Poverty amid prosperity
Businesses large and small are working creatively to put an end to poverty. Anuja Nadkarni reports.
"We've been stuck at defining poverty rather than addressing it." Eat My Lunch founder Lisa King
In 2015, New Zealand along with several other countries adopted a set of goals outlined by the United Nations to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity, as part of a new sustainable development agenda.
But Lisa King, founder of the buy one, gift one lunch model Eat My Lunch said she had seen little progress in the state of poverty in the two years she had been in business.
‘‘Poverty is unacceptable in a country as rich as ours.
‘‘It’s great to see parties talking about it but until now we’ve been stuck at defining poverty rather than addressing it.
‘‘We still have a long way to go,’’ King said.
There are around 682,500 Kiwis living in poverty, around 220,000 of whom are children.
King said it was up to businesses to share the responsibility in dealing with the issue, rather than relying on any one group or organisation.
While all her staff were paid above the minimum wage, King said it was the business’ goal to increase this up to the living wage, which is $20.20 per hour.
‘‘It’s really important for us to pay them a decent income to look after their families.’’
Ice-cream company Nice Blocks began paying staff the living wage before the campaign was launched in 2012.
Founder James Crow said paying a living wage offered New Zealanders a level playing field, especially for those working on the front line.
New Zealand has more than 40,000 homeless people, half being in Auckland.
As people had a better understanding of social issues such as poverty or about the climate today, customers were demanding businesses to take stronger action for the future generation, he said.
And although there was a strong push from consumers by purchasing from brands they ethically aligned with, there had been an even greater push from within the workforce.
‘‘There has been a generational shift and businesses can no longer continue working without thinking about how they can make society better or the environment,’’ Crow said.
‘‘And employees are demanding that change, whether that’s giving back, getting paid what they think they deserve or flexible working hours.’’
Westpac NZ chief executive David McLean said big businesses could collaborate with not-forprofit organisations to bring different solutions to the table.
The bank has set up programmes where its staff can volunteer to educate their communities on financial literacy, and has also been providing loans to community housing providers including Housing New Zealand, helping those who can’t afford a deposit for their home.
‘‘It’s about identifying the things businesses can do to move the dial within their skill base,’’ McLean said. ‘‘Businesses can’t succeed in societies that fail. If we can help address some social problems then hopefully that has a positive impact on people’s lives, a positive impact for the economy and a positive impact for our business.’’
Tips for ending poverty
- Engage with your lowest paid employees to understand barriers they may be facing on housing affordability or other constraints to living with dignity.
- Use those insights to review your business practices to make changes to help staff or people living in your business’ local community.
- Work with local community organisations to understand how you can contribute. This won’t necessarily require money expertise might be what is needed.
James Crow (left) and Tommy Holden of Nice Blocks believe in the living wage.