Casino and hospitality operator SkyCity Entertainment Group has been certified carbon neutral, and as part of its plans to be greener will temporarily switch off the lights of the Sky Tower.

The NZX-listed entertainment company has paid $86,000 to offset the equivalent of 12,866 tonnes of carbon from its Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown businesses, and says it is committed to running a greener operation.

Its Adelaide business will be certified carbon neutral next year.

As part of its carbon neutral plans, the external lights of Auckland's Sky Tower, home to three SkyCity restaurants, a cafe and radio transmitters for the city, will be switched off for two months from today to replace existing lights with LED bulbs. The lights will be back on in time for Christmas.

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SkyCity says switching the bulbs will reduce its energy consumption by 10 per cent.

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The Sky Tower is also being assessed by the New Zealand Green Building Council for a green star rating.

SkyCity says it has reduced its gas, fuel and electricity emissions by 13 per cent over the past year, with the target of reducing its emissions by 38 per cent by 2030.

"Going neutral says we've done something now whilst we get on with the task of reducing emissions," SkyCity chief executive Graeme Stephens told the Herald.

"We don't have a massive carbon footprint as much as we're a big corporate. Even though our footprint is not huge and the difference we make independently may not be huge, if every corporate did their little bit then actually it does add up to quite a lot."

To offset its carbon footprint, SkyCity bought carbon credits through Enviro-Mark Solutions and will pay a $25 internal levy on every tonne of carbon it emits, which will go into its Green Fund.

Over the past year the company has started changing the way it operates to meet its emission reduction targets across the business, Stephens said.

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Changes it has introduced include swapping plastic straws for plant-based alternatives, upgrading its air conditioning units, offering beer and wine on tap in its restaurants, and finding ways to re-use or re-purpose leftover food.

The company says it has reduced the amount of waste it sends to landfill by 21 per cent, including 314 tonnes of food waste which has been commercially composted.

Stephens said the main focus for SkyCity for the next 12 months to find a solution to help it reduce the waste it sends to landfill, as this would make the biggest positive impact. It would also try to cut down on the number of flights its staff take, he said.

"We've been looking at technology which might be something we can adopt. Trying to get zero waste to landfill is one of the missions we're focused on."

Graeme Stephens, chief executive of SkyCity. Photo / Doug Sherring
Graeme Stephens, chief executive of SkyCity. Photo / Doug Sherring

In 2018, SkyCity became a signatory of the Climate Leaders Coalition, joining Air New Zealand, ANZ, DB Breweries, ANZCO Foods, Auckland Airport and Foodstuffs, among others, to agree to combat climate change.

Dr Chris Galloway, marketing and reputation expert at Massey University, said it was common for large companies to pay to offset their carbon emissions.

"It's part of companies of all kinds and sizes recognising that they need to increasingly demonstrate some kind of social responsibility. With the climate process around the world, people are taking it on board much more seriously than perhaps they did in years past, and SkyCity teams seem to want to ride this particular wave and be seen as part of that movement," Galloway told the Herald.

"SkyCity in the minds of some people is associated with gambling which is associated with negative effects, such as problem gambling. I imagine one of the things in senior management's mind at SkyCity might be that this is one way of establishing legitimacy in the minds of some of these people that have doubts."

Galloway said it was pleasing to see the company work to reduce its carbon footprint. "Demand from the general public for companies to do this will only become more insistent ... This is going to be something that people will expect of companies - to minimise their impact on the environment."