Largely unremarked last week was a conference in Auckland called Embark 2019.
It was led by the Climate Leaders Coalition signatories, and aims to boost the government’s own carbon neutralizing programme.
You can see a lot more of the membership and the aims of this network at the Sustainable Business Council of New Zealand.
It’s pretty easy to presume that corporates have blown up the planet and that capitalism is generally unredeemable.
But here are some of our major employers working very hard to make a difference, in New Zealand. Who knows, you may even work for them yourselves.
Mike Bennetts the CEO of Z Energy and Convenor of the Climate Leaders Coalition led the challenge. This 2019 conference was the first anniversary of this set of leaders.
Other leaders joined in, including Tom Kelly from The Warehouse Group, and Rosie Mercer from Ports of Auckland, who concentrated on measuring and reporting emissions.
Then there was Ian Goldschmidt from Fonterra, talking about what a sustainable Fonterra would look like and how to get there. They really do have a roadmap for this.
Of real interest to me was how Sky City formed an internal carbon price and how that is integrated into funding decisions and models within Sky City. (I marvelled at how awesome it would be if the tens of billions worth of annual government infrastructure contracts were driven by sustainability goals rather than driving down to the cheapest possible price, using the cheapest possible subcontractors, and offloading all blame for not achieving inchoate goals to those doing the job rather than holding a common accountability framework at which sustainability was at its core. Sigh).
Meridian’s Nick Robilliard walked them through how they will convert their entire fleet to electric, and the steps within the company to get there.
And of course James Shaw led a panel on some of the highlights of the year in sustainability and decreasing our carbon footprint on New Zealand and on the world.
Workshops with actual plans attached from major business. That’s not common.
One of the reasons I need to post on this is the chronic lack of publicity about good people doing good things from this conference. Minister Shaw is just too, too quiet on such concrete plans. Maybe he’s just content to work within a specific corporate circle. Great for getting a job after politics, just terrible politics, and the lack of information to the public is steadily corrosive for our democracy.
Corporates are justly proud of turning such massive ships around when they are thorough enough to put their name to an public accountability framework and go on the record showing how they will do what they say. Because then then their shareholders (and the public if they know about it and are awake) can hold them to account.
Many a cynic will call this greenwashing, or that it’s generally pointless and too late.
But there are some companies, such as Air New Zealand – operating within one of the most carbon-costly global industries – who took the promise of New Zealand two decades ago and remain as rigorously committed to this competitive advantage as ever. They lead policy before it’s policy.
Fifteen years ago, Jeremy Moon touched a piece of Merino wool and instantly knew that this amazing fibre was going to be his life’s work. The philosophy that he built is now absorbed into a much more powerful set of global brands. But it remains the same ethos: it paid sheep farmers a forward price for their wool, enabling security and sustainable profits.
Icebreaker in return demanded strict animal welfare and environmental policies and standards of every farmer, and proof of source to each flock with every swing tag. They called it the BaaCode, of course, where you can see the station the
owl wool comes from, hear from the farmers who grow the wool, and indeed meet the sheep that produced it.
The stories about business that enable New Zealand to remain viable in all its forms need to be told better. Hopefully we can share others, because they too tell us How To Get There.
Of course, this occurred in the same week as DairyNZ was telling the Parliamentary Environment Select Committee that the proposed methane target was unachievable and in fast would likely lead to lower production levels that will likely be filled by other global producers. They forgot to mention that the production drive in New Zealand dairy since GATT is actually killing this country.
So it’s always going to be an open contest, sure.
But people like the Sustainable Business Council and the Sustainable Leaders Group have lead government policy for a while and now see it in legislative print – rather than being led by government. You can see more of them in the likes of Good Magazine: people who risk their shirts to turn their little corner of the world for profit and for the planet, as best they can.