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Jim Anderton - Doing Sustainability Conference

Hon Jim Anderton
Minister for Economic Development

Opening Address, Doing Sustainability Conference.

Thursday 5 May 2005
Stampford Plaza Hotel
Albert St



- Peter Neilsen, Chief Executive, New Zealand Business Council

- International speakers: John Elkington, Chairman of SustainAbility Ltd; Richard Murray, of Swiss Re; Baroness Barbara Young CE of the United Kingdom's Environment Agency; Debra Dunn, Senior Vice President Corporate Affairs for Hewlett-Packard and Pamela Hartigan, Managing Director of the Schwab Foundation.

- New Zealand speakers: David Chapman, CE of the New Zealand Institute of Management; Kerry Griffiths, consultant of URS New Zealand and David Smith, CE of IAG New Zealand.

- My Parliamentary Colleague, Gordon Copeland.

- Ladies and Gentlemen

I must first pass on the apologies of my cabinet colleague and Minister for the Environment, Marion Hobbs, who is unable to speak to you today as she is attending the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference in New York.

However, I'm delighted to have the opportunity to open this conference, because sustainable development is central to my work as Minister for Economic Development.

- One of the first actions I took on becoming Minister was to ensure that sustainable development formed a central goal of the new ministry.

- For economic development to be successful and viable long term, I believed then, and I still do, that it has to also encompass social development and environmental conservation.

- I do not promote economic development to improve economic growth for its own sake, but as a means of lifting the living standards of all New Zealanders.

In 2003 the Labour Progressive government announced the Sustainable Development Plan of Action.

- It set guiding objectives and principles for policy and decision making across the government sector.

- We chose four key areas for practical action: water, energy, sustainable cities and child / youth development and plans for each area were released last year.

While there is much more work to be done, I can assure you that practical progress is being made.

- Just this week, for example, a new package to promote efficiency and innovation in energy intensive enterprises was announced.

- It will assist small and medium business to adjust prior to the introduction of carbon taxes.

- The Ministry for the Environment recently announced that staff had slashed their own waste by 80 per cent last year simply by recycling and conserving paper.

Unfortunately, some journalists' eyes glaze over when you mention the term 'sustainable development'.

- Many seem to assume that it is strictly an environmental issue, not social or economic.

- But more and more businesses know what it means and it is business that can contribute the most to improving sustainability.

- They know that making the most out of your resources and playing a part in your communities has some payback.

- That investing, planning and operating business with a long term view will enhance growth and viability.

If you have a long term view then it is obvious that:

- Making the most of your resources saves you time and money,

- lifting the skills and education of your employees brings opportunities to develop,

- investing in research and development will pay off,

- reducing waste and power usage bring you savings,

- contributing to your communities can bring you customers and new ideas for products and services.

Even so, however, too many businesses see only the negative side of sustainable development

- It can be seen as an impediment to growth and a cause of unnecessary compliance costs.

- But if we can show them in practical terms that it is more about "best practice",

- doing more with less,

- and implementing innovative and better designed processes and products,

- then we can get their attention.

New Zealand is seeking high quality economic growth through adding value and improving productivity, by adopting efficient practices and processes,

- making smarter use of all resources and

- by lifting skills and training, investing in research and development, encouraging innovation and developing global networks.

Sustainability is not a limiting factor for businesses, but an opportunity for creativity and innovation.

- It will be new ideas that drive New Zealand's sustainable economic growth.

- Ideas that add value and are in demand in the global market.

- We also need flexible strategies to ensure we seize opportunities as they arise.

In our regional development programme, we use well-researched strategies to find a sustainable path for regional growth

- A strategy identifies a region's present and future potential and its priorities for development.

- It needs to incorporate consideration for a region's environmental, social and economic well being.

- A good strategy identifies also what the market wants and the barriers needed to overcome access to that market.

- Economic development strategies should be living documents, and they should be a continual point of reference in decision-making.

- A strategy that meets the needs of a region can only be drawn up inclusively, with the involvement and consensus of everyone who has a stake in the region's future.

- Economic, social and environmental long-term wellbeing are integral to maintaining growth in our regions.

I hope I have been able to demonstrate that the present coalition government is absolutely committed to practical action to implement sustainability in our work.

- We are also supporting businesses to build up their capacity to operate in a sustainable way by:

- supporting innovation;

- assisting with research and development - the government invested an additional $212 million in last year's budget for example, to support research, science and technology projects;

- helping businesses use a design focussed approach to development;

- considering sustainability at the design stage, to ensure that efficiencies can be achieved and adverse impacts avoided.

The clothing company Icebreaker is a great example of the relationship between design and sustainable economic development.

- In the mid 1990s there was no viable alternative to petrochemical-based synthetic outdoor clothing.

- Icebreaker sought to develop a range of clothing using New Zealand merino wool.

- The success of this design-led company has been phenomenal, with its clothing being sold in more than 500 stores in Europe and more than 120 in the United States.

- Using design to drive production towards higher value products can offer the sustainable, value added jobs and higher incomes that New Zealanders seek and deserve.

In preparing for this conference I took the opportunity to review some of the projects being undertaken by the organisations involved.

- Needless to say, some impressive work has been done which I'm sure the speakers will touch on,

- but I'd like to mention a few examples in order to demonstrate the full value of taking a sustainable approach.

Hewlett Packard should be applauded for their computer recycling work.

- They were the first company to recycle 100 per cent of the products in computers.

- By putting their materials back into new products they, of course, reduced costs and increased their competitive advantage while conserving the environment.

Their appropriate technology services and solutions section have found the benefits of helping HIV and AIDs suffers in Africa.

- By providing simple computer courses in their e-inclusion programme, they have assisted African communities affected, to organise and administer programmes to assist people with HIV or AIDs and enable them to spend more contact time helping patients in their daily lives.

- Those communities now have increased access to education, healthcare and new income creation opportunities.

- At the same time, they are able to offer appropriate services and technology to them.

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship support and promote people who are using innovative ways to solve social problems,

- Like Sergey Kostin's "The Way Home" project to find housing, provide training and support for homeless people in the Ukraine.

- Lifting the skills and living standards of homeless people contributes both to the economy and the community.

- It is heartening to hear of this work.

There are great examples from New Zealand companies too.

- An insurance company isn't the first business to come to mind when you think of sustainability.

- But Insurance Australia Group New Zealand has been taking a broad view of reducing risk by working in the community.

- For example, to contribute to reducing road accidents during the busy holiday period they provided 'driver reviver' stops on busy sections of road.

- Not only is it good public relations work, but also may have genuinely reduced the costs of claims from accidents.

- Palliser Estate have developed an irrigation system for their vineyard which uses recyled water, and turns prunings into mulch for vines.

- Mac Pac and Snowy Peak have been reducing energy use to cut emissions and at the same time invest in forest restoration to support both a carbon sink and promote biodiversity.

These are all inspiring stories of business getting serious about sustainability and taking responsibility for their 'footprint' on the community and environment.

Unfortunately I am unable to stay with you for the day, but I look forward to hearing about your views and comments on the priorities for practical ways to improve sustainability in the economy and society.

When it comes to setting priorities, I am reminded of a story about a politician who stayed with a farming family here in the Hawkes Bay.

- As the family sat down to dinner, they were joined at the table by a pig.

- The pig had a medal hanging around his neck but had one leg missing.

- The MP obviously asked why the pig was having dinner with the family.

- "That's because he's a very special pig," the farmer told him.

- "You see that medal around his neck?"

- "Well, that's from the time I fell in the pond and was drowning."

- "That pig swam out, rescued me from the pond, gave me mouth to mouth to resuscitate me, then rushed inside and dialled 111 to call an ambulance. That pig saved my life."

- "Well I can now see why you let this pig sit at the table and have dinner with you," the MP said.

- "And I can see why you awarded him the medal. But how did he lose his leg?"

- "Well," said, the farmer, "a pig like that--you don't eat him all at once."

This conference will no doubt be enlightening for all involved.

In closing, let me wish you every success in your continued and invaluable work of promoting practical solutions to the all important question - how to ensure we have a sustainable and prosperous future?


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