Engineering Something Positive

Matt Kidson has a message for businesses stalling on the carbon measuring front.  “Get on with it, and the sooner the better”.  Matt is Managing Director of Kernohan Engineering, a business that went carbon neutral in 2019 and carbon positive the next.  A decision that was fuelled by two main drivers.

 “We feel we’ve got an obligation as a business to offset our activities because of the pressing climate problems that we’ve got and we saw this as the way of doing that and also understanding our footprint a bit better and how we can reduce it. Secondly, we want to move into the clean tech space and going carbon positive gave us an ability to have a bit more credibility and understanding around those industries.”

As expected, businesses moving into the clean tech space are on the increase and green sectors like this will only continue to expand.  The Covid cloud may have blotted out the horizon for a while there, but climate change priorities should be back at the forefront of our thinking now that we have settled into some semblance of an uneasy routine I like to call, We-know-you’re-still-out-there.   The fact is, our changing climate is not going to sort itself out and the longer businesses leave it before they do something, the greater the impact this delay will have on their natural good looks and charm. Earth’s natural good looks won’t fare any better.

Organisations that want to be green leaders in their field – or are deciding to make serious changes because they realise it’s the right thing to do – need to start prioritising their carbon zero targets now.  The Government’s commitment to a nationwide carbon-neutral status may seem like a lifetime away but put it in your 2050 diary today – it’s not going away and if you are succession planning, it’ll be easier if you’ve got your brownie badge for sustainability.  Nelson Tasman has the chance to be an early adopter and a region that others look to emulate, but this will require effort from everyone.

Matt expects the Government will start putting increasing pressure on businesses to get people on board. The good news if you are action-orientated, measuring your carbon emissions doesn’t deserve to be filed into the ‘Too Hard’ basket.

“I thought it was going to be more expensive but it was pretty easy to do.  Freight is quite difficult to calculate but we have an admin person who keeps a record and pulls things out of Xero and that’s not too onerous.”  Once Kernohan had gone carbon neutral, he did the maths and realised taking the extra step to carbon positive wasn’t going to cost that much more.

There are a number of accredited organisations that can measure carbon footprints (Kernohan used local business, Ekos), ultimately all of them can provide you with an opportunity to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.

Kernohan’s move to carbon positive triggered interest from an affiliated organisation, Heavy Engineering Research Association, who has been inspired enough to start off on their own carbon-auditing journey.  And that’s how this will work. Someone will show you that it’s possible and you’ll do the same for someone else. Or even better, you won’t wait to be shown but get on and lead the way.

“You get this whole cascading effect.  It’s a bit like being the first person up to dance.  Everyone feels its ok and they go and do it…Part of it is finding who the businesses are that are more future focussed and wanting to do the right thing.  Network with those organisations and then you’re starting to create a bit of an ecosystem. So, part of that carbon certification is plugging into the ecosystem of change and responsibility.”

Being a catalyst for positive change rarely makes it into a company’s core values, but now that we’re all living together in the pointy end of the 21st century, everyday heroism may be as simple as doing what’s right, right now.  And if you’re not the hero, how easy is it to be the villain of the story? Matt has an idea.

“I think there is enough evidence and enough concern around climate change that ‘business as usual’ is almost a criminal act.”

Britt Coker

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