• Tim Peacocke of Green Sheep sustainability consultancy_IMG_4907

Businesses work towards sustainability

We all know that we should be living more sustainably. But does sustainability refer to climate change, reducing waste, protecting our natural resources, or reducing consumption of environmentally damaging products?  Christine Young investigated how some North Shore businesses are helping create a more sustainable future and benefiting the environment, customers – and their bottom line – in the process.

Remember when much of what you bought was swathed in plastic? When polystyrene was the preferred packing material; when consumption of water and electricity were barely thought about except as a cost? And when we all simply consigned old or unwanted products to landfill? Well, times are a-changing, to paraphrase Dylan.

Environmental groups across the Shore work to restore natural environments and protect native flora and fauna, repair cafés extend the life of old furniture or appliances, and recycling centres like Resource Recovery Devonport, the Abilities Group in Glenfield, the Enviro NZ Constellation Drive Resource Recovery Centre, and the Toner Recovery Centre in Rosedale help divert waste from landfill. Businesses are also doing their bit, from consideration of the materials they use, to how they run their operations to ensure minimal environmental impact.

North Shore-based online retailer Mighty Ape is just one company with an eye to the future and sustainability. The industrial property in Silverdale tenanted by Mighty Ape was awarded a 5 Green Star Industrial Built v3 rating, only the third such rating in New Zealand, and Mighty Ape has continued its commitment to the environment with smart lighting solutions, including using natural light in its warehouse and office, energy efficient LEDs, and sensor-activated switches. A state-of-the-art water reclamation system collects rain water for use in toilets, gardens and other non-sanitary applications.

Mighty Ape also set a goal of 50% sustainable packaging, which the company achieved in April 2020. The next target was 100% sustainable packaging by October 2021, but Covid intervened and at present around 90% of packaging is sustainable (defined as 100% recyclable, renewable and biodegradable paper packaging). And when it comes to delivery, Mighty Ape says it works with delivery partners also committed to, and with clear objectives to achieve, sustainable travel options.

Aside from packaging that used to be destined for landfill, another issue for consumers is what to do with old, redundant or simply not-working electronic devices. Getting rid of these without consigning them to landfill can be a challenge – most of us can point to a collection of defunct electronic items waiting for a more useful after-life, not to mention grappling with  the dilemma of what to do with large appliances.

As part of its much wider commitment to sustainability, Samsung Electronics New Zealand has invited Aucklanders to declutter and divert electronic waste from landfills at its e-waste day at its Northcote head office, and at Eden Park, on 4 May. Samsung has partnered with New Zealand’s largest e-waste disposal company, Echo (previously Computer Recycling) to accept a wide variety of electronic items. The free drive-through collection events “provide an easy, local solution for recycling and disposing of old electronics,” says Simon Smith, Samsung New Zealand’s head of corporate marketing. “With e-waste being notoriously difficult to dispose of, the drives aim to reduce the amount of electronic waste being sent to landfills.”

“Samsung’s 2023 e-waste collection events were a major success,” he adds, “seeing over 1,800 cars across two locations and diverting a total of 19.5 tonnes of electronic waste from landfills. This year, Samsung continues to highlight the growing issue of electronic waste and promote responsible e-waste management through these initiatives.”

The e-waste collections are just one small part of Samsung’s company-wide sustainability drive. Over the past decade Samsung has invested heavily in environmental initiatives, and made sustainability a focus. “In recent years we have been making huge strides in this arena,” says Simon. In 2022, Samsung announced a new environmental strategy, which includes commitments to achieve enterprise-wide net zero carbon emissions and plans to use more renewable energy. The new plan builds on Samsung’s existing efforts, with the company’s environmental commitment encompassing enterprise-wide efforts to enhance resource circularity throughout the entire product lifecycle, from raw material sourcing to recycling and disposal.

Part of Samsung Electronics’ pledge for a healthier planet includes ensuring its products are energy-efficient and use less electricity, while also ensuring that the entire product lifecycle is more sustainable, from raw material sourcing to disposal and recycling. Simon notes that the company plans to tap new low-power technologies to reduce energy consumption in data centres and mobile devices, and in major models of seven consumer electronics products – smartphones, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, TVs, monitors and PCs.

It’s clear from the detail Simon provides that the company is able to use its scale to implement some of its environmental initiatives. But it’s also clear that a willingness to innovate and to think creatively about consumer as well as environmental needs, and taking opportunities to partner and/or support with like-minded organisations needs is driving a whole new way of thinking. Locally Samsung has  partnered with local environmental organisation Sea Cleaners (see Channel Magazine https://channelmag.co.nz/channel/features/supporting-sea-cleaners/, Issue 135 October 2022,) to promote Samsung’s Less Microfiber Filter, which captures plastic microfibres from domestic laundry. On a global scale, it has developed technology to repurpose discarded fishing nets into a new material to use in its Galaxy products.

Such initiatives demonstrate a way of thinking that any company, large or small, can incorporate into its ethos. And the benefits are not just environmental, Simon says. He says staff and consumers are more engaged: “There is huge importance placed on sustainability and Samsung is looking to take a lead in this space.”

Most companies’ efforts incorporate sustainability into existing business models. But Takapuna-headquartered Lodestone Energy was created in 2019 as a sustainable business, with an ambition to revolutionise the electricity market by using solar energy to power New Zealand's zero-carbon future. North Shore resident Gary Holden, Lodestone Energy’s managing director, was the driving force behind Lodestone’s vision to bring solar to the mainstream energy market, along with the company’s CFO Chris Jewell who is also currently co-chair of Low Carbon Aotearoa – a 2050 Energy Strategy.

Lodestone Energy is establishing large solar farms that feed electricity into the grid, with its first projects aiming to “generate 320GWh of renewable energy across five farms, enough to power 50,000 homes. In using solar and reducing dependence on traditional energy sources, we create a sustainable solution to power our zero-carbon future,” according to the company’s website. Its first farm, Kohira, near Kaitaia, is New Zealand’s largest solar installation to date, and was the first solar farm in New Zealand to bid into the electricity market, according to a recent article in The New Zealand Herald. It is already generating power, one year after construction started, and the company recently completed a successful $55m capital raise to continue its development.

Helping businesses on their sustainability journeys are North Shore based sustainability consultancies like Blue Orca and Green Sheep. (Seems there’s something colourful as well as sustainable about such organisations).

Tim Peacocke is principal of Green Sheep. He says he began his new venture “to try to make a difference and be part of the solution, not the problem. I was increasingly concerned about the future my children may have, so kaitiakianga/guardianship of the environment is a big driver.

“We’re very fortunate with our natural resources in New Zealand but that has allowed us to take a lot of environmental benefits for granted in the way we live. If everyone in the world lived like New Zealanders, we would consume over three times the earth’s yearly resources each year – which is not sustainable. At some point there will be an adjustment and I think it is better to lead and create that adjustment as opposed to having change forced upon you.”

He says there is considerable research around the advantages of becoming more sustainable, including benefits in brand perception, employee engagement, competitive advantage and cost reductions. 

It’s not always easy for businesses to get started on sustainability, says Tim. “For larger businesses the sustainability challenge tends to be around cost and self-interest, while for small business the challenge is often resource and knowledge. All businesses face the challenge of behavioural resistance to change.”

“Businesses can start or continue with sustainability initiatives by focusing on the bigger items such as energy consumption, transport, waste and supporting other sustainable businesses,” Tim notes. “There are a heap of tools and resources out there such as the Climate Action Toolkit (https://www.tools.business.govt.nz/climate/) or for those who don’t have time or aren’t sure about the wide scope of sustainability, companies like Green Sheep can assist and provide easy to understand guidance.

“Small businesses can start being more sustainable by looking at their energy consumption, things like lighting or using renewable energy, and also their travel, especially flights. Also, talk about sustainability – ask questions of people who have implemented initiatives.”

Leadership plays a huge role in a company’s move towards more sustainable operations, he adds. “Executive and senior leadership buy-in to the sustainability journey is the first step for larger businesses looking to adopt a sustainability framework. Next step would be to get expertise, either hiring dedicated resource or using reputable organisations like Toitū [which leads businesses with a system of carbon and environmental programmes with science-based tools, actions and evidence], to help you develop and implement a strategic plan.

“To properly address the sustainability challenges we need ‘systems thinking’, an end-to-end approach to redesigning how we operate,” says Tim.

And don’t think that working sustainably is all hard work and cost. “The biggest potential benefit of being more sustainable is innovation. It’s a great chance to be innovative and creative.”