Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has urged business leaders to look at the fight against climate change not as a burden but as an opportunity.

Ardern addressed the Business NZ political conference at Te Papa today, along with other political leaders.

She stressed Labour's economic credentials and commitment to responsible economic management, including running surpluses.

But she also said Labour won't accept the status quo, and wants to grow productivity in particular and build an economy not just measured by GDP, but by how people fare.

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Labour leader Jacinda Ardern today told the Business NZ political conference at Te Papa that Labour wants to build an economy not just measured by GDP, but by how people fare. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern today told the Business NZ political conference at Te Papa that Labour wants to build an economy not just measured by GDP, but by how people fare. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She also spoke of making it easier for exporters to thrive, recalling her own family's short stint as apple exporters - a venture quickly scaled down to an honesty box at the gate.

The centrepiece of the speech was a rallying call to business on climate change.

Ardern used Labour's campaign launch on Sunday to target climate change as a priority area, calling it her generation's nuclear-free moment.

And today she urged business leaders in attendance to embrace that challenge.

"For too long climate change has been treated as a burden, rather than acknowledging the special opportunity.

"We trade on our brand. And that brand should be strengthened."

Ardern recalled living in the United Kingdom when consumers were told to stop buying NZ products because of food miles. That was unfair, but showed how such environmental concerns could impact businesses.

Ardern referenced the UK's adoption of a climate commission.

"Waiting makes it much harder to cushion the impact ... it makes it harder to manage our reputational issues. We can and need to use the crossroads to our advantage. And you are vital to making that happen."