Shifting the goalposts
Home-grown version of a UK sustainability initiative aims to shake up traditional business as usual.
The backing of a UK-based environmental organisation is boosting local efforts to transform the sustainability of business practices.
New Zealand’s Sustainable Business Network (SBN) has teamed up with the UK’s Forum for the Future, which has developed a programme aimed at changing whole sectors to embrace sustainability.
Titled #theBIGshift, it is the culmination of 20 years’ work by the Forum for the Future and is based on the understanding that “no single company or organisation can make a genuine shift towards a sustainable future on its own”, says Forum chief executive Sally Uren.
The campaign is based around “system innovation” in which practical actions are used to shift a system, anything from a business sector, city or whole economy, onto a more sustainable path.
Here in New Zealand the SBN, a not-for-profit organisation with 500 members from across the business, government and non-profit spectrum, has adapted the Forum’s strategy to create a home-grown version of #theBIGshift.
“Rather than spending a lot of time inventing our own framework, we looked to a proven framework and Forum for the Future were happy to share their knowledge around the tools and how it’s best implemented,” says James Griffin, network general manager at the SBN.
He says the SBN has identified four key areas that not only encapsulate the key issues in creating an economy focussed on sustainability but played to the SBN’s strengths. The new work streams are: • Accelerating the circular economy in New Zealand – moving from waste management to material optimisation. • Embedding social value into business models – linking
social issues to organisational growth. • Accelerating smart transport in New Zealand – addressing one of the toughest challenges in renewable energy. • Restoring New Zealand’s food system – creating a
successful restorative food system. Griffin, who is heading up the circular economy work stream, says the project recognises dealing with environmental sustainability can be too big and complex for individual organisations to tackle alone.
The SBN is promoting a collaborative approach to tease out the issues around creating sustainable systems before working on commercially driven solutions.
It will be utilising the strength of its nationwide network to advance the project.
“Although there is going to be some robust discussions as we go through we’re keen for businesses and organisations to have a voice and to have an impact on these work streams so hopefully there will be some form of ownership,” Griffin says.
In the UK #theBIGshift has formed partnerships with organisations such as Nike, Unilever and AkzoNobel, interested in building sustainability into their businesses and wider business sectors.
Here in New Zealand support has already come from the likes of INZIDE Commercial, a carpet tile manufacturer aiming to have all its products either recyclable or biodegradable by 2020, and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare who are both partners in the “circular economy” work stream.
Griffin says the SBN is looking to showcase the progress of pioneers in business sustainability at every opportunity “because we know that case studies resonate with businesses, and gives them confidence and understanding of how they can achieve results in their own businesses”.
The work done by the Forum for the Future and how it is being tailored for introduction into New Zealand organisations is the focus of a conference being run by the SBN in September.
James Griffin (right, rear), with the SBN team, from left: Fiona Stephenson, Alex Williams, Natasha Fromont, Anna Mathieson,
Rachel Brown (CEO), Matt Ayers, Julia Jackson, Theresa Gaire.