As a small trade-dependent country, New Zealand will be increasingly pulled towards greener growth as other larger economies move in this direction.
Speaking at the launch of the report in Auckland, O'Reilly said it would be a mistake to think there was a special category of economic growth called "green growth".
"Instead, we should recognise and work towards the greening of all New Zealand business to best meet customers' and supply chains' demand for sustainable products and services."
The report has focused on five types of possible government actions:
- facilitating better-informed business management through provision
of relevant information tools, knowledge and technologies;
- making it easier for businesses to comply with regulations and conform with voluntary standards;
- promoting collaborative action between businesses and others for enhanced resource management in the interests of all;
- investing in research and development by public sector entities that will stimulate innovation and productivity gains among businesses; and
- steering the business decisions of public sector entities towards desired outcomes in the wider economy.
Among the raft of suggestions for boosting sustainability in businesses are establishing an agency committed to helping businesses and households reduce their GHG emissions and promoting the voluntary adoption of standards and certification schemes.
Construction and healthcare could be designated as green growth sectors in relation to public sector procurement while establishing an “invest-to-save” fund for public agencies would provide interest-free loans to meet the higher upfront costs associated with purchasing greener products, services and technologies.
And from a leadership perspective, the report suggests the publication of key green growth indicators every year to track national progress; creating a national biodiversity offsetting regime; and working with the tourism industry on a new strategy for positioning New Zealand strongly with high-value tourists in the greener market segment.
Duncan Stewart, manager of Pure Advantage, said the report delivered practical recommendations that don't cost very much.
“That goes to the heart of the issue – green growth is still being looked at as a cost item rather than a means to drive efficiencies in the economy and a long term source of wealth.”
'Start backing cleantech startups'
The Green Party said it will work with the government to implement the pick of its recommendations.
In particular, it supported the emphasis on greening small-and-medium enterprises, greater collaborative processes for the management of natural resources, greater protection of our clean green brand, and the creation of a sovereign wealth fund for mineral royalties.
But co-leader Dr Russel Norman said the report highlighted contradictions in National's economic strategy.
"The government's strategy of picking winners in the petroleum, coal, and irrigation sectors is at odds with the picture of a smart green economy that this report paints.
"The government needs to stop subsidising our old polluting industries and start backing our cleantech startups with a bright future ahead of them."
The Greens also questioned the report's suggestion that biodiversity offsetting is good for the environment – "You can't save the environment by destroying it at the same time".
And Norman said it failed to address the big issue of ongoing economic growth in a world of finite natural resources.
The report details a major structural problem with the New Zealand economy: most of our high-earning export industries are carbon-intensive.
"The service and high-tech manufacturing sectors are the future for our economy, yet this report does not detail how to embrace or develop these industries," Norman said.
Following global trends
Many countries are adopting policies and programmes broadly definable as green growth.
New Zealand was among 34 countries to sign an OECD declaration on green growth in 2009. And in 2011, the OECD published a policy framework for the “greening of growth” in every country, recognising that policies will differ between countries. Much of the current green growth policy focus in many countries is on developing renewable energy sources and clean technologies.
The shift towards greener purchasing and sustainability-based standards is evident in our major trading partners.
According to the advisory group, New Zealand businesses can expect increasing pressure to adopt greener technologies and practices to maintain their competitive advantage as exporters of products and services – and in some cases, to simply maintain access to markets and hold onto to existing revenue streams. Much of the pressure will come from large customers who set increasingly specific requirements of suppliers and supply chain participants across a range of green issues.
"New Zealand businesses and individuals are generally supportive of protection and enhancement of the environment, while also keen to develop and grow their economy," the report states.
"Environmental stewardship and concepts of kaitiakitanga are integral to our national culture. For Maori, natural resources are central to identity and to economic development, and they are often at the heart of Treaty of Waitangi claims."
But nobody can deny New Zealand has major environmental issues.
"Most prominent among these are GHG emissions that are relatively high on a per capita basis and degraded water quality in our lowland waterways. We also lag behind other developed countries in other areas such as our standard practices in waste management."