Top Five things we learnt from Waikato University’s sustainability report

By jay

Released today the report shows that businesses want the government to take the lead around carbon, waste and water issues. The report surveyed 520 business owners and conducted 24 in-depth interviews with managing directors.

The report’s the fourth survey of its kind carried out in order to examine New Zealand’s sustainability practices over the course of a decade (from 2003 to 2014).

Here are five things we learnt from the report and initiatives that we’re involved with to minimise carbon, waste and water issues.

Companies are concerned about New Zealand’s water

Over 72 per cent of the businesses surveyed said they were concerned about our water supply, the likelihood of droughts and changing rainfall patterns. While businesses are concerned this hasn’t translated into action, largely because companies aren’t sure where to turn, according to the study.

The Million Metres Streams project is part of SBN’s mandate to restore our environment. The project (which you can read about in-depth in this edition of the newsletter) funds the replanting of waterways across the country to improve and then maintain the health of New Zealand’s waterways.

Increased involvement with sustainability

Of the companies surveyed 38 per cent have become involved with diverting waste from landfill, a six per cent rise on companies in 2010. Further to that 20 per cent of companies now have carbon targets, a four per cent rise on 2010.

The SBN membership boasts over 500 members and continues to grow. The network has created a hub for businesses involved with sustainability to work together and support each other. These businesses get involved with our projects and continue to contribute to a more sustainable New Zealand.

Companies are unwilling or unable to tell their stories

Communicating sustainability can be a tricky path. Companies have expressed concern over self-promoting and the risk of looking disingenuous.

The NZI Sustainable Business Network awards (which are now open) are a great chance to have your successes publicly celebrated without running the risk of seeming disingenuous. If it’s self-promoting that you’re worried about the Telling Good Stories conference will teach you how to create a brand that people love, a story that they love, and to do it without and falling into any traps.

Preserving the brand, reputation and remaining cost effective

One of the biggest preventions of companies adopting sustainability is what it could do to the brand and reputation and how the costs affect the bottom line. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said that preserving their reputation was the biggest barrier while 40 per cent cited cost and 40 per cent cited the opinions of their employees.

Sustainability can be part of a company’s building blocks and go beyond office based initiatives. The Circular Economy Model Office guide is about refitting, refurbishing and using sustainable materials while making the most out of products before they reach the end of their lives.

Government led response

Businesses believe that the government should be doing more to tackle the issues of waste reduction and climate change and say not acting – or only small changes – will bring about the same cost but not the same benefits. Businesses, according to the study, are averse to uncertainty and so want the government more involved in smart regulation, in order to preserve the country’s clean and green brand.

The SBN’s projects – such as Million Meters Streams and Circular Economy Model Office guide – are involved with local government at various levels.