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Report highlights need to get smart on food miles

News release

1 November 2006

“Stern” warning highlights need to get smart on food miles and climate change

Landcare Research scientists say New Zealand exporters can survive and even thrive as their markets become more concerned with climate change – by taking steps to reposition our clean, green brand.

Sir Nicholas Stern’s report forecasts a global recession if there is no urgent action on climate change. In New Zealand the report, along with increasing publicity about food miles, has fuelled fears that our primary exports may face trade barriers in the form of climate taxes.

Landcare Research scientists Ann Smith and Cerasela Stancu advise businesses to thoroughly research what their customers’ specific concerns are regarding energy use and emissions generation in their sector, and investigate environmental improvement schemes.

They also encourage “life cycle thinking” – acknowledging that “food miles” are inadequate measures, and stressing the need for a carbon emissions profile for each step along the supply chain. “Rather than focusing on the distance travelled, this is a more accurate and holistic approach. It often reveals that New Zealand goods have been produced more efficiently than many Northern Hemisphere counterparts,” Professor Smith says.

Professor Smith says a good example of a business putting climate change issues to work for them is the New Zealand Wine Company (NZWC), which has gained Landcare Research’s CarboNZero certification1. Their Grove Mill and Sanctuary wines are among the world’s first carbon-neutral consumer products. Landcare Research’s CarboNZero programme helps businesses measure, manage and mitigate emissions.

The Marlborough-based wine producer has begun to see business benefits as well as environmental ones from being part of the CarboNZero programme, as NZWC Systems Analyst Roger Kerrison explains.

“When we presented the CarboNZero story last month to Sainsbury’s, the sole UK distributor of the Sanctuary brand, we were pleasantly surprised by their response. They loved it, it sat so well with their environmental ethos. They are now stocking more of our Sanctuary range and insisted that these were CarboNZero branded accordingly,” Mr Kerrison says.

“We can do nothing about our distance from markets, but businesses can reposition themselves, and even create an advantage, by recognising what their emissions are and addressing them before goods go to market,” Professor Smith says.

“The NZWC is protecting its access to markets, adding value to its brands, and saving money, as well as improving its environmental performance. It’s a win all round.”

Professor Smith stresses that now is the time for concerned businesses to act. “As the Stern report says, action taken now will be much cheaper than paying to cope with the impacts of climate change down the track.”

Ms Stancu says while the Stern report sets out some ominous portents for businesses, it should come as a reassurance for those who decide to go down the low-carbon path.

“Those businesses need not fear that the measures they are taking to address climate change might negatively affect their competitiveness, but instead should remind themselves of the consequences of ignoring market signals on climate change.”


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