Kiwi businesses that don't know the level of greenhouse gas emissions they produce are being advised to start "doing the numbers" to work out their footprint.
ASB's Head of Corporate Responsibility Miranda James says for most small businesses the main source of emissions is likely to be their fuel, gas and electricity bills.
"I'd say if you don't know what your emissions are, take a look at those bills and work through the carbon calculations," she says. "Once you've got that number, you can start taking action to reduce it – and that's really powerful."
James says sustainability can bring many benefits for businesses and there are numerous drivers making the case for sustainable operations more compelling.
"Firstly, there's real growth in customer preference. New Zealanders are increasingly mindful of the impact they're having on the world in their day-to-day lives and they want to be dealing with companies that have the same ethos.
"There's a massive preference for companies who can demonstrate sustainability," she says. "You can see this in a lot of advertising (where) companies in sectors like ice cream, beer and footwear are talking about their sustainability credentials."
"It's also a growing factor influencing choice of employer, particularly for younger staff members."
She says a sustainable approach also reduces costs and makes businesses more efficient through lower fuel, electricity and waste costs.
"There is also growing regulation relating to climate change and scrutiny on larger companies as well as the public sector. As these organisations make commitments, they're going to prefer suppliers and smaller businesses to deal with who can demonstrate these credentials, including carbon reduction."
James says companies may start with a view of what sustainability means but, after asking stakeholders such as staff, customers, shareholders and suppliers, they often get a different view.
"Asking others for their views can be an important step in the process. For example, we have one business customer, a tech start-up," she says. "We started talking about carbon emissions but very quickly realised the important issues in their sector were diversity in the workplace – so that's where they focus their sustainability effort.
Her comments come against a backdrop in which the ASB is providing millions of dollars in sustainable lending to New Zealand businesses.
The bank recently allocated $23 million to Hawkes Bay Airport under the Reserve Bank's Funding for Lending (FLP) programme, which the ASB has committed to using to support projects that meet sustainability or regional infrastructure criteria.
The airport is working on numerous carbon and waste reduction initiatives including a pledge to reach zero emissions by 2030.
Another company, Craigmore Sustainables whose portfolio of dairy, grazing, forestry and horticultural properties covers almost 20,000 hectares throughout New Zealand, has secured nearly $80m in funding from ASB to help achieve its goal to be a leader in land-based reduction in greenhouse gases.
ASB also offers lending for low-carbon asset finance – such as replacing fossil-fuels with renewable energy for heating or manufacturing; and a Rural Sustainability Loan, which enables farmers to invest in on-farm environmental improvements.
James says a great definition of sustainability is: Meeting our needs in a way that doesn't impact the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
"In terms of business, that means considering the impact you're having on people and the planet - and aiming to work in such a way that you're leaving things behind better than you found them."
"It's inspiring to work with so many ASB customers who feel the same way. Ultimately, it means a more successful business."
For more business insights, tips and tools visit the ASB Business Hub: asb.co.nz/businesshub