Meaning business in climate crisis

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In April last year, in the early days of our lockdown, Businesses for Climate Action was launched in Te Tauihu – the top of the south. The launch was on Zoom, almost unnoticed. Why was this group created? And why was its launch so urgent that it couldn’t wait for the lockdown to pass? Bruce Gilkison, one of the founding members of Businesses for Climate Action, explains our agenda and reason for being.

We all know by now that climate change is urgent. Nelson City Council declared a State of Climate Emergency in 2019, and Aotearoa followed in 2020. Compared to other countries, New Zealand has very high per capita greenhouse gas emissions – about 2½ times the world average. And most of these come from businesses: Stats NZ figures show that emissions from farms and businesses in Nelson Tasman are about four times the amount from all of the region’s households.

This doesn’t mean that businesses are bad. They’re a vital part of our region and we’re all connected to them, whether as employees, customers, suppliers, owners or neighbours.

All of us – households and businesses – will need to halve our emissions by 2030. Businesses and farms have never had to make such a rapid change before, so they will need help, advice and support. And that is why Businesses for Climate Action exists.

Picture by Tim Cuff 23 March 2021 Businesses For Climate Action gathering at Pic’s Peanut Butter World, Nelson, New Zealand: speaker Sophie Handforth

The group starts with some important assumptions. To manage its emissions, a business first needs to measure them – to see how large they are, and understand where they’re coming from. Many business leaders have said they were surprised at how easy this step was, and after doing this it was easy to decide what to do next to reduce them.

Some of them offset their remaining emissions through tree-planting projects or similar, and get certified as “carbon neutral”. Others have gone even further, reducing them as far as possible, then offsetting the remainder by an even greater amount, to become “climate positive”.

Chloe Van Dyke, co-founder of the group and of Nelson juice company Chia Sisters, said: “New Zealand’s journey to carbon zero will need us all – government, businesses, individuals. But businesses are especially good at thinking outside the square – when they see action is needed, they act.”

Chloe Van Dyke at home in Nelson

Other key assumptions are that no one business has all the answers, and there are huge advantages in collaborating with others to share knowledge and aspirations. Businesses might often be in competition with each other but in a climate emergency, we’re all in this together.

To help them learn and collaborate, Businesses for Climate Action has set up a number of activator groups, live and online, with talks and workshops providing education, discussions and support.

Some of these are focused on a sector such as tourism, food and beverages, or lawyers and accountants. Others are on a topic which might interest businesses in various sectors, such as “Measure your own Carbon Footprint”, “Fleet Management”, and “Energy Efficiency”. Future workshops are planned around freight, waste, construction and other sectors.

Business journalist Rod Oram recently described the group as unique in New Zealand and praised it for helping local companies “on their journeys to economic, environmental and social regeneration.” Its goal is to encourage 1,000 local businesses to measure and understand their emissions, and to begin to manage them.

There are good reasons to act early. You could find efficiencies sooner, and avoid much more disruptive changes later. You might build better relations with customers, suppliers and workers; bright young people, especially, will want to work for employers that care about the future. And you will probably feel happier about the business yourself.

Join one of our groups to engage with like-minded businesses leaders.

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