10 things we learnt at breakfast with Jonathon Porritt

30 September 2014

Last week a small group of SBN members talked sustainability over breakfast with Jonathon Porritt of Forum for the Future (UK). Fuelled by delicious Kokako fare , it was an inspiring start to the day. Here are 10 things we learnt.

10 things we learnt at breakfast with Jonathon Porritt

Last week a small group of SBN members talked sustainability over breakfast with Jonathon Porritt of Forum for the Future (UK).  Fuelled by delicious Kokako fare and Jonathon’s wisdom, it was an inspiring start to the day. Here are 10 things we learnt:

  1. This is an exciting time for business, because a growing number of entrepreneurs see sustainability as beneficial to wealth generation.
  2. There is no reason why we can’t create a sustainable world by 2050. There are no technological impediments and no lack of finance.  We need action on the ground, which is why the work of the Sustainable Business Network and other organisations is so important.
  3. In addition to new technologies we need behavioural change, since some people are deeply suspicious of technological fixes and will be resistant to change.
  4. People respond more enthusiastically when they are empowered to do something well, rather than being told what to do. We therefore need to help people and businesses understand that performing sustainably is in their best interests.
  5. The social dimension to sustainability is just as important as the environment. Companies doing sustainability well have a clear sense of this.
  6. New Zealand has a strong cultural tradition, through Maori values, which brings a more sympathetic, rather than voyeuristic, approach to the natural world. In some other countries people have become alienated from the things they call beautiful. This is a source of great strength for New Zealand in its approach to understanding sustainability.
  7. Tackling climate change is becoming more pressing than ever. At the time of the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, 28 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases were emitted each year. That amount has risen to 40 billion tonnes today. We are no longer speculating about the impacts of climate change – we are experiencing them.
  8. Large, climate-related impacts can bring about change, particularly when they impact upon the finance community. New York post-Hurricane Sandy is a different city now that there is widespread realisation it is at risk. There is a focus on infrastructure to combat rising sea levels and a push for low carbon solutions.
  9. New Zealand is particularly well placed to develop new energy models – focusing on the distribution of energy, as well as renewables such as solar, biomass, geothermal and wind. New Zealand should take inspiration from Germany, Denmark and Sweden, which have already committed to 100% renewable energy by 2030. There is no reason why companies can’t commit to 100% renewable energy as well.
  10. Greenwashing is a form of tokenism. Companies that think anyone will be impressed by gestures haven’t even begun to internalise what sustainable wealth creation looks like.

Renowned environmentalist, Jonathon Porritt is Founder Director of Forum for the Future, one of the world’s leading sustainability organisations. He is also the author of the book “The World We Made” (2013).

The Sustainable Business Network is partnering with Forum for the Future in our work streams on smart transport, social value, the circular economy, and food systems. We are adopting Forum for the Future’s Big Shift approach to a NZ context, which we launched at our conference, Project NZ, on 17-18 September. If you’d like to find out more or get involved please contact us.