Help grow a new regenerative economy

By Rachel Brown

Rewind to January, and the Sustainable Business Network was brimming with optimism. We felt NZ collectively had 2020 vision on how to transition to a just, low carbon and circular economy. We could see a clear path to restoring nature and practising kinder, more generous ways of being. Then in the blink of an eye, Covid-19 threw this thinking and commitment into the air.

All attention is now on keeping safe, staying within our bubbles and flattening the curve. New Zealand is faring well compared to many other nations, but the global impact is, and will continue to be, devastating. For very real reasons we have watched attention on climate, water and waste drop away. There is a danger of returning to the old habits of the ‘business as usual’ economy that was failing us before.

Yet there is a glimmer of goodness that many of us are noticing at the same time. The air is cleaner and our cities are quieter. Walking is really pleasant. Cycling feels safe. The slower pace feels welcomed.

Phil Jones has analysed the likely impact of the lockdown on NZ’s carbon emissions. He found the reduction in carbon emissions is finally happening at a level we need to be delivering, although obviously it isn’t the way we want to do it. The reduction is on par with what we’ll need to do on a permanent basis to meet our commitment to the Paris Agreement.  The Covid-19 experience at least helps us understand how we can do this – and leave a legacy we are proud of.

Environmental and social issues are still pressing for us all.

The financial impact is going to be deep, long and slow. The impact of job losses and reduction of wages is very real, as so much of our business community is simply not able to operate. The tourism and hospitality sectors have taken the biggest initial hit, but other parts of the economy are suffering too.

The negative social and economic impacts of ‘business as usual’ haven’t gone away. They were unsustainable then. They still are. So as we work our way through the Covid upheaval with short-term tactics we need to keep our eye on the long game. From conversations with members we think it’s time to get that work well underway – and we’ve already started!

We need a resilient, regenerative economy.

That means rebuilding our economy so the things that matter, like people and nature, are better off than before.

Minister James Shaw and Greenpeace are already pushing for this. Meanwhile, Government is looking for solutions to stimulate the economy, such as ‘shovel ready’ projects. Many are lining up to pitch ideas. SBN is in the queue with a collaboration between Million Metres Streams and partners to create jobs focused around restoration work – on land and water.

Covid-19 is our generation’s first global shock – and there will be more – so how do we work on a better model, starting here in Aotearoa? What lessons can we learn from the pandemic? How do we get money back into circulation, while stimulating meaningful jobs decoupled from fossil fuels, waste and pollution?

It will require action from all of us. Right now there are two ways you can act.

The best thing you can do is to support local, sustainable businesses. Our network is chock-full of them, so check out our member directory and purchase from these awesome businesses to get them back up and running. You can find out more about our members that are operating and offering support to others here.

Second, join us in a collaborative webinar on The New Economy: Resilience and Regeneration on the morning of 17 April. It’s a special edition of our CEO Forum, which we’re opening up to everyone. I’ll be discussing how to transition to a regenerative, low carbon, circular and just economy together with Minister James Shaw (by pre-recorded video); Mike Bennetts, CEO of Z Energy and Chair of the Climate Leaders Coalition; Pam Ford, General Manager Economic Development at ATEED; and Kirsten Corson of Zilch (EV car share).

This is an opportunity to tell us where you think the opportunities lie. We want to hear what you think so there’ll be plenty of time to share ideas (online) and ask questions.

Our CEO Forums are normally reserved for the CEOs and managers of our largest members, but we’re opening this one up to everyone in our network. We want as many of you as possible to be involved in rebuilding a sustainable economy.

Please join us.