we were ready to translate that belief into sustainable action."
"SBN gave us the confidence to proudly launch our LAST strategy to the world to demonstrate our commitment. They provide us with the support we need to operate with a more sustainable and regenerative focus."
Meeting other SBN members has enabled the PeopleEX team to test their thinking about how they can make HR part of the circular economy. They've recently launched a service for organisations keen to use HR products and tools to drive sustainability adoption in the workplace.
"By joining SBN, we're now part of a supportive community that understands the impact and power that collective effort can have. We've gained the confidence to shift to a more sustainable way of doing things within our own business, and we now help our clients do the same."
PeopleEX is among a growing number of organisations taking advantage of SBN's offerings. Not only does SBN bring the world's best sustainable business ideas to Kiwi workplaces, but they empower businesses to transform learnings into action. Better still they make the journey simple, affordable and achievable.
But after two decades at the SBN helm, Brown says there's much mahi still to be done.
"As an active network, we'll continue to work across sectors to solve issues relating to the climate, circular economy and those that regenerate nature. We'll continue to grow and morph to suit the challenges of our time."
Embracing sustainability is no longer just business-smart, it's necessary. The sooner all Aotearoa New Zealand businesses get on board, the better.
"Globally, we're experiencing a rapid change in expectations of business. Markets are demanding sustainable action through a procurement and an investor lens. Not having a sustainability plan in place is a risk," Brown says.
But there's opportunity too.
"Doing it well is an opportunity generator. The world is looking for solutions from business now."
Find simple steps to get started on sustainability today. For more information, visit: https://sustainable.org.nz/take-action/start-with-us/