It is fast becoming accepted that sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have’, an afterthought, or just a good PR tactic.
Due to public expectations, ground swell in the environmental space, science-backed data on anthropogenic impacts, and recent changes in government legislation, sustainability is becoming intrinsically linked to businesses reputation, productivity, performance, recruitment potential, staff wellbeing and viability.
Having an appearance of sustainability on a website or a sustainability policy is not the same as having a genuine commitment to sustainability, which should include underlying principles, processes and behaviours that should become part of your decision-making and practices.
Brianne West, founder & CE of Ethique, has said a business that is operated ethically and sustainably is the best vehicle for change, and adds that businesses who care, treat everyone fairly and think about the entire lifecycle of their products and services are shown to be more profitable, engender more customer loyalty, and generate greater team engagement with retention.
A recent Colmar Brunton poll revealed that 90% of customers would stop buying products or services if they heard that a company was being irresponsible or unethical.
In the Good Company Report 2019, sustainability was a key concern for 87% of New Zealanders, with 71% of customers doing active research around the sustainability of a brand before purchasing.
Three local businesses share their thoughts on the importance of sustainability and why they have embedded sustainability principles and practices into their organisations.
Tesh Randall, co-owner and creator of Raglan Coconut Yoghurt (now known as Raglan Food Co) says that sustainability is intrinsically linked with their company’s ethos, operations and wellbeing. Sustainability is wrapped around the entire brand, as customers expect it, and it is the right thing to do.
Raglan Food Co is advanced in its delivery and embedding of sustainability practices and processes. They are a B Corp Certified Business, achieving the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, balancing profit and purpose. They are also certified Carbon Zero.
Raglan Food Co believe in supporting social and environmental causes and provide a fund for local initiatives. Tesh says they have also planted over 900 native trees around their new factory site.
Paul Peterson, owner and operator of Morning Glory (arguably the best coffee in Waikato), is steadfast in his social and environmental principles which underpin his business. He states that coffee should be ethical and organic and preferably Fair Trade certified, so workers are given a fair wage.
Morning Glory uses unique compostable packaging created by Econic, an arm of Waikato packaging solutions Convex, which has been endorsed by Xtreme Zero Waste for use in their commercial compost system and in home composts. Paul says he also encourages customers to use stoneware and steel cups, and he donates some of his profits locally towards improving biodiversity, conservation and ecological restoration via the Karioi Project.
He believes that the existing economic model does not work well and that we need to apply an ecological, social, economic and cultural quadruple bottom line.
Mike Renfree, of Raglan Chocolate, has been in business four years with his boutique organic and Fairtrade chocolate bars. He agrees sustainability needs to be mainstream with business, and says this was in mind from inception. His key concern was the social injustices and exploitation associated with cacao production and believes that “take-make-waste” systems and ways of doing business need to change. Awareness in the last decade has increased as more “Bean-to-Bar” manufacturers search out quality cacao and are prepared to pay substantially more for these beans, recognising, as Paul said, paying fair wages and knowing your product is ethically sourced.
The paper used in his packaging is certified sustainable, and he is also working with Convex to develop new compostable barrier film liners. He also only uses paper-based packaging for shipping, which includes recycling the paper packaging from the materials he buys.
Where to start?
The first step is to undertake an environmental audit to understand your operations, emissions, gaps, and supply chains, then produce a plan or strategy for setting targets and reducing emissions, as well as identifying where wastage or costs could be saved. Producing a statement or policy about your company’s ethos and practice is also useful. This process should ideally involve and engage your company’s team and become embedded into your day-to-day operating practices.
There are numerous tools online that can assist, such as the SBN climate action toolbox, which is free. This can help you begin to understand the areas you need to focus on. They also offer carbon calculators that you can use to track your greenhouse gas emitting activities including travel, waste, water, energy and freight.
Finally, here’s some advice to all businesses from our interviewees – do it, or do as much as you can, don’t wait, just get started today. It may add complexity to your path, but it is essential. Our planet is paying a cost that we cannot afford. We need to mitigate all of the damage and negative impacts that we create from now on in order to build better businesses for a better world.