Sitting quietly in your seat listening to talking heads isn’t on the agenda at this year’s Sustainable Business Network’s conference.
Collaboration to create practical solutions for business sustainability is at the heart of the Project NZ #theBIGshift conference, which introduces four areas of focus for The Big Shift, the organisation’s project aimed at boosting sustainability.
Three sustainable business visionaries gave Element a heads up on where they will be leading discussions at the conference.
Robb Donze, INZIDE Commercial
Robb Donze is an old hand at the sustainable business game.
For nearly 20 years his company, INZIDE Commercial, has been creating synthetic carpet tiles out of recycled materials – mainly old fishing nets – then taking back the old tiles to be recycled into new flooring.
Donze says his interest was piqued by the Sustainable Business Network’s new work stream focussing on the circular economy, which moves the focus from waste management to waste optimisation.
He says what appealed was how it simplified the whole sustainability discussion.
“You don’t need to get into all the detail of the recycle content and what-not, and what’s going into a product as long as you make people responsible when they’re finished with it. “All the clever stuff just doesn’t matter then.” Donze says with the likelihood that scarcity of resources in the future will push up the price of raw materials the circular economy approach is not ‘tree hugging’.
“It’s not doing this for altruistic reasons because we want to save the planet. That’s a side benefit.
“It’s good business.”
Rachel Taulelei, Yellow Brick Road
Despite the whimsical brand name Rachel Taulelei is serious about getting beautifully fresh fish on the plates of New Zealand restaurant customers.
Yellow Brick Road began out of Taulelei’s desire to ensure fish reached restaurant kitchens in peak condition by sourcing her products from fisherman – both big and small operators – who took care and attention with all aspects of their operations.
What fires Taulelei up are the ideas of sustainability and responsibility around oceanic resources and that delicate balance between conservation and commerce.
“We are this great seafaring nation and we have been doing this [fishing] since the beginning of time.
“Increasingly we’re identified as being world leaders in this space and I would like to have a discussion around the authenticity of that message.”
She says it’s almost impossible to put a finger on a definition of sustainability, but she takes the quota management as a starting point and layers it with product traceability and authenticity.
“I don’t think, quite frankly, that business is any clearer on this subject than consumers are and consumers look to businesses for their lead.”
Vivien Maidaborn, Loomio
When Vivien Maidaborn co-founded an online collaborative decision making software tool spun out of the Occupy movement she could already see an application beyond its activist roots.
Created using open-source code by young people who experienced the best and worst of large group decisionmaking, Loomio is now used by up to 28,000 people in 75 countries around the world to agitate for change.
“Over half the discussions on Loomio aren’t in English,” says Maidaborn. Maidaborn knew it could be taken further. “I always saw the opportunity for transforming organisation cultural life.”
Increasingly businesses and government organisations are tapping into Loomio to create more engagement and collaboration among staff without adding to the cost of doing business, says Maidaborn.
As well as connecting teams in different locations Loomio can also give a voice to those who would normally be marginalised or are too shy to contribute, she says.
Maidaborn says she will reveal what Loomio has taught her about collaboration and open management for sustainable businesses focussed on embedding social values into business.
Clockwise from top left: Robb Donze, Rachel Taulelei,