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Business sector must restore public trust

7 October, 2005

Media Release

Business sector must restore public trust says Council


The business sector may have to demonstrate more responsibility for the communities and ecosystems where its consumers, investors and employees reside if it is to win back public trust, according to the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (the Business Council) in its annual report released today.

Chair Rob Fenwick said a recent public survey showing New Zealanders are distrustful of the business sector was deeply disturbing.

“The public’s apparent indifference to the hugely important role of business as an integral component of civil society, will hobble future investment and growth in New Zealand. One of the critical challenges for our organisation is to bring about a more positive construct of business within the wider community.”

He added: “We ignore at our peril The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment which reports that human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the planet’s ability to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. The Business Council’s vision for itself and for New Zealand is: “To meet the needs of today whilst creating a country that is fit for future generations.” This presents a challenge for every country; however for us it has particular resonance because of our well marketed global image as an environmental haven which we must continue to earn.”

The report “Living within nature’s income – preserving nature’s capital” updates the Business Council’s progress during the past year in delivering its charter to promote sustainable business, healthy communities and ecosystems.

He said the organisation had grown in both numbers and scope of influence during the year. Membership had reached a landmark 50 of the leading New Zealand companies which jointly employ 55,000 people engaged in managing resources, manufacturing, retailing and the service sector and contributes around $33 billion to the economy. This presents the Business Council with the opportunity to get sustainable development at the heart of our thinking.

Chief Executive Peter Neilson said that as an organisation which advocates sustainable development reporting, the Business Council takes seriously its own responsibility to report on what it and its members are doing to achieve this:

Neilson said he was pleased with progress: “Our growth in membership reflects the increasing enthusiasm of business to be seen as part of the solution, not part of the problem. It is a paradox that despite the success of business in assisting billions of people out of poverty by providing jobs, better goods and services and higher living standards, business is more often seen as the problem not part of the solution. The Business Council promotes solutions that can provide better living standards, an improved environment and social inclusiveness. In contrast business organisations that only talk about the need for higher profits, lower taxation and less regulation to a non-business audience appear focused on their shareholders’ goals and aspirations but no one else’s.”

The annual report highlighted several successful initiatives in 2005:-

- promoting a business friendly approach to the Resource Management Act process which does not weaken its environmental principles;

- joint production with Westpac of Let’s Settle This – a book on the challenges of post settlement governance for iwi and hapu;

- working with members and other industry groups to develop a better understanding of the sustainable energy options for New Zealand out to 2050; and

- promotion of practical “how to” guides for business which provide advice on waste reduction, measuring your business’s carbon footprint and managing your supply chain.

The Business Council differs from other business associations as a member led organisation which draws on the collective input and experience of its members. As such it will also be judged on the performance of its members. Each year a survey of members is an important means of verifying progress. In 2005:

- 56% of all members reported on their social and environmental impacts alongside their economic results;

- 20% of Business Council members have added some low emission, fuel efficient vehicles to their fleets

- 75% of survey respondents have introduced codes of practice for their suppliers which consider social and environmental impacts and longer term sustainability with several using the Business Council’s template code of practice;

- 29% respondents were able to quantify their emissions reduction; and

- 57% have implemented waste reduction programmes.

The report also considers New Zealand’s performance and finds that we can and must do better:

- We are the 24th worst out of 27 OECD countries in terms of child deaths due to maltreatment; and

- whilst we are already a leader in use of renewable energy, 70% of our energy still comes from fossil fuels which climate scientists believe are linked to climate change.

The Strategy adopted by the Business Council is to be the most influential business organisation in New Zealand. Through taking a business leadership position the Business Council aims to make business sustainability practice mainstream and non-controversial. This will be done through our members showing leadership in these practices and through providing evidence based research on public policy issues. For the Business Council providing practical solutions for business and Government will be our main focus.

“Living on nature’s income – preserving nature’s capital” can be downloaded from http://www.nzbcsd.org.nz/story.asp?id=546

ENDS

The Business Council’s starting position is that a business needs to be profitable in order to be sustainable. Sustainable business also needs to be sensitive to the needs of their employees and to the communities in which they operate and to minimise their impact on natural resources. Business Council members jointly employ 55,000 people engaged in managing resources, manufacturing, retailing and the service sector. Our members contribute around $33 billion to the economy which is around 28% GDP.

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