carboNZero boss: 'It’s not just about wearing Birkenstocks and hugging trees'

Graham Carter, a Kiwi-born entrepreneur, has spent the last 10 years in North America – turning good ideas into commercial businesses and founding three successful companies along the way. But now he’s back in the country as the CEO of carboNZero. 

What's your interest in environmental issues?

My philosophy is that sustainability is business success and it’s environmental success. My personal beliefs are all about leaving a legacy for our childrens’ children. I’m very much a capitalist, not an environmentalist by true heart, but I think that sustainability, in a generic sense, has a part in everything we do and we have a responsibility for that … It’s not just about wearing Birkenstocks and hugging trees, it’s really about how do we drive efficiencies in businesses – and by the way it's really good for the planet, so why wouldn’t you do it?

So what is carboNZero?

carboNZero is a greenhouse gas certification scheme, so what that means is that we help companies measure and then reduce their carbon emissions and certify it through international best practice and standards. What we find is that carbon is a leading indicator for business efficiency, so if you’re spending money in your business, you’re burning carbon in some form or another.

Are more businesses getting on board with carboNZero?

Without question. This is actually the time to do it because, with the economy globally the way that it is, companies are looking for ways to save money and ways to streamline what they do.

What feedback have you had from businesses about carboNZero?

Other than the market benefits and the cost savings, [a lot of the feedback is about] engagement within the organisation…The certification process brings it together, brings all the staff together, so that’s really, really key. No question, case study after case study shows companies get better at what they do – so they do their business better. We’re really starting now to get to a point where we’re making a huge impact on New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. Our growth strategy is global and we’re starting to see some massive opportunities on the global market.

How are other countries dealing with carbon emissions?

You can get into this big debate about climate change and carbon tax that’s often politically charged – at the end of the day, the world has decided there will be a price on carbon and so it’s important for businesses to understand that. Australia brought in their carbon pricing mechanism, or their carbon tax, recently [and] there’s 35 other countries that have already done it.

How can New Zealand cash in on this?

It’s really important to get away from the political debate – it’s all about how can we as a country, and we as an organisation, how can we do what we do better to improve the productivity of the nation? New Zealand’s got an opportunity to really start to drive [this]…we can actually start to set some of the rules on the global stage.

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