Climate change and environmental degradation provided a new reason for business organisations in the 1990s and 2000s. Notable new organisations were the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Business Network.
These groups were willing to see New Zealand at the forefront of responses to climate change. Other business organisations argued that New Zealand should follow rather than lead. The Greenhouse Policy Coalition, Business New Zealand and the Business Roundtable predicted damage to the economy and businesses from too fast a response.
New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development
The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (NZBCSD) was formed by a group of well-known businesspeople in 1999. The council promoted sustainability in business, arguing that it contributes to social progress and ecological balance, protects quality of life and enables profit-making.
By 2008 the council had 66 members, from the resource, manufacturing, retailing and service sectors, generating 34% of New Zealand’s GDP. Membership was by invitation.
The NZBCSD’s first project, and a condition of membership, was triple-bottom-line reporting, sometimes known as sustainable development reporting. A reporting guideline was officially launched in 2002. A number of NZBCSD members issued sustainable development reports, including Hubbard Foods, Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Sanford Seafoods, Landcare Research, the Warehouse and Urgent Couriers.
Other areas of activity were zero waste, climate change, youth employment, schools partnership and sustainable-labelling projects. Supply chain and emissions management projects were also developed.
New Zealand’s environment was traditionally the concern of ‘lefty, hemp wearing, mung bean eaters,’ according to Geoff Ross, founder of vodka company 42Below. But Ross, a self-described ‘mega National supporter,’ put the case for business interest in the environment bluntly: ‘[W]e should care about what’s happening to our globe and we should care because here’s an opportunity to make a lot of money.’1
Sustainable Business Network
The Sustainable Business Network, set up in 2002, amalgamated three small groups: the Environmental Business Network, Businesses for Social Responsibility and Triple B. Its purpose was the embedding of sustainable business practices in New Zealand.
In 2007/8 the Sustainable Business Network received a third of its funding from government. This funding was cut in 2009, as part of a government drive to trim spending.
Membership was open to businesses of all sizes, government departments, local bodies, not-for-profit organisations and research institutes. In 2009 it had 700 members. Major activities were:
- a business sustainability program (the Get Sustainable Challenge)
- regional and national awards for sustainable business practices
- an online directory of products and services
- Greenfleet, which encouraged vehicle efficiency through a combination of practical resources, advice and carbon offsetting.
Greenhouse Policy Coalition
The Greenhouse Policy Coalition was formed in 1996, and represented almost all of New Zealand’s largest users of power. Its members included New Zealand Steel, New Zealand Aluminium Smelters, Solid Energy, Fonterra, Methanex New Zealand and four pulp and paper manufacturers.
In 2009 the coalition argued that implementing the Kyoto Protocol on climate change was a significant risk to New Zealand’s economy. It called for a moderate and measured response by government.
Business New Zealand and the Business Roundtable
In relation to climate change, Business New Zealand emphasised the need to safeguard economic growth while attempting to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2009 the Business Roundtable accepted that climate change was occurring, but argued that New Zealand should not limit greenhouse gas emissions until Australia had done so. Government action should be limited to a financially neutral carbon tax and subsidised carbon sinks. An emissions trading scheme, with a price for carbon set by the market, would expose businesses to great uncertainty.