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When green is a dirty word

sustainable future

In the fifth installment of Net Zero: The Road to 2050 podcast, Nikki Mandow explains how companies often do little for the environment and buy loyalty from environmentally conscious customers with meaningless buzzwords. Consider. Still, that’s about to change when she discovers she’s talking to experts, including Peri Drysdale, a pioneer in sustainable fashion.

“Green is a word I hate.”

Gerri Ward, EY New Zealand’s Director of Climate Change and Sustainability, sounds strange.

But like other experts on sustainable business, she’s fed up with companies using the term “greenwashing” to describe their operations as greener than they actually are.

There is even a new term “carbon washing”. This gives companies a misleading impression about their greenhouse gas emission qualifications.

Hear from Newsroom Business Editor Nikki Mandow about the latest episode of the Newsroom Podcast Net Zero: The Road To 2050, Ward and others have concerns under the sustainable façade. Too many companies have done little to reduce their carbon footprint.

Instead, climate change goals have become a proxy for action, says Ward.

“People can set publicly available goals, sign some pledge, join a club, or label a product with a specific carbon-neutral label to be environmentally friendly and do good. I think it’s the same as

“If people suddenly say ‘yes, climate change is real’, I think there is still a sense of negativity. Yes, I have work to do’, and they say what You have to do something.” – Rachel Brown, Sustainable Business Network

Also on the podcast, Rachel Brown, head of sustainable business networks, says companies have long been plagued by the science of greenhouse gas emissions.

Gerri Ward says pulling sustainable wool in the eyes of consumers is an increasingly risky tactic for brands.Photo: Courtesy

These days, the weather we see outside our windows and on our TV screens makes it difficult to ignore climate change. Yet, for many business leaders, the problem is too big and too hard to get started.

“There’s still a sense of negativity because I think if people suddenly say, ‘Yes, climate change is real.’ And yes, there’s something I have to do,” they said. must do something. For some, it’s really hard. ”

As Peri Drysdale, founder of sustainable knitwear fashion brand Untouched World, told Mandow, it’s hard, but it’s possible.

Untouched World proves it’s possible to run a profitable, environmentally focused business.

Peri Drysdale is frustrated with directors who don’t believe in their company’s role in reducing emissions.Photo: Nicky Mando

Drysdale founded the Christchurch-based company in 1981. But when she traveled around the world to market her brand in the 1990s, she witnessed the pace of environmental deterioration and lack of commitment to change.

“For business, it’s about revenue and bottom line, and there’s been a complete deafening silence about the implications. It just wasn’t thought of.

“You know, a publicist said to me, ‘Aren’t you ahead of time? The world doesn’t want this. I was in business before there was a gap in the market. No matter how much time I made a promise to myself that I would get this done, even if it cost me.”

These days, Drysdale is considered a global ambassador for the sustainable fashion movement, with her clothes worn by everyone from Barack Obama to Prince Harry.

consumer indifference

Gerri Ward says there are other things that are holding back business. One is short-term thinking and the other is consumer indifference.

Market research shows that people Say They want to buy sustainable products from companies that care about the environment, but most of us don’t. We choose cheap.

Millennials “expect all your products to incorporate sustainability into their proposition. If not, they will never buy from you again.”Gerri Ward, EY New Zealand

On the one hand, it is easy to be fooled by the ongoing greenwashing.

Still, Ward said exposing sustainable wool to the public has become an increasingly risky tactic for brands.

“I see it especially among millennials, ‘I’m going to buy this particular brand of cosmetics, face creams, clothing and shoes because they offer a sustainable version of what I love. ‘I’m not saying,’ [they’re saying] ‘I expect all your products to incorporate sustainability into your proposition. If not, I will never buy from you again.

Earthquake as turning point

Mandow also speaks with Malcolm Johns, Chief Executive of Christchurch Airport. Finding a significant shortage of customers after the 2012 earthquake, the airport company chose sustainability initiatives as a platform to rebuild damaged staff morale.

Malcolm Johns is the CEO of Christchurch Airport, which has moved to sustainability after the earthquake.

He talks about several carbon reduction projects the company has started, including plug-in planes. And he reveals how they were able to get the often expensive change across the line and still return dividends to local and central government shareholders.

“We have internal investment hurdles that the business case must overcome to invest capital. We agreed to accept a hurdle rate of 0.5 percent lower than the investment hurdle rate.”

Half a percent may not sound like much, but it makes a big difference, says Johns.

Since 2015, the airport has reduced emissions from its operations by 90%.

Rachel Brown believes there are four factors preventing companies from making the necessary changes to remove emissions from their business.

“One is that they are just busy with their day-to-day and trying to make their business healthy and economical. Then they feel like they don’t know what to do… And they need to find time, they’re running out of time, and they think it costs a lot to do something.”

“Being a onceler, it’s hard to let it go now.” – Rachel Brown, Sustainable Business Network

She remembers her parents reading the 1971 Dr Seuss book. Lorax to her as a child.

This is a parable of the harm caused by industrialization and the powerlessness of the environmental movement.

When a greedy oncesler comes to an idyllic place full of truffle trees and starts a factory that cuts down those trees to make what “everybody needs”, he rejoices in his conscience. Ignore and ignore Lorax, the “speaker of trees”. .

By the time all the truffle trees are gone, all that’s left is wasteland.

Rachel Brown says some companies don’t want to accept that climate change is real.Photo: Courtesy

Most companies these days know they have to do something, but are hesitant to act, said Brown.

“They’re actually trying to do the right thing. I don’t think they’re evil onceslers.

“But being a onceler, it’s hard to get past that now.”

Like this article? A podcast is better! Listen now (link above) and listen to the other four in the series so far (link below). You are (almost) guaranteed to learn something new and interesting.

Green Hydrogen: How Team NZ’s technology is helping us move forward.

Zombie Forest, Carbon Sink, ETS

Tractor Protests and Fever: How the Biggest Ejectors Had Their Biggest Battles

Green money and greenwashing

Net Zero: The Road to 2050 is a six-part Newsroom podcast series created in collaboration with EY. Business Her editor Nikki Mandow looks at some of the most interesting, critical and sometimes confusing ways New Zealand is tackling climate change. With a new episode released every two weeks, she demystifies the complex issues associated with efforts to make Aotearoa net-zero emissions by 2050.