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UNEP: Environmentalism important for business

UNEP Director: Environmentalism important for business


By Katie Small

Environmentalism will be increasingly important for business in the future, says the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme – and New Zealand’s isolation will bring challenges as economies around the world turn to more sustainable models.

Speaking at Auckland’s Maidment Theatre on Wednesday, Achim Steiner said that because New Zealand was “not central to the global economy”, the cost of transport would impact economically on tourism and export industries.

Achim Steiner

Mr Steiner said environmental degradation would drive change in global economic models, and that companies which invested in environmentally sound projects now would reap benefits in the future.

This was because sustainability would become more critical to the buying habits of consumers in years to come, he said.

A “fundamentally new” relationship needed to develop between the environment and the economy, said Mr Steiner.

He said he was not calling for an “ideological model of society”, but for sustainability to be factored into micro-economic systems.

The value of the environment should not be reduced to an economic indicator, but economists should become more “environmentally literate”, said Mr Steiner.

A lack of financial incentives to preserve the environment had resulted in nature being “priceless, but in a negative sense of the word”, he said.

Global warming was not the only factor that would change the economic landscape, he said. Shrinking biodiversity would also have severe implications.

He gave the example of some plants and animals which used techniques that could advance science, such as a frog which swallowed its own eggs to protect them until they hatched.

Defending biodiversity would preserve species like this which could result in big advances for science, he said.

Mr Steiner will speak to audiences in Wellington on World Environment Day, June 5.

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Katie Small is a Journalism Student at AUT

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