10 predictions for sustainable NZ business in 2015

By jay

Find out what could be in store for sustainable business in New Zealand this year with these predictions from 10 people across our Network.

  1. Leanne Frisbie, Director, Passion PR

“I think the age of the conscious consumer has arrived and any business that gets this will do well in 2015.”

Brands that effectively communicate their purpose, ethics and values, and what they are doing to help others and the planet will prosper because word gets around fast. Equally any brand that is insincere or superficial will soon be uncovered. In the digital age, nothing is under wraps for long and this works fantastically for businesses that are trying really hard to make a positive difference but don’t have big spin machines – these days you don’t need millions to tell your story thanks to social media.

“I believe the biggest sustainability issue in 2015 will be climate change.”

 Every year it gets more in our faces as we can no longer pretend it’s not happening, and anyone who is pretending is considered to be deluded. So this means that moving away from fossil fuels for energy and towards renewable energy sources will be big on the agenda. I think we are going to start seeing a surge in electric vehicles and charging stations will be popping up all over the place. This is already happening overseas and we’re finally starting to catch on here. Look out big four oil companies – your days are numbered!

“My advice to businesses in the sustainability sector for 2015 is to check that your house is in order.”

Are you really on your sustainability journey or are you just paying lip service to the idea – if it’s just lip service then it’s time to get serious because consumers are too savvy to put up with greenwash. A big part of this is looking at the supply chain – what are the ethics and values of those you do business with. I think once we get our own houses in order, it’s time to start influencing the businesses around us, and the best way we can do this is through our spending power! 

  1. Matt Anderson, Director, The Sleep Store

“I think we will continue to see a growing awareness of sustainability at the individual consumer level.”

Increasingly consumer expectations will help drive the sustainability credentials of products and services offered. People want to know that their personal sustainability footprint is positive, in terms of energy use, household waste handling, what they are buying, who they are buying from, and how the products they are buying are made. This is also reflected in lifestyle choices like installing PV solar, keeping chickens, and use of worm farms that are becoming more and more prevalent.

“Packaging waste is a key sustainability focus.”

As an online retailer buying and selling consumer goods, packaging waste is a key sustainability focus for us – both in terms of handling the various kinds of incoming packaging waste, and also packaging for outgoing orders to customers.  Recycling as much packaging waste as we can will remain a focus and challenge.

LDPE plastic satchels continue to be widely used by online retailers to send goods to customers. Unfortunately the typical consumer does not have many options for recycling these so a very high proportion must end up in landfill. It would be great to see some progress on this issue this year to give online retail consumers who receive these bags some options. 

  1. Julia Jackson, Transformation Leader – Community, Sustainable Business Network

“I think purpose-led businesses that consumers can identify with and feel proud to support will become more important in 2015.”

Leadership and the role of the Board will also become more important. We will see a growth in the conversation around investment and how we are supporting sustainable businesses through investment decisions. 

  1. Tiffany Flood, Commercial and Corporate Sustainability Manager, Chorus

“In 2015 we will see the trend of new business models expanding and evolving to realise the opportunities they have to offer.”

These new business models are beginning to leverage such things as New Zealand’s growing fibre network and alternative financing approaches to break through previously impenetrable barriers of entry into various markets.

This growing trend can be seen in the growth of Cloud computing, the demand in bandwidth and alternative payment schedules versus upfront investment, all of which are lowering the cost of entry to sustainability products and services, driving sustainable outcomes and impacting how we work and communicate. Examples across various markets include the huge community support of Gigatown, software offerings delivered through the Cloud and financing options when procuring LEDs and solar panels.

  1. Emily Dowding-Smith, Transformation Leader – Restorative, Sustainable Business Network

“I think healthy consumer choices in food will continue to grow, as will consumer demand for traceability in the food system.”

We will see increased online shopping and the use of apps and ICT in the food industry.

In 2015 payout is expected to fall for Fonterra dairy farmers in light of a drop of global milk prices, with flow on effects felt on agribusiness. This may lead to some farmers switching to different methods of production. Overall I believe more cautious investment is likely in 2015-16.

I think waterways will continue to be top of the environmental agenda, with Fonterra, Government and regional councils all continuing on this main path.

  1. Sea Rotmann, CEO, Sustainable Energy Advice Ltd

“The sustainability issue I think will be top of mind in 2015 is climate change. Transport will be a sector where some of the biggest issues but also some of the greatest potential for solutions lie.”

2014 will top the warmest year on record yet and increasing extreme weather events will start to become difficult to ignore. Dairy price falls will also lead to some painful conversations among the farming sector and politicians if it is indeed sustainable in the long term to rely almost entirely on dairy cows and Auckland’s housing bubble for NZ’s economic wellbeing.

Overseas trends I believe will affect New Zealand include dairy price implosion; (lack of) climate change responsiveness, which will ostracise NZ more and more; and re-insurance companies putting NZ and especially Wellington on the top of high-risk registers (for earthquakes in particular but also vulnerability to sea level rises since so much of NZ is coastal, including business CBDs). The continuously high NZ dollar is also a detriment to NZ business.

The sustainability issues my organisation will be focusing on are behaviour change and sustainable energy in transport, buildings, SMEs and around smart metering and feedback.

“The sector I think will do particularly well in 2015 is ICT.”

ICT has shown the greatest growth and highest innovativeness in the last few years. There are still some breakthroughs on the horizon around remote working and conferencing, for example. I also don’t think Apps have died yet – they may become fewer in quantitative outputs but higher in quality. What I would like to see grow, especially in NZ, is sustainable transport initiatives especially around electric vehicle networks in businesses with a large fleet and the smart use of Apps like Uber and Wayz, and freight sharing and car pooling applications.

My top tips for 2015 are to foster innovation and collaboration among SMEs as the Government will not respond satisfactorily. We need to start growing a bottom-up climate change adaption and response network for businesses to be in line with international trends and resistant to shocks and impacts.

  1. Richard Cullwick, Marketing Manager, PowerSmart Solar

“The sun shines while you are at work, so solar powered businesses are the way of the future in 2015 and beyond.”

  1. Rebecca Keen, Coordinator, Million Metres Streams Project

“Climate change impacts will feel like they have arrived in some shape or form.”

The dry summer will put irrigation and water management in the forefront of news, while very wet winters will emphasise the extremes we are likely to face.  The immediate discussions will centre around how we are going to adapt to these fluctuations and how we can do that in a coherent, consistent and speedy fashion.  A secondary discussion will be, how will we reduce our CO2 impact and what are the roles of our current tools such as the Emissions Trading Scheme? 

The agricultural sector will be prominent in news as it tries to operate in this variable climate.  The dairy sector will continue to struggle with its environmental impact, particularly on freshwater quality.  

Low fuel prices will muddy the water as the economics of transitioning to alternatives look expensive or less clear. 

“Groups like Generation Zero will continue to be more visible and active in engaging the communities and getting individuals to take ownership of our environment. “

The economic climate will be more positive and large organisations are likely to feel a little more confident in spending funds on CSR objectives. 

“I believe technology will bring the big surprises for 2015.”

Technology, in particular apps/programmes/communication tools for working collaboratively, communicating and evaluating the impact of our lifestyles on the environment will have a big impact and are likely to create the step changes that are needed to make substantive and fast change.  For example – Uber – how to use what we already have more efficiently, Loomio – democratic decision making, and the Million Metres Streams project – crowd funding that enables individuals to make a difference to our environment.

  1. Steve Ellingford, Centre Manager, Bayfair Shopping Centre, Tauranga

“The trend for immediacy will continue to evolve, when shopping is based on providing convenience, customer service and customer experience.”

Retail development is in a growth mode, so there will be more competition coming online as investors are looking for growth opportunities, both in bricks and mortar and also online. Increased competition puts pressure on sales and income – the challenge will how to grow the income/value in a sustainable way.

Consumers’ expectations for on-demand convenience are already blurring the lines between digital and brick-and-mortar retail, which we have seen over the last few years. Online is part of any good retail business, and purely online offers are adding brick and mortar options to their business model.

I think construction will have another big year in 2015 due to population growth and pent up demand that has built since 2008. The retail sector should be strong on the back of population growth, job security, low unemployment, low fuel cost and interest rates.

“The sustainability issues I think will be top of mind in 2015 are freshwater quality decline, growing demand pressures and water allocation.”

With a soft dairy market it will make it hard to implement changes in water management practices in an industry that has a very large impact on water use and quality.

Developing natural resources in a way that creates wealth and protects the environment and the country’s green reputation will be a key challenge.

My tip for the year is to stop waiting for government to make change. People have the ultimate control – we just need to coordinate our responses. 

10     Rachel Brown, CEO, Sustainable Business Network

“I expect to see greater desire and recognition of the need to work together.”

Issues such as food, water, transport, energy and social systems are too big for companies to tackle on their own, so collaboration between individual businesses, between business sectors, and between business and government is essential in order to shift systems onto a more sustainable path. We expect to see more of this in practice in 2015 through our transformation projects. The work we are doing on the Circular Economy has seen the coming together of business supply chains, building owners, designers, councils and others to tackle the issues as a system. That same spirit of learning, experimenting or testing will be also be felt in our food systems work and our waterways project work.  

“I think we will see greater investment in sustainable business as well as new market solutions and enterprises developed by Generation Y.”

SBN will continue to work in the investment space pushing and supporting the establishment of more sustainable investment funds. Interest is growing but we need to understand the drivers better to help the KiwiSaver providers get their products right.

Also in order to plan for the long term, businesses need to take into consideration the new trends and issues driving the younger generation (those under the age of about 35). KiwiSaver investments are one possible funding solution but they will likely provide funds for the established and proven businesses. We need to encourage funding flows from the wealthier ‘baby boomer’ generation to invest in new businesses whose purpose is social-based solutions for the future.

“There will be ongoing creation of ‘purpose led’ businesses.”

As the impacts of issues like climate change and inequality continue to be felt and frustration grows at the slow response to ‘real’ purposeful action from government and business, we expect to see a greater support of those businesses who are all about Purpose and Profit. We will keep telling the stories of the businesses who operate to solve social or environmental issues, to help drive consumer choices and behaviours towards those purpose led businesses. I predict a greater interest in the role that business can play to reverse the inequality/ poverty gap with projects emerging throughout the year.

“There will be more story telling.”

2015 must be a time for creating hope and inspiring others with a better way. Story telling is an incredibly important part of inspiring change. The more people who share their sustainability stories, the more mainstream it will become. Everyone needs to contribute to the conversation.

“We will see a continued move towards technology solving issues – particularly in areas like transport.”

I predict we will see greater numbers of electric vehicles on Auckland roads by the end of 2015.  Smartphones will become the key for smart movement around our cities, and our learning on cycling, which is going to be enhanced through online sharing tools such as ‘collective learning modes’ill continue to grow.

“Make your mark as a leader.”

Inspirational leaders are crucial in creating change. We need more leaders, particularly from business, to stand up and make your mark. In 2015 we need leaders to be bold and to take risks to bring about transformation to more sustainable path. We hope to work closer with those leaders to support you on your journey!