Climate change: why business action counts

10 Dec 2018
SOURCE:
Business Plus magazine

Two-thirds of New Zealanders agree that climate change is the biggest problem the world is facing today, according to a 2017 Colmar Brunton survey.

And in the Deloitte BusinessNZ Pre-Election Survey, climate change was one of the top 10 government-related issues for business, and more than 40% of respondents thought that climate change would affect the costs of input to their business.

Now the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report strongly advises limiting global warming to 1.5°C, citing the visible consequences of a 1°C increase through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice. For me, this underlines the urgency to act, not just for SBC members, but for all of New Zealand.

Zero Carbon legislation will be before Parliament in early 2019, and we expect to see greater government intervention and action on climate change, including implementing the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

Making a start

But within the urgency lies opportunities for businesses who take action first. Think about demand from consumers who want to reduce their own carbon intensity, and interest from investors looking for ethical and climate friendly returns.

Measuring your emissions is the first step to managing them. I recommend guidance from organisations like EECA, and working towards certification with the CEMARS or carboNZero schemes from Enviromark.

SBC members are already taking major steps to reduce their emissions, such as reducing air travel or offsetting the emissions it generates through programmes like the one offered by Air New Zealand.

New Zealand Post, The Warehouse, Westpac and Waste Management are moving a substantial part of their vehicle fleet to electric. And Contact Energy are offering businesses the chance to trial electric vehicles.

Z Energy have built New Zealand’s first, commercial scale, biodiesel plant and the Government has funded electric trains to keep running on the North Island Main Trunk rail line.

Transport companies such as Freightways, Mondiale and Toll are educating their drivers on efficient driving practices.

Reducing waste can reduce the methane generated in landfills. SKYCITY divert 500 tonnes of food waste per year to compost, lowering their emissions by 15% in one year.

Using energy efficient appliances and LED lighting reduces the carbon footprint of buildings. Auckland Airport have installed solar panels, and Christchurch Airport have reduced their energy use 22% in 4 years by identifying efficiencies.

Think about the carbon footprint of your supply chain. Companies like OCS who provide cleaning and building management services make smarter use of chemicals and have better waste disposal strategies to help reduce the emissions generated by these services.

If you don’t know where to start, all these examples provide practical ideas you can do right now. Choose a project to work on - and then success will breed success.

These actions are heartening, but we also need leadership from business – like that shown by the CEOs in the Climate Leaders Coalition, launched earlier this year. Now 70 CEOs have made a commitment to measure and reduce their emissions, in their own businesses and throughout their supply chain. SBC provides guidance on sustainable procurement, and is developing a series of low emission solution workshops.

Businesses that can demonstrate they are working to reduce their impact on the environment or even enhance the environment will build a better relationship with their suppliers and customers. The future belongs to businesses that embrace the opportunities that come with climate action.

Abbie Reynolds is executive director of the Sustainable Business Council.

Originally published in Business Plus magazine.