Busi­ness is bloom­ing

The na­ture of busi­ness some­times seems to en­cour­age our eco-friendly in­cli­na­tions at home to be left out­side the of­fice door. Things are chang­ing, how­ever.

Element - - Technology - Byadam Gif­ford

If you want to make an or­gan­i­sa­tion sus­tain­able, you have to start some­where.

For Michael Field, the BNZ’S sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment man­ager, that start is Nat­u­ral Step, a Swedish-de­vel­oped method­ol­ogy for eco-friendly busi­ness.

Field says ev­ery­thing can be mapped to Nat­u­ral Step’s “four sys­tem con­di­tions” that de­scribe what a sus­tain­able so­ci­ety looks like.

Con­di­tion one talks about not sys­tem­i­cally in­creas­ing the re­sources we take from the planet’s crust, like oil and met­als. That leads to the need to elim­i­nate our con­tri­bu­tion to chem­i­cals and com­pounds pro­duced by so­ci­ety, such as diox­ins and PCBS.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions should con­sider how their ac­tiv­i­ties or re­source needs con­trib­ute to the degra­da­tion or destruc­tion of na­ture.

The fourth con­di­tion is about so­ci­ety’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to its peo­ple and not do­ing things that un­der­mine peo­ple’s ca­pac­ity to meet ba­sic hu­man needs. Which is why BNZ is the largest user of Fair­trade tea and cof­fee in New Zealand.

“We be­lieve there needs to be sys­tem to fairly re­mu­ner­ate the grow­ers of those prod­ucts.”

Field says the BNZ has set manda­tory sus­tain­able busi­ness re­quire­ments for its sup­pli­ers, and given them 12 months to con­form, as well as of­fer­ing train­ing and re­sources to help them.

“If an or­gan­i­sa­tion says it has done green, it says to me it doesn’t un­der­stand what be­ing green is, and that’s not what this is about. To be green is a cost to a busi­ness, to be sus­tain­able should be prof­itable,” Field says.

An­other or­gan­i­sa­tion to em­brace Nat­u­ral Step is Sov­er­eign In­sur­ance. CEO Charles An­der­son says is­sues like eco­log­i­cal over­shoot, the fact that hu­mans are con­sum­ing more than the planet can pro­duce, have pro­found im­pli­ca­tions for the in­sur­ance in­dus­try.

“We are long-term busi­nesses, with poli­cies that run 30, 40, 50 years so we have to re­think the sus­tain­abil­ity of busi­ness over that time,” An­der­son says.

“For ex­am­ple, we know to­bacco is harm­ful be­cause it causes most of the ill­nesses we in­sure against, so why would we in­vest in to­bacco com­pa­nies? It may be bet­ter to in­vest in health com­pa­nies.”

“We have to be con­cerned about so­cial is­sues as well be­cause you can’t run a suc­cess­ful busi­ness in a fail­ing so­ci­ety.”

Si­mon Har­vey, Nat­u­ral Step’s NZ ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor says the dif­fer­ence to other “green” pro­grammes is Nat­u­ral Step looks at sus­tain­abil­ity as a core busi­ness strat­egy.

He says it has helped Swedish com­pa­nies like Elec­trolux and Ikea to be­come world lead­ers.

“We en­cour­age busi­ness to think about longer term change that will drive in­no­va­tion and re­de­fine it rather than make it a bit more ef­fi­cient.”

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