A recent report by the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) delves into the integration of sustainability practices within New Zealand's corporate sector, drawing on interviews conducted with senior executives from nearly 30 diverse organisations and providing a comprehensive overview of current sustainability trends and priorities.
Titled “Sustainability in Aotearoa New Zealand’s Corporates,” the report, authored by SBN head of advisory and impact Tori Calver, highlights that sustainability has remained a central focus for most of these organisations, even amid recent turbulent times. Looking ahead, these corporates anticipate maintaining their commitment to sustainability over the next 18 months.
“Organisations exporting to Europe are seeing strong pressure to prioritise action in emissions reduction. Plus, new regulations like the Climate-related Disclosures, which makes it mandatory for big companies to report on climate risk, are having an impact,” Calver said.
The study also reveals a growing expectation from customers and investors for more sustainable products and services. Some businesses view sustainability as a competitive edge, while others are responding to a rise in job seekers preferring to work for companies with a clear purpose and sustainability agenda.
Key areas of focus for these corporates include climate action, circular economy practices like waste reduction, supply chain sustainability, water management, employee engagement, and indigenous partnerships. An emerging area of interest is the impact of corporate activities on natural ecosystems.
However, the report indicates that sustainability efforts are often balanced against profitability concerns. The extent and speed of sustainability initiatives are influenced by government policies and investments.
“Our findings show that while corporates are committed to sustainability, greater intervention from government would help,” Calver said. “That includes clearer and more consistent regulations to help long-term planning; greater standardisation of regulations between New Zealand and the global market, particularly around climate and nature reporting; and financial support and incentives for sustainability initiatives, such as transitioning to renewable energy or electrifying vehicle fleets.”
Interviewees also identified several challenges, such as global supply chain disruptions, regulatory uncertainties, difficulties in obtaining insurance, cost concerns, and the need for behavioural changes. There is also a cautious approach towards public statements on sustainability due to the risk of accusations of greenwashing.
“While it’s encouraging to hear that corporates are optimistic, more work needs to be done. For example, although most companies have clear emission reduction targets, many lack credible plans to meet them. We are sceptical that business is on track to meet Aotearoa New Zealand’s targets for emission reductions of 40-50% by 2030 and net zero by 2050,” Calver said.
The surveyed businesses, members of the Sustainable Business Network, represent various sectors, including primary industry, financial services, transport, manufacturing, and construction. The interviews were conducted in September and October, with the research receiving support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
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