NZ needs to protect natural assets, says Natural Capital expert

NZ needs to protect natural assets, says Natural Capital expert

Last month, Wellington hosted international experts in business sustainability as part of their Valuing Nature conference.

We caught up with James Griffiths, managing director of Natural Capital for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to hear about some of the insights he gathered during the two-day conference and what Kiwi businesses can learn from integrating sustainability principles into their business strategies.

Griffiths is concerned that sustainability, including natural capital valuation to improve the country’s asset management, is not very high on the political or public policy in New Zealand. He says that our historical export-focused high growth strategy could seriously challenge our ecological boundaries.

“The recent agreement for Business NZ to host the Sustainable Business Council, WBCSD’s local partner, opens up some good prospects for sustainability to be mainstreamed as a core strategy for New Zealand businesses including leveraging WBCSD work program and business decision-making and capacity-building tools,” says Griffiths.

Griffiths suggests that some industries are getting it right, such as fisheries and forestry, as they have embedded sustainability as a core strategy but we could do better.

“I didn’t see this [sustainability strategy] as clearly within the other key sectors that are totally natural capital dependent: tourism or agribusiness.”

He also suggests that our ‘100% Pure’ tagline could mislead international customers who are seeking sustainable goods and services with the anticipation that any sustainability claims are credible and independently verified.

And what were the key lessons emerging from the Valuing Nature conference?

Griffiths says that we need to implement national capital valuation to “improve NZ public policy framework for the management of land and seascapes and maintenance of core ecosystems that enable our productivity,” which will also help us build ecological values into current and future business plans.

James Griffiths is the managing director of Natural Capital at the WBCSD.