2021 Investor survey – key findings

By Fiona Stephenson

SBN member survey 2020
Thanks to the impact investors in our network who took the time to give us feedback via the 2021 Investor Survey. We’ll be taking this on board as we plan our strategy and activities for the year ahead.

Here are some of the main findings from the survey:

  1. Covid hasn’t stymied sustainability.

Over half of respondents (54%) said Covid had made no change to the focus on sustainability for their organisation. Encouragingly, 40% said Covid had increased the focus on sustainability.

Here’s a sample of changes investors in our network have made in the past year:

Reduced air travel, only hiring EVs, increased our carbon footprint offsetting”

 “Reduced travel significantly, started because of COVID and then continued.”

“Changing packaging to a more sustainable material. Focusing on carbon footprint to reduce to zero.”

“Carbon modelling exercise to determine our trajectory”

“Phased out hard-printed documents. More meetings via Zoom.”

“Paperless, energy savings, compost”

“A greater move to EVs”


  1. Most impact investors are working on their carbon footprint.

72% of respondents said their organisations have either completed or are working on their carbon footprint. This is an increase from last year (66%). 19% of this year’s respondents said their organisation is carbon neutral or positive (an increase from 11% last year).


  1. Almost two thirds of impact investors monitor waste.

65% of respondents said their organisations monitor waste. 32% have an action plan to go beyond recycling and design out waste across their operations.


  1. Organisations join SBN primarily because they support our purpose.

The main reason for joining our network is because organisations support our purpose (Empowering Business so People and Nature Prosper). The next most popular reasons are ‘Networking opportunities’ and ‘To upskill in sustainability’.

The most valued benefits of joining are staying up to date with sustainable business news; accessing tools and resources; and investing in system change.

Here’s a sample of comments:

“Feeling connected to the change that is happening”

“Keeps me across the latest in sustainability and can also help with motivation”

“Professional advice and guidance and tapping into a larger network”

“Knowledge, guidance, and contact to third parties”

“Community, information, motivation!”

“Strong values at SBN and great team”


  1. Areas for greater focus.

The network had some useful suggestions where they’d like us to make changes or where we can speed up our collective impact. Here are the main suggestions with our responses:


  • More events and projects outside Auckland – it is very important to us that our events have little to no carbon footprint and with most of our staff based in Auckland it is difficult to arrange local catch-ups elsewhere. We’re working with our business connectors to test and learn how we can provide more networking opportunities outside Auckland. If you’re keen to host local events and would like SBN to support you, please email investor@sustainable.org.nz.




  • Measuring and monitoring the impact of what is being done – we will be releasing our first Impact Report this year, to show the collective impact the network has helped us achieve over the past financial year. We’ve been working through a robust process to identify a framework for measuring and reporting our impact and look forward to sharing this soon!


  • Focus on SMEs, use larger corporates as leverage – our network is very diverse, with SMEs making up the lion’s share of numbers. We believe it’s important to work with all members of the business community, recognising their different challenges. The new Climate Action Toolbox is a good example of a tool that’s aimed at smaller businesses but also useful for larger businesses starting their sustainability journey. We are encouraging corporates to share it with the smaller companies in their supply chain.


  • Queries over the term ‘investor’ – last year, we transitioned from a membership organisation to a network of Investors for Impact. While the network is still very much the core of our organisation, the shift reflects our desire to ensure that we’re making (and measuring) our collective impact. We are holding ourselves to account to deliver positive impact back to our network and Aotearoa. The change we need to make will not happen without significant investment into our climate, waste and nature systems.  When we release our impact report (it’s coming soon!), as Investors for Impact with SBN you will be able to share the collective impact that we’ve had with your customers, suppliers and teams.


  • More networking events – Over the past year we increased our number of online events considerably, through both the necessity of avoiding lockdown reschedules as well as the ability to reach a greater number of people. However, we recognise that while webinars are great for sharing knowledge they don’t provide the opportunity for people to connect in person. Our events calendar for 2021 includes a number of in-person networking events in Auckland and Wellington and we are working with business connectors to help provide local opportunities in other regions.


  • Adoption of best practice within SBN organisation as an exemplar to business – great suggestion. We share our progress in reducing our carbon footprint on our website, and will be expanding this to include other areas of our operations too. This year we have set ourselves a carbon budget and will be reporting against this to our board on a monthly basis.


  • More engagement with Māori as our treaty partners – earlier this year we employed Te Huia Taylor as our Cultural Advisor. All staff are undergoing Te Ao Māori training as we recognise this is an area we need to focus on.


  • Better networks with government – this is another area we’ve been more active in recently, particularly as we have received a number of funds from the Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment. We’ve sent several open letters and submissions to Government in the past year calling for a greater sustainability commitment in several key areas. All have been published on our News


  • Continue focus on systems level change, but with emphasis on ideas into action – a great summary of our mission!


A huge thanks to the 98 investors who took the time to complete our 2021 survey. We take your feedback seriously and it informs our strategic plans over the year ahead. We value your feedback year round, so if you have any suggestions please let us know by contacting ayla@sustainable.org.nz.

Finally, congratulations to Sri Govindaraju from Zealandia, the winner of our prize draw for a place on our Leadership in Sustainable Business Course!