Benefits of being green

It’s important to weave sustainability into your business strategy. It’s good for the planet, and it’ll improve your business’s long-term productivity by reducing costs.

4min

Kiwi companies are increasingly taking action to improve their environmental impact – and telling the world about what they’re doing. As our awareness of climate change and other environmental issues has evolved, more and more companies are choosing to weave sustainability into their business strategy.

Sustainability has shifted from being a business niche occupied by mainly eco-conscious companies, to now being seen as ‘table stakes’ in many industries.
 

There is also a massive productivity gain. Though it may take time to generate a return, investing in sustainable practices will in the long run save you either being forced to comply with new rules, or experience the likely shift in customer behaviour towards businesses that adopt the greening of their industry.
 

This of course, is better for the planet and brings many other business benefits including improved brand value, customer and staff relationships, business resilience, and reduced costs through improved efficiency. 

Policy drives change across the business sector
 

In New Zealand, a range of recent climate policies have made it more attractive to ‘go green’. For example, 200 of our largest companies will need to report their climate change progress publicly as part of new ‘mandatory disclosure’ regulations. This includes the greenhouse gas emissions associated with goods and services they purchase. If you are a smaller company supplying a large corporate or if you want to win their business, there are real advantages in being able to show action on climate change. Many large companies are already taking strong climate action (e.g. members of the Climate Leaders Coalition) and are working to positively influence smaller businesses they work with.
 

It’s not just corporates changing how they look at their supply chain: the Government’s carbon neutral programme is focused on considering the carbon footprint of suppliers to the public sector.
 

 If you’re a small business owner and want to become more productively sustainable, where should you start? Here are some examples to get you going:

  • Investing in energy-efficient lighting reduces your carbon footprint, leads to cost savings on energy bills and better lighting reduces eye strain and fatigue, resulting in increased focus and productivity.
  • A paperless office by encouraging digital documentation, file-sharing platforms, and electronic communication, helps streamline workflows, reduces the time spent on manual paperwork, and minimises the need for physical storage space.
  • Select suppliers who adopt green practices which can lead to reduced supply chain disruptions, improved product quality, and better relationships with suppliers, ultimately enhancing operational efficiency.
  • Recycling encourages employees to properly dispose of rubbish, reducing landfill-bound waste.
  • Allowing employees to work remotely reduces the need for daily travel, leading to lower carbon emissions while combining with higher employee satisfaction, reduce absenteeism, and provide improved work-life balance.
     

Whether you run your company from a small studio or a large manufacturing site, all businesses have some impact on the environment, with opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint. 

First: understand your impacts
 

It is important that your sustainability efforts are genuine and thorough. This means investing time at the outset to really understand where you have the biggest impact, and making a plan to tackle those areas first. Being authentic and able to show meaningful action, is important. At a basic level this will mean, you: 

  • Measure the right things by examining what’s ‘material’ to your business.
  • Plan to improve over time and set realistic, measurable targets and making someone accountable.
  • Report on your progress, including being transparent about things you’re not doing so well.
  • Embed plans into your other business processes so you’re committed for the long term.

Your climate impact and carbon footprint
 

Start by measuring your carbon footprint. The saying ‘what gets measured, gets managed’ applies to your business emissions. When you are clear on your carbon footprint, you can start planning to improve it.
 

For most small Kiwi businesses, their carbon footprint will come mostly from transport (e.g. driving, freight or air travel) and energy use (e.g. gas or electricity used to power your IT, lighting or heating). Companies that use a lot of fossil fuel (e.g. heavy transport, or manufacturing) will have higher emissions as a result.
 

There are several online tools that will help you to measure your footprint using inputs like utility bills and fuel invoices. These tools apply an ‘emissions factor’ per litre of fuel or per unit of energy used, to translate your consumption into greenhouse gas emissions.
 

Check out the free carbon calculators available for businesses at Business.govt.nz as a start. When you want to audit or assure your footprint, there are tools to both measure and certify your emissions.

Reducing your greenhouse gas emissions
 

Knowing your carbon footprint is step one. The important part is taking action to reduce it. This doesn’t necessarily mean making large capital investments in new equipment straight away.
 

Fuel efficiency and energy efficiency improvements are a great first step, and can often make a marked difference to your business overheads as well as your carbon footprint.
 

As a guide, work to align your plan to the international ‘science based targets’ initiative. This ensures that the reductions you’re aiming for, will support the goals of the Paris Agreement, which is to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. This is the level that scientists agree will give the world the best chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

Becoming carbon neutral
 

If you’re making great progress on cutting emissions, you may want to go further and become certified as carbon neutral. Companies that are officially ‘carbon zero’ or carbon neutral, are those that measure and verify their emissions, have a strong action plan to reduce them, and then offset the remainder through purchasing a reputable source of carbon credits.
 

‘Carbon zero’ status can only be achieved via formal certification – you cannot claim it without working through a verification scheme. And it can only come alongside, or after, you have a solid action plan underway to cut emissions.
 

Be sure to check out ASB’s step-by-step guide to developing your sustainability strategy; and keep an eye out for upcoming profiles of companies gaining a competitive edge through sustainability.

More information
 

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