Lean, mean AND green

The Sus­tain­able Busi­ness Net­work is dar­ing busi­nesses to take part in its Get Sus­tain­able Chal­lenge – and maybe save some money in the process.

Element - - Enterprise - By Kate Hughes

It’s that time of year when busi­nesses take an ex­hil­a­rat­ing plunge for the good of their health. Not the Lake Taupo mid­win­ter swim, but the Get Sus­tain­able Chal­lenge. The Chal­lenge was de­vel­oped by the Sus­tain­able Busi­ness Net­work (SBN), as a com­pre­hen­sive sus­tain­abil­ity im­prove­ment tool. It as­sesses the tan­gi­bles, like prod­ucts, ser­vices, re­sources and busi­ness sys­tems, as well as the de­cid­edly more slip­pery con­cepts – of com­mit­ment and influence, among oth­ers.

By tak­ing the Chal­lenge, busi­nesses are mo­ti­vated to bet­ter un­der­stand their sus­tain­abil­ity strengths and weak­nesses, and iden­tify both op­por­tu­ni­ties and risks. They get face-to-face sup­port, re­sources and rel­e­vant KPIs, mak­ing the Chal­lenge a frame­work for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and re­port­ing. It also shows each busi­ness where they sit on the sus­tain­abil­ity con­tin­uum.

Robyn Henry, CEO of The Con­fer­ence Cen­tre feels that the feed­back gen­er­ated by tak­ing the Chal­lenge is in­valu­able on her com­pany’s sus­tain­able jour­ney. “I think it is great as a bench­mark­ing tool – not just to see where we were when we started but also where we are against other com­pa­nies. The shared ex­pe­ri­ences of­ten give you ideas of other ar­eas to fo­cus on, or how they have achieved some of their so­lu­tions. Many of the prob­lems are com­mon to most busi­nesses, so there is not al­ways the need to rein­vent the wheel.”

And Mike Mur­phy, manag­ing di­rec­tor of Kokako Cof­fee, be­lieves that this feed­back loop was lack­ing be­fore they took the Chal­lenge the first time. “I was keen to see how the sus­tain­abil­ity prac­tices and ini­tia­tives we al­ready had in the busi­ness stood up to crit­i­cal anal­y­sis by a third party. It high­lighted what we were do­ing right but also ex­posed some of the things I was not so proud of, such as staff work­ing long hours – which I’m guilty of – and not ac­tu­ally hav­ing a ‘sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy’. We were just kind of do­ing sus­tain­able things with­out writ­ing them all down.”

He’s par­tic­u­larly keen to map Kokako’s re­cent progress by tak­ing the Chal­lenge again in 2012. “We won an award in 2009 for be­ing a ‘Trail­blazer’. A lot has changed since then both ex­ter­nally and in­ter­nally and our busi­ness is now com­pletely dif­fer­ent, so what we achieved back then seems a long time ago and I am keen to see how we have pro­gressed.”

Jonathan Lu­cas, se­nior as­so­ciate at James & Wells In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty, notes that the com­pany’s Chal­lenge process sup­ports its un­der­stand­ing of what it means to be sus­tain­able. “the true mean­ing of sus­tain­abil­ity is about the abil­ity of a busi­ness to sus­tain it­self over a pe­riod of time while hav­ing a pos­i­tive ef­fect on its staff, cus­tomers, community and the en­vi­ron­ment. Pre­vi­ously we had a nar­row un­der­stand­ing that it was just about be­ing green, but there is so much more to it.”

Now fur­ther along its jour­ney, James & Wells has de­vel­oped ini­tia­tives to help the community while sup­port­ing other busi­nesses in their com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity.

En­try into the SBN Awards pro­gramme is in­cluded in the cost of tak­ing the Chal­lenge – which, for James & Wells, brought a dif­fer­ent set of re­wards.

“The con­tacts we made as a re­sult of en­ter­ing the GSC and en­ter­ing the an­nual Sus­tain­able Busi­ness Net­work Awards have been valu­able and in­spir­ing to show us what is achiev­able.”

Ac­tively work­ing with tools like the Chal­lenge per­pet­u­ates this kind of vir­tu­ous circle, as Robyn Henry has found out. “From a busi­ness per­spec­tive, other clients see­ing you ac­tively work­ing on sus­tain­abil­ity, of­ten col­lab­o­ra­tively, means re­sources and costs can be shared.”


Mike Mur­phy, manag­ing di­rec­tor, Kokako.

Ted Baghurst

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