April newsletter intro…

We hope this finds you well and with a leftover Easter egg or two to enjoy while you read our April newsletter.  

Not only did I save some Easter eggs, I saved some recycling from landfill and revitalised the most void of life compost I have ever seen, at the place we stayed for Easter weekend. That’s what you’d expect when inviting a sustainability consultant to stay though right? 

Despite those small wins, and as much as I try to remain optimistic and positive about life, I have to admit it does feel really tough right now. (I’ve come to learn that admitting and sharing that is a critical part of driving positive change). While trying to process the horrific events happening in faraway lands, we are also hearing of a growing number of job losses, faltering businesses and charities, and struggling households at home in Aotearoa. It is easy to feel despondent. Add on top of that announcement after announcement from the new government of policies and legislation that are moving us away form a regenerative, circular, and inclusive economy as fast as they possibly can…(deep breath). 

But that is precisely why all of us who believe humanity is capable of a far better economic system and a far better way of doing business must work together to engage, educate, and inspire more people and more businesses to do things differently.  

It has also been an especially difficult time for many within our professional network with the tragic loss of Rod Oram. Although I never officially met Rod, he was a constant trusted source of knowledge, inspiration, and reassurance for me (as I know he was for many others). Working in sustainability trying to drive positive change does often make you feel like you are swimming against the current, and at times it makes you question yourself and what you are doing. But I always found listening or reading what Rod had to say incredibly reassuring, validating, and motivating. On many occasions I stopped what I was doing to listen to him on the radio or made the concerted effort to hear him speak at many events.  Rods passing is an enormous loss on so many levels.  

This sense of swimming against the current has felt more like swimming against a raging torrent of late, as the new government goes rogue on all things relating to sustainability.  

From increasing public transport fares and building more roads while decreasing investment in walking and cycling, to disincentivising EV ownership. From planning cuts to the Lunch In Schools Program while giving landlords tax breaks to the tune of $2.9 billion over the four-year forecast period, to the Fast-Track Bill that our environmental groups are calling a “war on nature”. It does feel to me like our government has travelled forward through time from the 1950’s. A time when we knew little to nothing about the impacts our economic system is having on the stability of our climate, the health of our environment, and the rise in inequality. A time when people thought the planet had an endless supply of resources and could absorb infinite amounts of pollution. A time before we had the internet, GPS satellites, the IPCC or global atmospheric and oceanic sensors telling us exactly how the planet and oceans are changing, rapidly.  

Where are the new ideas? The new thinking? The evidence backed policies that will incentivise businesses and citizens to rapidly transform to a carbon-zero circular economy? Where is the collaboration with businesses who have been on their sustainability journey for years? Where is the listening and engagement with experts who have a far greater knowledge than them? Perhaps they need some guidance from an independent sustainability consultancy….?  

Please do not read the above as an affirmation of the previous government. They too were not doing enough, or fast enough. I still can’t believe Chris Hipkins gave in to the lobbying and cancelled the container deposit scheme when it was so close to being implemented! That would have had a fundamental impact on the culture and social norms of New Zealand by driving the behaviour changes we need. A huge, missed opportunity to speed up the transformation to a circular economy that will take some time to come around again. Meanwhile, millions of tonnes of resources will continue to be dumped in landfills and pollute our ecosystems, or massive incinerators will be built to turn these resources into ash. The logic?!?! 

Seriously though, at the same time we have Councils considering “waste to energy” plants that need their communities to waste resources in order to operate (and generate those businesses a profit), we have the government ruling out an ocean sanctuary for the Kermadecs and instead talking of sea bed mining there!!  

This cartoon from 11 years ago really makes me think of our new Minister for Resources, Shane Jones. (A Minister who achieved this level of power and influence with his party receiving just 6% of the electoral vote).  

It should be noted that these political failings are not unique to Aotearoa. All around the world there are governments that are way behind their commitments to reduce GHG emissions, decrease poverty and regenerate nature, or achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  

Those of us who work in climate and sustainability roles often refer to this as the ‘Decisive Decade’. This is because we need to halve global emissions by 2030 to remain under the climate tipping point of 1.5°C. The same year that was set as the goal to achieve the SDGs. Sorry to break it to you, but we are not on track for either. 

We cannot control or influence what happens around the world, but we can in our own back yard – and we must.  

With faltering leadership coming from our current government, we need businesses and their leaders to step up more than ever. After all, it is businesses that endure and see governments and politicians come and go as they try to cling on to power in the three yearly cycle.  

Let us not kid ourselves though. There are many businesses with people who do not want any change and care nothing for the damage they cause in the pursuit of more growth and more profit. Many of these businesses and people are who also make huge donations to political parties to help keep the status quo.  

Yet there are so many businesses made of, and led by, people who believe businesses can and should be building a better world. There are currently over 7,800 Certified B Corporations spanning across more than 161 industries, employing almost 630,000 people around the world. More than 650 of these B Corps are based in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. B-Corp is a “movement to change our economic system” to an “inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy.”. And that’s just one movement and certification. There are many thousands more whose purpose and values are aligned with creating a better economic system for all.  

It is these businesses I pin my hopes on to show the brave and bold leadership that is required. By standing up for what is right and speaking out against what is wrong. By trialling and demonstrating new thinking and new ideas, and by using their platforms to educate, engage and inspire.  

I have often spoken about my ongoing frustration and disappointment in the lack of leadership shown by our business leaders in New Zealand. The silence from the business community as the government roles out these backwards polices is further exasperating that frustration. Everyone seems afraid of the potential for negative PR. But what about the opportunity for positive PR?!? 

To me, there has never been a better opportunity for businesses to step up and show courage, lead with their values and differentiate themselves from those that do not. That’s what so many citizens and customers are desperate for.  

Publicly oppose such backwards legislation as the Fast-Track Bill, the idea of seabed mining in the Kermadec’s, or reducing the Lunch in Schools Programme. Publicly support increasing ocean sanctuaries, improving public transport, and restoring the health of incredible natural ecosystems. Stand for something. Don’t be a passenger.  

Even better – do it with other businesses. Partner with like-minded people who share your values and principles, build support and partnerships and really make a difference! 

Last Friday I joined the nationwide climate strike. Again it was organised by our young people. I dream of the day it is organised by businesses… 

This is the introduction to our April newsletter written by our Founding Director, Nick Morrison. Click here to read the newsletter in full.