Predictions for sustainability in 2019 – a peek into the SBN crystal ball

By Fiona Stephenson

2018 saw a lot of movement on sustainability, ranging from new government commitments on climate change to the phasing out of single-use plastic bags. Want to know what’s in store for 2019? Here are some predictions from the SBN team.

Rachel Brown ONZM, Founder and CEO

“My predictions focus on four main themes: water quality, climate, circularity and collaboration.

There’s a growing realisation that land practices (particularly relating to growing food) will continue to stimulate a move to more waterway restoration and a move to regenerative food systems in NZ. But there’s also recognition that urban centres actually have some of the most polluted streams, and therefore work needs to be done there too.

With the Climate Bill coming we’ll see a major lift in climate action. There is recognition now that we need both adaptation (particularly for planning) and reduction of emissions. We’ll see greater action from business, such as moves for investment in new low carbon solutions (and opening up of funding for this from private and public funds). Transport modes (new and varied ways of moving) will see a continued shift in our cities to more active modes of transport as we recognise both convenience and cost are drivers for this move away from car transport.

Awareness of packaging concerns and waste in general remains high, and government is hot on its heels. Think disposable tents and clothing, and cheap single trip products being challenged at scale. This will put pressure on business to rethink operating models, products and services so that they are circular and regenerative by design.

I say this a lot, but collaboration is really going to grow this year particularly as the issues above require collective action. We need to talk from a place of opportunity, not fear (such as a lack of options). Things feel pretty scary for a lot of us, so we need to frame the issues positively for young people as much as for us older folks.”


Dave Watson, National Network Manager



Laurie Foon, Wellington Manager

“Wellington’s sustainability community is growing and connectivity is strong, possibly due to the bump effect that happens so easily on Wellington’s streets. I can tell the movement is growing as daily there are emails from people wanting to contribute to the changes that need to take place.

However, the IPCC report sent shockwaves through many working in the sustainability space and a feeling that the goal posts have shifted to beyond what we can achieve.

For 2019 I predict that this will galvanise stronger action and help pull together a collective plan for which stronger leadership will be required from individuals and organisations.

If this is speaking to you, we strongly recommend a leadership course of some kind or time with a mentor to work out what you CAN do! (SBN has a leadership course coming up in March!)

My favourite mantra that I have been working with this year was from Helen Clark in her movie My Year with Helen, “You can ALWAYS do something!”

I’m looking forward to working with our members in the year ahead. Here is a Haiku from a Kiwi scientist which talks about the plan of action! Call us if you want to know how to get involved or take a lead with your organisation!”


James Griffin, General Manager Projects & Advisory

“Customers will start putting more pressure on suppliers to provide end of life solutions for their products.”


Glen Crowther, Bay of Plenty Manager

“2019 is shaping up to be a crunch year for tackling climate change. People have said this for many years now, but we really have reached a critical point and need to see stronger commitments from businesses, city/district councils, and individuals. The Zero Carbon Act and Climate Commission will help things along, but they won’t actually reduce the emissions. A key step is getting buy-in to IPCC’s 2030 target, which means we all need to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 45% by 2030.”

Fiona Stephenson, National Communications Manager

“Climate change and plastics are the two issues that will be most effective at galvanising people and business into action in 2019.

For businesses, effectively communicating the good work you’re doing will be more important than ever in order to grow goodwill among your people, customers and clients, and for business success.

We’ll see a greater focus on measuring and reporting sustainability action, whether that’s through sustainability reports or through more informal methods internally. That will help businesses be more accountable for sustainability, as well as provide information to back up their success stories.

Finally, in terms of communication vehicles, we’ll see a growth in the use of podcasts as a means for businesses to tell their stories. We’ve seen the proliferation of visual means of communicating, such as images and video, and now we’re going to see the rise of listening to add to the communication toolkit.”


Andy Kenworthy, Communications and Campaigns

“I think we will see increasing campaigning around the dual issues of sustainability and resilience, both in media, social media and even out on the streets. The stresses and strains showing in the global economic and political system will inform these campaigns here in New Zealand, although they are likely to be less pronounced than elsewhere. I will be looking out for one or more local issues that could become a focal point for this worldwide wave of new thinking and dissent. Business may gain following by tapping into these movements, but also run the risk of becoming targeted by them. It’s certainly going to be an interesting 12 months!”


Sam McGlennon, Advisory & Projects Lead

“The big picture – it’s getting pretty late to be getting started on your business’ sustainability! Businesses that aren’t yet reading the tea leaves (or listening closely enough to their stakeholders) can expect cancelled contracts, lost partnerships and plenty of naming and shaming in the press in 2019, as sustainability strengthens its commercial bite.

Procurement – A thousand streams will run together into a torrent in 2019 as the big end of town rolls out its sustainability and social procurement programmes. Suppliers will be unable to avoid the new expectations but should receive a respectable amount of support to meet them. Those suppliers that are further down the track are well-positioned to win business and entrench their advantage.”

Holly Leach, Membership Coordinator and The Now Crowd leader

“With the number of millennials in today’s workforce rapidly rising, businesses are now required to adapt their practices to suit the needs of this powerful generation. Millennials understand that profit is important for business success, but we also see an opportunity for business to have a socially and environmentally positive impact.

2019 will see more young people looking for an employer who can offer them a sense of purpose. Businesses that align their values with employee values can expect increased retention and higher engagement. Millennials also want to help their organisation become more sustainable, and The Now Crowd was set up to do just this! It’s a community of young professional driving sustainability in their workplaces. This year we are excited to see some unstoppable millennials transforming their organisations for the greater good. Bring on 2019!