Supporting Members Starting Out On Sustainability

Many members have started to take a more sustainable approach in their businesses
and are already making a difference, but others, particularly small business owners, are
keen to make their business more sustainable but simply aren’t sure where to start. This
article is the first in a series of informative monthly articles, some with useful links to
tools and resources, to support members on their sustainability journey.

One of the main barriers to starting on a sustainability journey for many businesses is
the perception that becoming more sustainable is really difficult and it will have a
significant adverse effect on the bottom line of the business. Hopefully these articles will
help to dispel these myths.

The following statement puts into context the fact that a lot of people doing something
small can have a profound overall effect:
‘As a small business you’re not too small to do nothing – 97% of businesses in NZ are
small to medium enterprises (SMEs), so imagine the compound effect if we all become
more sustainable.’

Why Start Out On Sustainability?
There is a very strong business case to become more sustainable with some of the
rationale being:
a) Reach More Customers (Increase Your Market Share): Many more buyers, both
businesses and individuals are seeking out more sustainable brands or service
b) Cut Costs: Sustainability is efficiency, potentially saving you money in a number
of areas such as energy and waste disposal costs. Additionally, looking more
long-term, legislation is coming that will hold businesses more accountable for
the waste that they produce.
c) Attract and Retain Staff: Job hunters, particularly millennials, place importance
on the fact that their future employer is socially and environmentally
d) Enjoy Your Work Enjoy Your Life: Experience tells us that doing the right thing
makes us feel better, leading to a better healthier life and helping you to feel
good about your business.

Getting Started.
There are three steps to follow on your sustainability journey:

  1. Identify where you want to go:
    a) Aspiration – where you want to go and why – are you driven by:
    I. Compliance
    II. Efficiency
    III. The Market
    IV. Engaged Employees
    b) Shaping Your Future:
    I. Where are we now – do we have our own programme – are we leading
    II. Where do we want to go – improve our own sustainability – educate
    others (key stakeholders and anyone affected by or engaged with our
    III. Talk ‘with’ your Team not ‘at’ your Team regarding your sustainability
    journey to achieve their engagement / buy-in
    c) Make Sustainability Everybody’s Responsibility:
    I. Leaders set the example
    II. Know your employees – who is already keen to help and where are the
    sticking points?
    III. Promote learning – share information, knowledge, resources, the
    reasons why and the benefits
    IV. Make it fun
  2. Understand Your Emissions and Impact:
    Most of us don’t understand how our current business model impacts the
    environment. Sustainable Business Network https://sustainable.org.nz/ along
    with business.govt.nz business.govt.nz/ have developed a suite of online tools
    and resources to help businesses to calculate their emissions and learn how they
    can take some simple steps to improve their sustainability. Please use these tools
    to help you to understand your current situation and how you can reduce any
    negative impacts on the environment:
  3. Create and Execute Your Plan:
    To help you to create and execute your own sustainability plan please visit
    Adapted from Sustainable Business Network – Starting Out On Sustainability

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Bernadette Robert

Bernadette Robert