Bal­anc­ing the ledger

The high-pro­file in­ter­na­tional speak­ers at a Sus­tain­able Busi­ness Coun­cil (SBC) con­fer­ence in July – Valu­ing Na­ture – in­tend to demon­strate to New Zealand busi­nesses how best to pre­serve our nat­u­ral cap­i­tal.

Element - - Business -

The ‘ecosys­tem’ ap­proach to busi­ness de­ci­sion­mak­ing, adopted by an in­creas­ing num­ber of top global com­pa­nies, re­quires busi­ness to con­sciously as­sess what their de­pen­den­cies are on na­ture – fresh­wa­ter for man­u­fac­tur­ing, soil qual­ity for hor­ti­cul­ture, to name but a few – and as­sess the risk to busi­ness if th­ese nat­u­ral as­sets were de­stroyed or de­pleted.

The ecosys­tem ap­proach is ex­pected to be­come crit­i­cal to all coun­tries in the next decade – but par­tic­u­larly those, like New Zealand, that make their for­tunes through their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments.

Those speak­ing at the Valu­ing Na­ture con­fer­ence in­clude Pavan Sukhdev, a for­mer banker with Deutsche Bank who has founded GIST Ad­vi­sory, a spe­cial­ist con­sult­ing firm that helps gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions dis­cover, mea­sure, value and man­age their im­pacts on nat­u­ral and hu­man cap­i­tal; and No­bel Prize win­ner Sir Robert Wat­son, who has held pre­vi­ous po­si­tions with NASA as chief sci­en­tist, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor for en­vi­ron­ment with the for­mer Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, and for­mer chair of the UK’s In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change.

Other speak­ers in­clude min­ing ex­pert and Bathurst Re­sources CEO Hamish Bo­han­nan, CEO of Busi­ness NZ Phil O’Reilly, and James Grif­fiths from the World Busi­ness Coun­cil for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment.

The New Zealand SBC, in as­so­ci­a­tion with pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor part­ners in­clud­ing the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Vic­to­ria Univer­sity, is host­ing the event.

SBC ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Penny Nel­son says the is­sue of wider recog­ni­tion for na­ture’s con­tri­bu­tion to our pros­per­ity isn’t con­fined to the fringe any longer – but more needs to be done to in­cor­po­rate it into de­ci­sion mak­ing at all lev­els.

“De­spite our 100% Pure tagline, we can, as a coun­try, be quite com­pla­cent about pre­serv­ing the ‘nat­u­ral cap­i­tal’ that un­der­pins and sup­ports our econ­omy,” she says.

It has been es­ti­mated that the world’s 100 big­gest busi­ness im­pacts are cost­ing the global econ­omy around $USD4.7 tril­lion each year in terms of lost ecosys­tem ser­vices and pol­lu­tion, but New Zealand busi­ness and govern­ment de­ci­sion-mak­ing has not paid heed to th­ese alarm­ing fig­ures as yet, she says.

“The ben­e­fits or ser­vices de­rived from na­ture such as fresh wa­ter, good soil that sup­ports our agri­cul­ture sec­tor, or forests that pre­vent ero­sion and boost our tourism of­fer are gen­er­ally taken for granted,” she says.

New Zealand’s nat­u­ral cap­i­tal is the tourist draw for mil­lions of vis­i­tors each year.

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