Consumer questioning, action against greenwashing and authenticity
John Berry – CEO, Pathfinder Asset Management
“Sustainability isn’t a fad, it’s an embedded long-term trend. In the eyes of local households, law makers, global investors and offshore markets, New Zealand businesses need to do more than previous years. Here are three things to be aware of in 2024:
More consumer questioning: Increasingly, consumers won’t simply accept a business’s claim that its product is sustainable. More consumers will ask more questions – including exactly what a business means by ‘climate friendly’, ‘green’, or ‘recycled’. Businesses need clearer explanations and improved transparency (plus evidence to back up claims).
Action against greenwashing: In the investment industry huge businesses offshore like HSBC in the UK and Vanguard in Australia have faced regulatory action for greenwashing. This could become an issue in New Zealand as regulators and consumer groups become more active and aware. Businesses should check their processes for on-going matching of marketing claims with actual product features.
Searching for authenticity: The opposite of greenwashing is authenticity. Consumers increasingly wonder if businesses offering sustainable options as a niche outside their mainstream product range are just cynically trying to sell more product. Futureproofing a business means adopting (and reporting on) a standard sustainability approach across the full product range.
The long and short of it is that for business leaders, sustainability continues morphing from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’. In 2024 we’ll see consumers wanting to know more about what sustainability means to each business, and how deeply it’s embedded beyond just product labels.”
Consumers choosing goods, services and companies that have a meaningful carbon reduction and sustainability programme in place
Ingrid Cronin Knight – Chief Growth and Sustainability Officer, Waste Management
“We are going to see more extreme weather events which will make the realities of climate change increasingly difficult to ignore.
Optimistically I would hope this leads to a more galvanised response with consumers choosing goods, services and companies that have a meaningful carbon reduction and sustainability programme in place.
Insurance costs as a result for climate change related incidents will trend towards unaffordability, resulting in insurance companies evaluating their policies to limit coverage with higher exclusions.
As the cost of doing business increases, so too will debtor days and there will be a sharp refocusing on keeping businesses sustainable and cashflow positive. Individuals and companies will purchase less, but waste volumes to landfill will remain stable.”
Pressure on companies and individuals to become more sustainable is greater than ever
Frances Sweetman – Portfolio Manager & Head of Sustainable Investment, Milford
“Globally, the sands are shifting for sustainability. With stretched fiscal envelopes and household budgets, plus a general political move to the right, some government commitments are being delayed or walked back. With a record number of developed countries going to the polls this year, sustainability progress at country level could stall. This means the pressure on companies and individuals to keep moving forward and becoming more sustainable is greater than ever.
Here in New Zealand, we have had our own political change, reprioritising the economy and government books. More change could come from local carbon markets, causing uncertainty for companies with large carbon footprints. The energy transition is a long-term game, and companies will be looking for regulatory certainty to solidify long-term decarbonisation plans.
Finally, New Zealand investors are set to benefit from a wealth of new climate information with the start of the Mandatory Climate Disclosures regime. This is exciting for all investors passionate about sustainability. Through their Climate Statements, large New Zealand companies and financial institutions will provide information covering their climate change strategy, governance and emissions. This disclosure will enable investors to better understand the action companies are taking on climate change and open the door to more investor engagement with companies.”
The role of communications takes centre stage
Nikki Wright – Managing Director, Wright Communications
"In 2024, the role of communications takes centre stage as we navigate the critical conversations shaping Aotearoa New Zealand's response to the climate crisis. The longer we delay addressing the challenging conversations around adaptation and managed retreat for vulnerable communities, the deeper the roots of our issues grow. Urgency is not only required for mitigating environmental threats but also for protecting the well-being and livelihoods of those most susceptible to climate impacts. Postponing these essential discussions hampers our collective ability to build resilient communities and adapt to the evolving realities of a changing climate. It is imperative that we confront these challenges, fostering a national dialogue that ensures a sustainable and equitable future for all.
As we grapple with these crucial conversations, a pivotal question emerges: how do we navigate this terrain, and who leads these discussions? Should they be community-led, insurance and finance industry-led, government-led, or indigenous-led? Drawing inspiration from the principles of Mātauranga Māori, we could incorporate indigenous wisdom and community-driven solutions. How do we shape a dialogue that respects diverse perspectives, fosters resilience, and paves the way for a sustainable future?
The new centre-right coalition government holds a crucial role in involving communities in the decision-making process, ensuring that adaptation measures align with local needs, knowledge, and cultural practices.
Amidst these pressing challenges, we mustn’t lose sight of New Zealand’s unique opportunity to position itself as a global test bed for innovative solutions to the climate crisis. We can position our nation as a hub for testing and exporting groundbreaking technical solutions. This exciting prospect not only transforms the narrative surrounding climate action but also invites global collaboration, investment, and partnerships.”
Need for a stronger relationship between business and nature is increasingly evident
Bec Stanley – Principal Advisor Conservation Partnerships, Auckland Council
“As we step into 2024, the need for a stronger relationship between business and nature is increasingly evident, as is the alignment of responses to nature restoration and climate change mitigation. This is a promising shift in the global efforts to address environmental challenges. It presents new opportunities for more involvement by business in restoration of nature.
We see the potential to connect more businesses to on-the-ground community-led restoration projects. These projects are already impactful, making a real difference to nature, but through collaboration with businesses, could return hugely positive additional restoration results as well as social and cultural outcomes. We're here to offer our expertise, guiding businesses towards impactful community-led nature restoration projects and especially those which explore nature restoration with mana whenua.”
An upcoming challenge is the need to address New Zealand’s ageing infrastructure
Mary-Liz Tuck – Chief Sustainability and Masterplanning Officer, Auckland Airport
“2024 will see leading businesses continue placing sustainability at their core and really accelerate those efforts to get future ready. Over the past few years, there’s been great progress made by businesses as they decarbonise operations, but we also know the next stage of the transition is going to be challenging. It’s going to take bold decisions to tackle the harder-to-abate impacts, but my expectation is that businesses won’t shy away from making tougher calls.
An upcoming challenge is the need to address New Zealand’s ageing infrastructure, and the significant investment required to get it fit for purpose. The infrastructure decisions we make today are with us for a long time, so we need to ensure that all investment into infrastructure is done in a way that delivers a low carbon, circular and climate-resilient future. It’s a key focus at Auckland Airport as we start building a new domestic terminal and continue upgrading our airfield and transport infrastructure. Sustainability is at the forefront of our decisions from design and construction right through to when it is open and operational, to create an enduring asset that is not only low carbon but resilient in the face of a changing climate.
In a year when severe weather events had a very real and significant impact on many communities across Aotearoa New Zealand, climate resilience and the role the natural environment has in our response to climate change will feature strongly in the thinking of business leaders. New disclosure frameworks, like the mandatory climate-related disclosures and the rise of nature-based disclosures (TNFD), will see more and more companies assessing and disclosing risks and opportunities and subsequently taking action to both boost resilience and preserve biodiversity.
It's fair to say, many organisations will feel the pressure of needing to do a lot with fewer resources than they’d like in 2024 – whether that’s financial and economic, talent and know-how, or just general organisational bandwidth. There’s a real opportunity here to collaborate to find solutions and innovate, share knowledge around what works and what doesn’t, create partnerships and work collectively to support each other and accelerate progress. We often joke about the two degrees of separation in New Zealand, but there’s real benefit, particularly for sustainability, in being just one phone call away from connecting with someone who can help. It’s a real NZ Inc. superpower, and one we can actively harness as we ready ourselves for the future.”
Growing awareness and action of sustainable practices within advertising and media sector
Nick Vile – General Manager, oOh!media NZ
“It’s great to see the winds of change have been blowing, and there's momentum building within the NZ media industry. This has been fuelled by collective efforts such as NZ Commercial Communications Council’s Ad Net Zero and the commitment of suppliers in the media industry to their own sustainability initiatives.
First and foremost, in 2024 I foresee a continued surge in awareness and action towards these sustainable practices within the advertising and media sector. Ad Net Zero has played a pivotal role in starting to galvanise the industry, acting as a catalyst for change. This initiative has sparked conversations and collaborations, encouraging companies to not only focus efforts on reducing their own carbon footprint but also to start to work on how to embrace innovative, eco-friendly solutions collectively. There’s a lot of work to do, but the seeds planted in 2023 are sprouting, and 2024 will see a continued commitment to environmentally conscious advertising practices.
Media suppliers across the board are recognising their integral role in the sustainability journey and are stepping up with their own initiatives. At oOh! we’re focussed on ‘Credible Operationalistion’ and as a business, we are driven by a genuine acknowledgement of the need for responsible and ethical business practices. From operational practices and materials, to recycling processes, to looking at our supply chain, we’re constantly seeking ways to reduce and do things better – both better from an ESG point of view and more broadly, leaving a more positive impact.
Collaboration will be the key theme for 2024. As the saying goes, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We hope to see more partnerships between media companies, advertisers and even competitors to collectively address the challenges posed by climate change. Shared resources, shared knowledge and shared responsibility hopefully becoming the norm, fostering an environment where sustainability is not a competitive advantage but a shared commitment.
The sustainability forecast for 2024 in the New Zealand media industry is optimistic. The initial momentum we've witnessed is a step toward positive change. As we navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, let us continue to collaborate, innovate and inspire one another towards a more sustainable and resilient future.”
Healthy and affordable food remains key
Sandy Botterill – Head of Environmental Social Governance, Foodstuffs NZ
“At Foodstuffs, we’re passionate about being ‘Here for NZ’ to ensure all New Zealanders have access to healthy and affordable food, while working to make a real, positive difference for our communities and our environment.
Last year we undertook our latest materiality assessment to understand the issues that are most important to our customers, suppliers, government and non-government agencies and our own people. We were told the number one priority is affordable healthy food – which isn’t surprising given the cost of living crisis in Aotearoa New Zealand. We’ll continue to have a strong focus on providing access to healthy affordable food. We do this through continuing to buy well and running our stores as efficiently as possible. We’ll also continue the mahi with our awesome community partners to tackle food insecurity through foodbanks, food rescue and social supermarkets.
Climate change is the second big priority for our stakeholders and it’s supported by the recent Institute of Directors Sentiment Survey 2023 where climate change continues to be a key issue for boards in Aotearoa New Zealand. For our teams at Foodstuffs, this means a continued focus on reducing our emissions from refrigeration, transportation and power consumption, as well as limiting our food waste.
We’re also signatories of Kai Commitment, a voluntary programme for businesses across the food system, such as producers, manufacturers and retailers, and is aimed at helping to halve our country’s food waste by 2030. From a consumer perspective, a recent survey undertaken by Rabobank and KiwiHarvest showed that on average each household in Aotearoa New Zealand throws away over $1,500 of food per year. A key focus for us will be reducing our own food waste while also trying to educate customers on how to reduce their own. Saving on food waste has a knock-on effect around accessing healthy and affordable food so I’m picking it to become increasingly important throughout 2024.”
2024 is the year to dare to take on ambitious projects and embrace working with others to make an impact
Rachel Depree – Executive Officer for Sustainability, Zespri International
“Late in 2023, the largest COP in history brought together actors from various sectors world-wide to connect and push forward action on climate change. For the first time the food system was a particular focus and Zespri was privileged to bring the voice of the fresh produce sector to the table, launching our new innovation funding initiative, ZAG. This US$2 million annual fund is designed to support future innovation initiatives and global strategic partnerships that strengthen our ability to deliver on our purpose.
ZAG recognises that for Zespri to succeed in our bold sustainability ambitions, we require more than our own capability as a business. The same is true for sustainability at a regional, national and even global level. In 2024, collaborative partnerships and establishment of multi-stakeholder projects at scale will be crucial for success.
At Zespri, emissions from shipping are our greatest decarbonisation challenge. We’re pushing forward a partnership approach by asking other businesses and governments to come with us, so we can stimulate the demand that’s needed to accelerate the deployment of greener shipping solutions. Collectively we need a louder voice to influence government, the regulatory environment and investment into the infrastructure required so that our distant trading nation can attract to New Zealand the new shipping technologies being developed.
These types of collaborations are complex and take longer but if we are to continue to offer high-value products to the world and support New Zealand’s enviable agri-economy, we must take on this challenge. 2024 is the year to dare to take on ambitious projects and embrace working with others to make an impact.”