STRATEGY – Sustainability reporting for smaller businesses

1 November 2016

You don’t need to be a big corporate to explain how your business is improving our world. Find out how you can scale comprehensive sustainability reporting to suit your needs.


Kokako Organic Coffee was founded in 2001. It now has about 26 full and part time staff. They are split between its café and wholesale coffee operations in Auckland. 

The coffee sector was an early adopter of ethical purchasing ideas. You might not be surprised to find reassuring labels on your chosen blend. But an independent coffee company with a sustainability report is still a bit special.

Kokako describes the purpose of the report in simple terms.

“Are we doing what we say we are? Can we prove it? How do our sustainable development goals fit with our business strategy? What do we need to do ‘well, better, next’?”

Mike Murphy, managing director, continues.

“I have wanted to do this for many years. But like many businesses it was about setting priorities. I feel like we have learned a load of stuff about sustainability and working with suppliers. We wanted to share that with the rest of the business community.”

The thinking behind the report is clearly stated from the outset. 

“We recognise that it’s near impossible to run a completely flawless business. Our commitment to sustainability means we must be responsible in all three pillars of the concept – environmental, social and economic.”

The report begins with Fairtrade, of which Kokako has been a licensee since 2010. It describes the Fairtrade system. It introduces the Highlands Organic Agricultural Cooperative in Papua New Guinea that Kokako works with. The Report then outlines Kokako’s Biogro Organic certification, which it has had since 2009.

Several pages are given over to the company’s approach to climate change. It details all the main business processes that cause greenhouse gas emissions. It also details how these are being addressed through participation in the Fairtrade Carbon Neutral programme.

There is a detailed description of the company’s entire coffee production process and its whole supply chain. This even includes side lines, like sourcing chemical-free decaffeinated coffee from a specialist supplier in Canada. The analysis includes transport, café fit-out, roasting, packaging, brewing, take away cups and all.

Finally, it takes a look at how Kokako interacts with its community.

Mike sought guidance from SBN, and partners from within the network. But he did most of the work himself on weekends and evenings outside of his normal working hours. Altogether he estimates the report took just over 100 hours to complete.

Kokako has already started to see the benefits.

Mike says: “For example, until we did the waste audit we hadn’t realised quite how much soft plastic was being sent to us as packaging from suppliers. We have found ways to reduce this and recycle what we have left.”  


3R has around 24 staff. These are spread across its HQ in Hawkes Bay and processing centres in Auckland and Christchurch.

It is now in its second year of producing a sustainability report. It looks into a range of areas including Materiality, Championing the Cause, The Science of Behaviour Change, Sustainable at Heart, Industry Leadership, and Economic Performance.  

Adele Rose, chief executive, says: “If you’re a SME imagining that it all looks too difficult, expensive and time-consuming, rest assured – it’s not that bad. We have found it to be a worthwhile challenge.”

One of the biggest challenges was finding the right format, as there’s still a lack of ‘off the shelf’ templates. 3R also wanted to ensure the end result was engaging enough to interest readers.

The company has held the ISO 14001 accreditation for Environment Management since 2009. This has helped ingrain environmental reporting into company culture. The firm has also combined its Health and Safety and Environmental teams to help streamline this process further. This new group collaborated with the finance team to get the data for the report.   

Adele says the sustainability plan has become a key planning tool. It is used all the way up to board level to guide the company’s thinking.  

“It works between the three year strategic plans and the annual work plans,” she explains. “It helps us look at decisions and decide: is this going to progress us towards our sustainable development goals?”

Five top tips:

  1. Find the time and space.You might need evenings or weekends to give you some clear thinking space.
  2. Tread lightly. Mike says: “Being managing director and suddenly rooting through the bins and asking people what they are doing with their waste requires a degree of tact…”
  3. Get a good facilitator if you need one to get everybody involved.An independent outsider can help overcome some of the silos and defensiveness. They can also offer fresh perspectives on the business and its sustainability approach.
  4. Set up systems to make reporting easy.Don’t trawl through all your data to put your report together at the last minute. Instead, create simple spreadsheets that add carbon counting into your travel expense forms and procurement purchases. Create a shared folder to store all the relevant information and make sure everybody uses it.
  5. Be prepared to get naked. Not literally. The higher the level of honesty and transparency in your report the more useful and inspirational it will become.

SBN membership includes free tools to help create your sustainability report. 

  1. Community Footprint – helps business understand and improve its impacts on the community.
  2. Get Sustainable Challenge – The largest business sustainability benchmarking tool in New Zealand.
  3. Get Sust Online – Quick and easy online assessment tool for all business sizes.
  4. Annual Carbon Emissions Calculator – Designed by CATALYST Ltd, this simple tool helps businesses and households estimate their greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. Guide to Sustainability Certifications– The basics of certifications, and which ones are right for your business.

If you would like more advice on how to get started, contact us at