Meet the SBN interns

20 October 2015

Student interns are an important part of the SBN team, supporting our projects, events and communications. Collectively they bring with them knowledge from universities across the US and here in NZ as well as fresh ideas that keep our blood pumping.

In this Q&A we introduce our interns: Ben Gurney, Ra’iatea Lohe and Alanna Wittet.

Which university are you from, what did you study and how long are you with us for?

Alanna: I studied Environmental Studies at Franklin & Marshall College (Pennsylvania, USA). I’m with SBN for two months.

Ra’iatea: I’m from Boston University in the States but I am studying at The University of Auckland for the semester. I study Environmental Science and am here for 10 weeks – the whole semester.

Ben: Unitec, Auckland and studying a Bachelor of Communications. I’m with SBN for three months.

What has been your number one learning while at SBN?

Ben: There are so many positive initiatives happening in New Zealand, it’s a shame that more of them aren’t mainstream news. Sustainable business practices are becoming an integral part of business strategy and here in New Zealand even more so. My top takeaway has to be collaboration and what’s possible if businesses combine resources. An attitude of a shared purpose is growing in New Zealand, one that has the potential to demonstrate to the world what is possible and collaboration is a great way of going about it.

Ra’iatea: My top takeaway was the structure of SBN and how you fulfil your mission. Back at my home university I am in charge of our Student Environmental Leadership Network with about 12 active student organisations. Interning at SBN gave me a lot of insight into the importance of networks and how they should be ‘marketed’. It also gave me confidence in the mission of our cause.

Alanna: Sustainable business in NZ stems from a genuine appreciation and connection to local resources and the environment. The value placed there translates into how businesses conduct themselves sustainably, rather than enacting sustainability to adhere to particular set regulations or mandates. 

What is the best story you’ve come across about sustainable business in NZ and why?

Alanna: In the short time that I’ve been here I think the Million Metres Streams Project is an awesome story. It started as a decision between two business partners (SBN and Enspiral) to do something to help New Zealand’s waterways and has since developed into a great platform that uses the collective power of individuals, communities and businesses to support and increase involvement in stream restoration across the country. What’s more, the Department of Conservation has just announced its funding of the project, which is so exciting! Million Metres is a great example of how an idea can quickly grow into action with a growing impact. 

Ben: Smart Transport. Transport is always going to be an issue in any major city across the world, and what I enjoyed learning about is the approach New Zealand is taking to tackle the issue in Auckland. From large corporations to government institutes right down to small start-ups, everyone is pulling together to change it all around.

Ra’iatea: I’ve been most interested with the Million Metres Stream Project while I have been working here. The fast progress and enthusiastic team gets you excited about what they are doing. Although it is mainly fundraising, the ideas they mention especially with largely hoping to involve community partners and engagement is really important to me. I think it highlights the importance of introducing personability back into business that is so important and focused on at SBN. Also, it highlights SBN’s strive to excellence, kicking Million Metres into high gear and really making great strides every week.

What could your country learn from New Zealand business?

Alanna: How business is connected to more than just the markets and consumers. It’s connected to a much bigger picture that encompasses the land, the people, and community wellbeing. 

Ra’iatea: The US is so diverse so I’ll speak to the two states I mainly live in: Hawaii and Massachusetts. I think generally these places could learn a lot from the community atmosphere SBN establishes in their relations with sustainable business. Because the movement is so collaborative, it’s extremely important to incorporate a more warm and inviting idea-sharing and networking environment into US sustainable business. 

Ben: Collaboration is key. Jersey is such a small, unique place that fundamental change can happen throughout. What Jersey could learn from NZ is that we are all in this together, deep down we all share common goals and collaborating together helps us achieve those goals a lot faster. I would like to see a shift in attitude towards profit. For too long Jersey businesses have flourished on financial gain, an attitude that has caused a certain stigma to be carried on the shoulders of the elite. A shift in the way in which profits are achieved will mean a much more unified Jersey and not one segregated through hierarchy.  

What could NZ business learn from your country?

Alanna: Perhaps, how to incorporate greater efficiency into business operations. 

Ra’iatea: I think New Zealand business needs to think larger and not doubt their actual impact because they may be small. It also seems sustainability policy has slowed in progression and change is coming from the bottom-up. This may be an indication that sustainable businesses need to start putting pressure on the government for things like electric vehicle subsidies. The American Business Council mainly focuses on policy change. New Zealand businesses should start putting resources into doing the same. 

Ben: I am from Jersey in the UK, which is similar to New Zealand: both are islands and both are proud of their heritage. The success of Jersey as an independent state comes from its continued reinvestment on the island, something that NZ has down to a ‘T’. In order to remain successful, over the years Jersey has had to adapt to survive, changing its primary industry frequently. Jersey is not afraid of change and embraces it with open arms. Should a time ever come that New Zealand has to make significant changes to its primary industry, knock on Jersey’s door, we are always keen to help out.

Thank you Alanna, Ra’iatea and Ben – we are tremendously grateful for all your help! We hope you will take away inspiration and valuable learnings from the many wonderful organisations in our network.