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Award winner reduces clothing industry’s harm

28 November 2019

Award winner reduces clothing industry’s harm to people and planet

Little Yellow Bird (LYB), a supplier of ethically-made corporate uniforms and business apparel, has achieved New Zealand’s highest sustainability accolade, winning the Supreme award at tonight’s NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards. Founded by Samantha Jones in 2015, LYB supplies more than 400 organisations with their sustainably made uniforms and branded products.

The fashion industry is plagued by many social and environmental issues including worker exploitation, water consumption and pollution, pesticide use and plastic waste. LYB is committed to ethical manufacturing and to transforming the fashion industry to become part of the circular economy.

All LYB workers in the supply chain are paid fairly for the work they do, from cotton farmers to the factory floor. Profits are re-invested into community development projects around education, sanitary needs, and healthcare of cotton farm communities.

Little Yellow Bird’s supply chain is fully transparent. Every item of clothing is tracked from source to sale. The company sources organic rain-fed cotton and promotes its benefits, from reducing reliance on water to eliminating the need for chemical pesticides.

Rachel Brown, Sustainable Business Network CEO, says: “Little Yellow Bird is simply outstanding. It is tackling one of the biggest challenges of our time and showing a home-grown NZ company can make a world of difference. It has a clever revenue growth model, it provides ethically made options, and it is a certified B Corp. A true model for how businesses of the future should be!”

The most hotly contested category ‘Going Circular’ was won by Medsalv, which reprocesses single use medical devices to reduce both the alarming waste and costs associated with healthcare.

Andrew Fisher has been crowned Sustainability Superstar for his commitment during the past 12 years to turn food waste into stock feed. In a partnership with Pioneer Energy, Andrew has advanced plans for building New Zealand’s first commercial anaerobic digestion plant that will extract fuel from food waste.

Fraser McConnell won Millennial on a Mission for his work with Squawk Squad, the social enterprise that protects native birds through a combination of technology, conservation and education.

Garry Taylor, Executive General Manager of NZI, says NZI is proud to have supported the Sustainable Business Network and the Awards for the last 12 years.

“When we first partnered with the SBN, businesses that were focussed on sustainability were fairly niche. Today, it’s hard to find a business regardless of size that isn’t looking at the role it can play to improve its environmental or social performance.

“Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and nominees. We are consistently impressed with the innovation and creativity of the businesses doing their bit for a more sustainable Aōtearoa.”

All category winners are listed below.


Notes for editors:

Interviews can be arranged ahead of time with the winners, under the guise of being a finalist. These can be organised via Suzanne McNamara phone: 021 933 331

Further background on each winner’s story is detailed below. More detailed information can be provided on request.

Link to photos of winners:

Winners and Commendations for 2019 NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards

Sustainability Superstar

Sponsored by Toitū Envirocare

Winner = Andrew Fisher – Managing Director, EcoStock Supplies

Commendation = Janette Searle – Managing Trustee, Take My Hands

Commendation = Marty Taylor – Founder & Chief Sustainability Officer, Papa Taiao Earthcare

Communicating for Change

Sponsored by Cadence Communications

Winner = Tauranga City Council

Commendation = BLAKE & New Zealand Geographic

Commendation = Ethique

Hardwired for Social Good

Sponsored by Alsco

Winner = Little Yellow Bird

Commendation = ecostore

Partnering for Good

Sponsored by Ministry for Primary Industries

Winner = Auckland Council, TROW Group & Green Way Demolition

Commendation = BNZ & Salvation Army

Going Circular

Sponsored by Auckland Council

Winner = Medsalv

Commendation = Stone Arrow Jewellery

Commendation = The Formary

Efficiency Champion

Sponsored by Ricoh

Winner = Sudima Hotels

Commendation = Iplex Pipelines NZ

Commendation = National Steel

Smarter Transport

Sponsored by NZ Transport Agency

Winner = Fisher & Paykel Healthcare

Commendation = Blue Cars

Revolutionising Energy

Sponsored by EECA

Winner = AUT University

Commendation = Auckland District Health Board

Commendation = Camp Glenorchy

Transforming Food

Sponsored by Yealands Wines

Winner = Chia Sisters

Commendation = Breadcraft

Restoring Nature

Sponsored by Department of Conservation

Winner = Te Whangai Trust

Commendation = AgriSea NZ

Commendation = Rotorua Canopy Tours

Millennial on a Mission

Sponsored by The Spinoff

Winner = Fraser McConnell – Co-Founder, Squawk Squad

Commendation = Grace Glass – Co-founder, Natural Paint Co


Winner = Little Yellow Bird

Finalist = Auckland Council, TROW Group & Green Way Demolition (partnership)

Finalist = Tauranga City Council

Finalist = Te Whangai Trust

NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards – Winners’ stories

Sustainability Superstar

Sponsored by Enviro-Mark Solutions

Andrew Fisher – Managing Director, EcoStock Supplies

Andrew pioneered ‘food-to-feed’ in New Zealand – diverting food waste from landfill and salvaging the food value to produce quality stock feed. He is now working on ‘food-to-fuel’.

In the 12 years Andrew’s company EcoStock Supplies has been operating, it has diverted more than 240,000 tonnes of food waste from landfill. In addition, EcoStock recovers more than 2000 tonnes of cardboard, plastic, metal and wood each year and sends it for recycling.

Andrew has committed his own personal resources and funds to achieve environmental change at scale. He constantly seeks ways to improve recovery rates so usable products don’t go to landfill.

He takes his message into the community – into board rooms, offices and university students, as well as inviting people to visit EcosStock’s processing plant.

Andrew is now advancing plans for building New Zealand’s first commercial anaerobic digestion plant that will extract fuel from food waste, in a partnership with Pioneer Energy.

Communicating for Change

Sponsored by Cadence Communications

Tauranga City Council

After a sewage overflow caused by wet wipes, Tauranga City Council leapt into action. It launched a campaign that talked in a comfortable way about a private topic: what people flush down the toilet. By opening the dialogue, it raised sustainability awareness and significantly reduced the amount of wet wipes flushed down the toilet.

The ‘Save Our Pipes from Wipes’ campaign highlighted the challenges of a growing population and products that can create unsustainable behaviours. The Council chose to communicate with a non-blame approach using a slogan to encourage change.

The weight of wipes removed from Tauranga’s wastewater system each week was the size of a small elephant (two tonnes). So a cute elephant character was used to talk about the problem. The character helped to broach an ‘icky’ topic via the metaphor of ‘the elephant in the room’.

The campaign focused strongly on digital marketing and included radio, bus backs, billboards, media coverage, posters, brochures and badges. Social media marketing reached more than 113,000 people and generated over 143,000 video views.

As a result of the campaign, the number of sewerage overflows caused by wet wipes reduced by 40%.

Hardwired for Good

Sponsored by Alsco

Little Yellow Bird

Little Yellow Bird supplies corporate uniforms and ethical clothes to businesses, providing ethical employment and education opportunities for workers in developing countries.

The company is committed to ethical manufacturing. It is working to improve social conditions for people throughout the supply chain, ensuring full transparency and traceability of products, minimising negative environmental impacts, and raising awareness of ethical and sustainable fashion.

Little Yellow Bird is a certified B Corp and an Accredited Living Wage Employer. All workers in the supply chain are paid fairly for the work they do, from cotton farms to the factory floor. Profits are re-invested into community development projects around education, sanitary needs, and healthcare of cotton farm communities.

The supply chain is fully transparent. Every item of clothing is tracked from source to sale. The company sources organic rain-fed cotton and promotes its benefits, from reducing reliance on water to eliminating the need for chemical pesticides.

Founded in 2015, Little Yellow Bird supplies more than 400 organisations with their uniforms and branded products. This number has doubled in just one year and business is growing.

Partnering for Good

Sponsored by Ministry for Primary Industries

Auckland Council, TROW Group & Green Way Demolition

The partnership between Auckland Council, TROW Group, and Green Way Demolition is challenging the building industry to do things differently.

It is rare for contracting and demolition businesses to actively work together to get the best outcome for minimising waste, and to benefit their communities. Organisations that collaborate in the building industry usually do so because they have complementary engineering skills.

Removing a building typically involves mechanically smashing the building into pieces small enough to fit into a dump truck, using the assumption that it’s a better and faster method. TROW Group and Green Way have developed robust deconstruction techniques that deliver salvaged building materials to new destinations. The key role for Auckland Council has been to create ground-breaking contract specifications that enable motivated contractors to undertake these waste minimisation measures.

The partnership has established a learning pathway for industry to follow. To date, 310 tonnes of waste has been diverted from landfill with around 30 tonnes, mainly timber and building materials, provided to community-based organisations such as churches, maraes and schools.

Going Circular

Sponsored by Auckland Council


Medsalv reprocesses single use medical devices, to reduce both the alarming waste associated with healthcare, and the costs.

It takes medical devices that would ordinarily be destined for landfill after one use, checks them, cleans them, inspects and repackages them, and sells them back to hospitals at a fraction of the cost of new. It uses re-usable bags and cartons to collect and deliver the devices and recycles devices that are beyond repair.

Medsalv has increased the resource efficiency for devices it processes by 500% (five additional uses) and diverted almost all rejected device materials (those that cannot be reprocessed) away from landfill and into recycling. It has reduced the potential waste generated by more 84%.

The service also reduces the number of medical devices manufactured and shipped to New Zealand, reducing carbon emissions. High fidelity tracking systems have been implemented to monitor impact and improve efficiency.

Efficiency Champion

Sponsored by Ricoh

Sudima Hotels

Sudima Hotels owns and operates New Zealand’s only three CarboNZero certified hotels. Sustainability has been integrated into the hotels from day one and the process is continuous.

CarboNZero forms part of a strategic commitment to reducing the environmental footprint at every operational level, engaging every team member. At monthly meetings, teams report on progress against goals. Annually, all hotels unite to discuss best practice and new ideas.

In the last year, Sudima Hotels has decreased carbon emissions by an audited 46.8 metric tonnes. Water usage has been reduced by 21 litres for each kilogram of linen washed. Landfill waste has been cut by 12%.

Sudima Hotels has a goal of being single-use plastic free by 2020. In the last 12 months, it has been systematically eliminating or replacing more than 250 items, such as single-use guest shampoos and plastic milk bottles.

Smarter Transport

Sponsored by NZ Transport Agency

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare is helping its employees make the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) for their commute. It has installed 46 charging stations at its campus in East Tamaki in Auckland.

Since December 2016, the number of EVs being driven by employees has increased from 4 to 58.

The company provides electricity to staff at cost, thanks to backend billing provided by ChargeNet.

This smart transport project is part of the company’s wider sustainability initiative. Other initiatives include minimising air freight, installation of solar panels, shower facilities to encourage cycling, charging plugs for e-bikes, bike maintenance stands and pumps, encouraging public transport use, and providing dedicated premium car park spaces for employees who car share.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare captures data about charging activity, power consumption, cost and other metrics, using ChargeNet software. It reports on this monthly.

This project was carried out with co-funding from the Government’s Low Emission Vehicle Contestable Fund administered by EECA.

Revolutionising Energy

Sponsored by EECA

AUT University

AUT has introduced significant energy efficiency initiatives to reduce energy consumption, energy costs and CO2 emissions. It has set an ambitious target of reducing CO2 emissions by 50% by 2025, and is already making impressive progress.

A Sustainability Roadmap is the main driver to meet these goals in buildings in the three main campuses.

Initiatives in buildings include enhanced insulation, high efficiency LED lighting, heat pump chillers, electrical sub-metering, new water cooled chillers, solar panels and more.

The pioneering of New Zealand’s first electric bus (which is now the shuttle bus between campuses) has led to 80% reduction in CO2 emissions per trip, compared to a diesel bus.

Incentives are also being used to change student behaviour. These initiatives have reduced CO2 emissions by 181 tonnes between 2016 and May 2019, which has been achieved on a small budget. Financial energy savings are used to fund additional energy efficiency projects.

Transforming Food

Sponsored by Yealands Family Wines

Chia Sisters

Chia Sisters makes vegan juices in a solar-powered factory and sustainability lies at the heart of every business decision. The juices are bottled in recycled glass by Living Wage earners. The manufacturing process is near zero waste, and uses low carbon ingredients.

This year Chia Sisters became a Zero Carbon and Climate Positive certified business through Ekos certification. This involved calculating emissions, reducing them (for example through installing solar panels, purchasing electric vehicles, and avoiding air freight overseas), and offsetting them by 120%.

Carbon emissions are now built into Chia Sisters’ balance sheet. The company works with local and national organisations to show other businesses the steps to becoming zero carbon. The company has made significant shifts in its production to ensure that every ingredient is fully utilised with no seconds. Packaging is considered when choosing suppliers, using recyclable packaging from local suppliers wherever possible.

Chia Sisters was founded in 2012 and now supplies more than 700 cafes and supermarkets across the country, and over 500 more in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Restoring Nature

Sponsored by Department of Conservation

Te Whangai Trust

Te Whangai is a socio-environmental enterprise that harnesses the skills of vulnerable people to restore waterways and wetlands. It was founded 14 years ago to address climate change, water quality, social inclusion, poverty and equity. Its motto is ‘nuture the land, give life to the people’.

Through Community Training Hubs, trainees are instructed on how to source seeds, propagate native plants, and work with stakeholders in the community. The hubs support communities to eradicate poverty and protect the environment at the same time.

Each year more than 20 students from urban and rural schools take part in planting and conservation programmes, with a focus on restoring waterways and biodiversity. It includes stream restoration, sediment control, wetland restoration, habitat and marine restoration. The Nursery Hub alone produces 1.2 million eco-sourced plants a year.

Millennial on a Mission

Sponsored by The Spinoff

Fraser McConnell – Co-Founder, Squawk Squad

In 2016, Fraser co-founded Squawk Squad. This social enterprise combines technology with conservation and education to help save New Zealand’s native birds. Squawk Squad allows all New Zealanders to contribute to a predator free New Zealand by sponsoring traps in conservation projects across the country. Every time you trap a pest, you receive a live notification. Squawk Squad has trapped more than 3,000 pests across the country, all via remote trapping.

In parallel, Squawk Squad delivers digital environmental education to children across New Zealand. It has used virtual reality to inspire 85,000 Kiwi kids to be kaitiaki of the future.

Squawk Squad was named as NZ’s Most Innovative Social Enterprise in 2018 by Idealog, and Fraser was selected as an Edmund Hillary Fellow in 2018.


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