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Sustainable Business Organisations aim to merge

Sustainable Business Organisations aim to merge at inaugural NZ Sustainable Business Conference

Members of the Auckland Environmental Business Network (AEBN) have voted in favour of merging their organisation with New Zealand Businesses for Social Responsibility (NZBSR), along with other environmental business networks nationally.

AEBN members voted on the issue at a special Annual General Meeting held late last week. The vote was 58 in favour of the merger, with only one against. Members of NZ BSR will vote on the same issue at their Annual General Meeting, which is being held during the inaugural NZ Sustainable Business Conference later this month (October 24-25).

The two organisations are two of the four sustainability organisations responsible for organising the NZ Sustainable Business Conference. The other two are the NZ Centre for Business Ethics and Sustainable Development (NZCBESD) and the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development (NZBCSD). The NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development will also hold its AGM at the conference, but it won’t be part of the merger proposal between AEBN/NZ BSR.

Rachel Brown, Director of the Auckland Environmental Business Network, says the AEBN vote reflects the growing recognition of sustainable business practice in the marketplace.

“We first started talking with NZ BSR about a possible merger in April 2001. Since then we’ve held a series of joint monthly meetings, which collectively appeal to the environmental and social aspirations of our respective memberships. We found over time that the organisations have begun talking about the same issues and have found there was a lot of overlap with our activities, so it’s made sense combining them. Thursday night’s vote shows that the AEBN membership has accepted the ongoing need to work together on implementing sustainable business practice.”

If all goes to plan and the NZBSR also votes to merge later this month, the new organisation will set itself up at the Freeman’s Bay premises of the Auckland Environmental Business Network. Rachel Brown is set to take up the position of executive director of the new organisation with ongoing support from the existing director of the NZ BSR Annette Lusk.

In the same vein of sustainability co-operation, which is demonstrated by the merger proposal, the country’s four sustainability organisations combined their resources to organise the NZ Sustainable Business 2002 conference. These include the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (chairman Stephen Tindall from The Warehouse); New Zealand Centre for Business Ethics and Sustainable Development (executive director, Dr Rodger Spiller); NZ Businesses for Social Responsibility (chaired by Dick Hubbard) and the Auckland Environmental Business Network (chaired by Chris Morrison).

The conference programme shows that New Zealand businesses are coming of age in the important growth area of sustainability (see www.sustainable.org.nz)

Instead of listening to overseas examples of sustainable best practice, the New Zealand Sustainable Business 2002 conference programme promises an interesting range of local ‘Walking the Talk’ examples. A number of business leaders will explain how others can follow their example, transforming their businesses into sustainable organisations.

The line-up for the two-day conference programme includes leading sustainability advocates from the four supporting organisations.

Chris Morrison, Chair of the Auckland Environmental Business Network, says the conference will appeal to a wide range of business audiences: ”We have developed a programme that will be useful for both small and medium sized enterprises, as well as the larger corporate. This event provides a timely opportunity to share experiences in the area of environmental and social business practice. Sustainable business practice is a key part of sustainable development, so the emphasis will be on exploring practical examples.

“Some say New Zealand has a long way to go in the area of sustainable development. While I support this view, there are many good of examples of progress that has already been achieved in both large and small businesses across the country. The Auckland Environmental Business Network, which is part of a national environmental business network, believe this conference will provide concrete solutions to issues raised in a fresh independent report: Creating Our Future: Sustainable Development for New Zealand.”

The report, recently released by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, warns that broad-based sustainable development programmes are urgently needed to integrate economic, social, and environmental growth. The report also urges the Government to set up an advisory body to monitor sustainable development progress, free from political interference, and to urgently complete the “sustainable development strategy” it proposed last year.

All supporting organisations agree that sustainable development is about businesses taking responsibility for the impact of their organisation on their community and the environment, ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come. This concept embraces a triple bottom line approach, where businesses complete annual reports outlining their environmental, social and ethical responsibility commitments.

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