No greenwash allowed The carbonzero programme was established in 2001 by Landcare Research New Zealand Limited, one of New Zealand’s leading Crown Research Institutes owned by Just 80 New Zealand companies hold the carbonzero certification. Another 120 more are on the way with the CEMARS label. A round of applause…
Reducing carbon has become the world’s crash diet programme to rescue its failing health. The good news is that the transition to a low carbon economy is opening up enormous business opportunities, of which the fittest New Zealand firms are already taking advantage.
The idea seems devastatingly simple: cut the amount of greenhouse gases we pump out and so slow the greenhouse effect that is heating the place up, making weather patterns turn dangerously odd, melting glaciers and acidifying the oceans.
But it’s not that easy. The vast majority of the worldwide industrial economy still relies on methods of energy generation, transport and production that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.
Which is where programmes like carbonzero come in. Because there are many ways of lowering emissions while improving our economy, and new ways of doing so are being developed all the time. The key to reducing emissions without undermining our way of life is to support these new developments and the companies that engage in them.
For the conscious consumer it means the carbonzero programme does the hard work for us, so we don’t have to check out the carbon credentials of every company we want to buy stuff from. And for the companies, it allows them to get the jump on the big polluters when it comes to earning our increasingly green dollars. the government. It’s based on more than a decade’s worth of research, and provides a set of tools for individuals, organisations, products and events to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, or carbon footprint.
Graham Carter, CEO of the carbonzero programme, says: “We were an idea developed on the back of a napkin in 2001 by Landcare Research, and now we are a viable commercial entity looking to take on the world.”
The first two steps are measuring the emissions and finding ways for them to be reduced. Crucially, an emissions inventory has to be prepared, and efforts to reduce emissions have to be independently verified before those seeking carbonzero certification can move to the offsetting stage. This avoids companies simply paying to pollute at existing levels.
Another important way of ensuring a genuine drop in emissions is that if a project would have happened anyway, say through the sale of electricity or because of government funding, then it cannot be used as an offset project. Some of the verified projects currently approved by carbonzero include wind power projects in India and China and geothermal plant in Indonesia. Closer to home, payments from carbonzero certified companies also help support the use of methane gas from the former Burwood landfill to heat the Queen Elizabeth II Park Recreation and Sport Centre in Christchurch.
Carter warns to keep on the lookout for cheap imitations: “People should think twice if they see or hear a green claim coming from an organisation. If there is no certification or transparency to independently back up their environmental or green claims, then you should question it. There are organisations out there trying to jump on the green bandwagon, when really they are taking little or no credible action.”
The only New Zealand winery to be certified carbonzero since its inception, sustainability is woven into the very fabric of Yealands Estate. The 1000 hectares of grapes growing on the Marlborough Hills above the Pacific Ocean are punctuated by no fewer than 25 wetlands and extensive planting of native trees, with the intention of enticing native birds back to the area. It has been the labour of love of Peter Yealands, who with his family have made this the largest privately owned single vineyard in New Zealand. The carbonzero process is ongoing, and Peter and his team are constantly developing new ideas to reduce emissions. Among the flagship initiatives (see below), there are a number of smaller improvements throughout the business. The vineyard fleet is run on biofuels, for example, with shuttle buses for staff utilised for bringing the 30 employees from Blenheim to the winery rather than them all bringing their own cars.