Rachel Brown: Six steps your business can take on climate change

By Rachel Brown

Sustainable Business Network CEO Rachel Brown talks the benefits of sustainable business practices.
Taking action on climate change makes good business sense. Photo / iStock
Taking action on climate change makes good business sense. Photo / iStock

Climate change is in the spotlight again, with the Emissions Trading Scheme under review and submissions closing on 19 February. While it presents one of the greatest challenges of our time, it's also one of the biggest economic opportunities. New Zealand businesses, including the likes of Toyota, Ricoh, Fulton Hogan and Gull (to name a few), are already future-proofing their companies by embracing the opportunity - don't let your business get left behind.

Risks of inaction

The risks of climate change to business are clear: the costs of ignoring it are increasing and business-as-usual strategies are going to hurt the bottom line.

Not responding to climate change will make businesses increasingly hard to invest in or purchase from. Moreover, given the tremendous global need for solutions, the size of the opportunity for New Zealand business is enormous.

NZ Inc could get left behind - or take a lead and reap the rewards. Which will you choose?

Avoiding responsibility

Don't be fooled by assertions that "climate change is an issue for governments to solve" or "New Zealand is too small to make a difference".

Climate change is the ultimate global issue - which means we each have a responsibility to play our part in minimising the risk and adapting. If every country our size took the attitude that we're too small to matter, where would that leave us? It's certainly not the world-leading Kiwi attitude that has spawned such global success stories as Derek Handley, ecostore, Sanford and LanzaTech.

Business benefits

More than ever before, companies understand that creating a low carbon strategy is good for their bottom line. New Zealand has a natural advantage through our energy profile and New Zealand businesses could lead this economic opportunity.

Businesses like Air New Zealand, Mighty River Power, solarcity and many others are already setting ambitious targets, reporting emissions, creating new market-led solutions and scaling up smart energy investment. The NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards recognise a growing number of these forward-thinking businesses year on year, and 2015 saw a record 600 attendees at the Awards night.

Take action now

Business was credited for its strong leadership at the latest round of climate talks in Paris in December. So given the momentum following the global climate agreement, the time is ripe for business leaders to be bold and take action.

Rachel Brown, CEO of Sustainable Business Network.
Rachel Brown, CEO of Sustainable Business Network.

The choice is simple - reap the financial rewards by being among the leaders and innovators that are adapting business models to respond to change (and climate change will alter almost all systems as we know them - natural, social and economic) or run the risk of being left behind.

To paraphrase Charles Darwin, "It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change". If you wait until you have to respond, you will end up carrying a late financial adaption burden and face following Kodak's footsteps into oblivion.

Responding to climate change makes good business sense, and there are a series of steps all companies - large and small - can take.

1. Get smarter with your transport

Through smarter transport, you can drastically reduce the amount of emissions your business creates:

• Use biofuels instead of petrol or diesel.

• Shift to mega-efficient electric vehicles or include a Toyota/Honda hybrid in your fleet. Mighty River Power has already committed to convert 70% of its vehicle fleet to electric or hybrid cars, with an economic and environmental pay-back.

Get Active and walk or cycle more. Ricoh NZ actively discourages the use of cars, with its head office having a limited number of parking spaces, and it encourages its staff to take up cycling as a mode of transport and leisure activity.

• Use car-sharing or car-pooling schemes, such as Your Drive, YooGo or Cityhop. If you need to take a taxi, use companies like Green Cabs.

• Incentivise your staff to use public transport (and disincentivise free car parks).

• Promote flexible working arrangements for your staff including remote access and video conferencing.

2. Purchase low carbon products and services

Support companies focusing on energy efficiency and renewables through your procurement policy, or purchase items produced locally as they will have lower emissions from transport. The Sustainable Business Directory makes it easy to source smart solutions and select a sustainable supplier in your area.

3. Be resource efficient

More than switching off lights and equipment at the end of the day, your business can make real energy reductions - and financial savings - by implementing an energy saving programme. Most New Zealand businesses can save 20% on their energy bill simply by being smarter with their energy use - for example by using Philips' energy efficient LED lighting. The NZI Centre has saved 40% in energy costs and is aiming for a 50% reduction through incorporating sustainability features into its building design and operation.

4. Measure your emissions

You can measure - and set a target to reduce - your business' annual carbon emissions by using a free online Annual Carbon Emissions calculator. It's a simple way of monitoring your business' impact on climate change.

5. Offset your emissions

Where you can't eliminate all emissions you can offset them, for example through a planting programme such as the Million Metres Streams Project, which is a crowdfunding platform that supports the planting of New Zealand waterways. You can help fund stream restoration on a metre-by-metre basis and businesses that have already donated include Westpac, LeasePlan, TetraMap (which uses Million Metres to offset its air travel), and Apex Insurance, which donates 20% of its policy income from SBN members to the project.

6. Speak up

You can make a difference by making your voice heard, for example by publicising your efforts through your own communication channels, writing to Government, talking to the media, or entering an Awards programme like the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards to get recognition for your efforts.

Taking action on climate change makes good business sense. You will be well rewarded for your efforts!

- NZ Herald

Rachel Brown is CEO of Sustainable Business Network.

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