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Mallard: Commitment to sustainability pays off

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister for the Environment

29 May 2008 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:8.30am

Business commitment to sustainability pays off

Environment Minister Trevor Mallard's speech to the Brother International (NZ) Ltd. Corporate Social Responsibility Breakfast, Grand Plimmer Tower, Wellington

Good morning and welcome to this breakfast on corporate social responsibility at Brother International.

Thank you to Graham Walshe for inviting me here this morning and giving me the opportunity to discuss corporate social responsibility and sustainable business. I hope what you hear this morning from Graham and myself will stimulate discussion on your tables.

First up though, it is my pleasure to officially launch your hardware and consumables recycling programme for business and householders.

Congratulations to all of you at Brother New Zealand on working to put this valuable programme in place.

This is particularly good news for householders who now have better opportunities to return used and unwanted Brother products for recycling or safe disposal. I understand that take back services for IT-products are not widely available for this group.

It's good to see companies like yourselves take leadership in this area, by showing a commitment to the environment and the long term stewardship of products from their beginning to when they become obsolete.

New Zealand businesses, large and small, are starting to think about their environmental and social impacts as part of their core business activities.

As commercial and household consumers begin to understand the wider implications of sustainability they demand more from their products and the businesses that provide them. We are seeing this change every day in the way products are advertised and the way businesses promote themselves.

There are many ways businesses can make a difference and gain the benefits from the savings generated from being eco-friendly. It often means taking small steps such as considering how your business can use less energy, reduce waste and be more water and energy efficient.

Or business can take a more holistic approach, such as considering sustainability when designing a product to create change throughout the production process, as well as in the final consumer product.

Remember, this can give you a competitive edge – consumers worldwide are demanding and actively hunting out goods and services that are climate friendly.

Environmental aspects of sustainability are often good starting points. However, an invaluable part of understanding where your business can improve on its environmental and social performance is through engaging with your local community, your staff and your customers.

Brother’s corporate social responsibility programme is an example of this.

It is important that New Zealand’s environmental integrity is maintained throughout this change. Companies, such as Brother, who report their commitments, are important in maintaining this integrity.

The attainment of standards, such as the international standard for environmental management - ISO14001, or certifications, such as Environmental Choice, are a way of communicating a company’s environmental commitments to consumers and verifying a businesses environmental integrity.

Building on the need for business to verify their environmental claims the government is working to improve consumers’ understanding of, and business access to, environmental labels and standards.

We are working with business to enable them to obtain accreditation for their environmental achievements. We are developing an eco-label directory, which will provide businesses and consumers with information on various environmental labels and standards and explain what they mean.

These activities are part of the government’s commitment to creating a sustainable New Zealand. In the last year, we have also initiated a suite of other new work programmes to help business and households on their way to becoming environmentally and socially responsible. I would like to talk to you about some of these.

The Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Economic Development are jointly working on the Business Partnerships for Sustainability programme.

Through this work programme, officials engage with business to improve opportunities for the development of smart and innovative responses to sustainability. This consists of working on innovative technologies such as bio-fuels, understanding businesses’ green house gas emissions, building business capability around sustainability and providing information on changing international markets.

The Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Economic Development and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise are looking at their existing work programmes to support business and are feeding in sustainability aspects where possible.

For example, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise run a programme called Enterprise Training which now includes workshops for business around sustainability. These agencies also work with third parties to provide specific advice on sustainability, such as through the Sustainable Business Network.

The government has also made a commitment to use its buying power to drive change. The government is currently looking at its own procurement and is identifying opportunities to change practices to improve sustainable procurement.

This includes purchasing for the long term, finding efficiencies within existing procurement practices and increasing the procurement of sustainable products and services. This approach will complement the environmental verification work I mentioned before, as government procurement officials seek environmentally and socially responsible products and services.

The drive for sustainable products and services is also being pushed through the government’s household sustainability programme which helps all New Zealanders take small and medium sized steps in areas such as waste, water, energy, buildings and transport.

Apart from these programmes, there are currently also two new pieces of legislation before parliament - the Waste Minimisation Bill and a bill covering the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Both are bold and forward looking and will ensure the New Zealand brand, which is invaluable for New Zealand business, continues to be associated with environmental sustainability. Both bills use flexible mechanisms so that businesses can be part of solutions to waste and climate change, rather than having it imposed on them.

Many New Zealand businesses, large and small, are taking their own paths towards sustainability, recognising the serious business opportunities it offers.

Far too often the debate around climate change focuses on costs – and ignores the opportunities and the potential for New Zealand from moving onto a sustainable and carbon neutral footing. And believe me, the costs of climate change for New Zealand as a country would be much higher if we just sat back and did nothing.

Sustainability is gaining momentum and New Zealand businesses will need to embrace this to remain competitive. Changing consumer behaviour, government initiatives and regulatory drivers will help create change but I am encouraging business to take a pro-active approach and use sustainability to gain a competitive edge, just as Brother is showing us today.

Thank you.


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