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NZ Post, Vector and more win big at the Sustainable Business Network Awards

This year’s NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards saw a record number of entries – but there could only be one top winner to take home the (sustainable) bacon.

The award event’s top honour for the organisation voted by judges as doing the most to promote a sustainable New Zealand was New Zealand Post.

While the idea of a state-owned postal service winning an award for sustainability – when it churns through tonnes upon tonnes of paper waste each year – may surprise some, Rachel Brown, CEO of the Sustainable Business Network (SBN), swears it shouldn’t. “The company is going through a period of disruption in its business model, with people sending less mail and more parcels,” she explains. “NZ Post has chosen to use sustainability as a driver for change and this is paying dividends.

“NZ Post has led the way in sustainability for some time now. It produced New Zealand’s first integrated report in 2013 using an international framework and it has reported every year since. It uses electric vehicles, called Paxters, to deliver mail and parcels. And it is partnering with NZ Red Cross to help build resilient communities. These are just a few examples.”

The latest research by Colmar Brunton says 83 percent of New Zealanders would stop buying a company’s products if they heard about them being irresponsible or unethical, and 73 percent want to work in companies that are sustainable. Brown says this is further proof of the financial power of sustainable business practises. “Over the years we have seen a move from efficient resource management into real system shifts, responding to critical themes like restoring nature, renewable transport and good food, and reflecting the growth of new areas like the circular economy,” she says. “The finalists this year include small businesses, corporates and not-for-profits. This shows that all types of organisations can make a success out of sustainability.”

One particular New Zealand Post initiative that impressed judges was its partnership with the Red Cross, which includes emergency response and disaster relief for New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region.

The partnership provides a dedicated New Zealand Post/Kiwibank account for Red Cross appeals accessible through an extensive network of retail stores. This gives New Zealanders an immediately accessible and established channel to make donations within 24 hours of Red Cross launching an appeal.

In the past year, $65,000 was raised through the partnership to help those affected by the Kaikoura Earthquake, and $7,000 for flood relief in the Bay of Plenty. Since 2011, more than $630,000 has been donated.

As part of the partnership, New Zealand Post also supports the Red Cross’ five Disaster Welfare and Support trucks, which are located around Aotearoa. This support means the trucks can be deployed quickly in response to a disaster. These trucks can carry shelter and food for up to 150 people at a time, and in the last year the trucks assisted more than 1,300 people.

Donna Williams, general manager for customer experience and marketing for NZI – the principal partner of the Sustainable Business Network – says being a sustainable business is about a lot more than environmentally-friendly policies and initiatives. “It’s about creating a business model that is resilient and endures the test of time. It means taking responsibility for the people it employs and the communities and environment it operates in.”

The Sustainable Business Network is New Zealand’s largest and longest-standing organisation dedicated to sustainable business. It includes hundreds of businesses that connect through events, resources and projects to help New Zealand become a more sustainable nation.

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The 2017 NZI Sustainable Business Network Award winners are:

Sustainability Superstar

Sponsored by Westpac

Winner: Bob Burnett, Bob Burnett Architecture

Commendation: Dee and Steve West, ChargeNet NZ

Burnett founded the Superhome movement in Christchurch. This is a not-for-profit, industry-led initiative that aims to normalise energy efficient, sustainable homes through open source sharing of new technologies, design innovations and building techniques.

Burnett is passionate about educating through speaking on environmental design and green building, and wants to help people understand the link between building code standards and health, wellbeing and environmental impact.

Communicating for Change

Sponsored by Cadence Communications

Winner: WasteMINZ

Commendation: Sustainable Winegrowing NZ and The New Zealand Sustainability Dashboard

Love Food Hate Waste, overseen by WasteMINZ, is a behaviour change campaign to reduce food waste and increase resource efficiency. It is the first of its kind in the waste industry in New Zealand.

Waste reduction starts with increasing people’s awareness around food waste and their role in making a change. WasteMINZ has raised this awareness through communications tools including infographics, videos, blog content and social media. It has also included awareness raising initiatives such as the opening of the Community Fridge in Auckland, the Brain Popcorn Challenge and the Great Persimmon Rescue.

In the first three months of the campaign, awareness of the $820 million worth of food wasted by households every year increased by 13 percent. During the first 18 months, social media content had more than 6.5 million impressions. Hundreds of thousands of people were reached through organic visits to the website, online advertising and third-party coverage.

WasteMINZ partnered with 60 councils and community groups across the country to deliver Love Food Hate Waste, with support from the Ministry of the Environment.

Going Circular

Sponsored by Auckland Council

Winner: Wishbone Design Studio

Commendations:

  • EcoStock Supplies Ltd
  • Ethique

Wishbone Design Studio has created a multi-functional balance bike for children aged one to six, made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled carpet. Wishbone Bike Recycled Edition is the world’s first bicycle made from 100 percent recycled material.

The frame of the Recycled Edition bike is made from engineered resin sourced from recycled residential carpet. Each bike diverts 3.4 kilogrammes of used carpet away from landfills and saves 4.7 litres of oil otherwise used in virgin plastic production.

The bike introduces very young children to a lifetime of cycling, while reducing landfill, minimising raw materials, and avoiding the consumption of fossil fuels in manufacturing.

The bike is a three-in-one product which transforms from three to two wheels and grows with the child, thanks to its patented Rotafix seat-and-frame adjustability system. It is consciously designed for 100 percent reparability: every component is available for after-market purchase.

 Efficiency Champion

Sponsored by Ricoh

Winner: Christchurch International Airport Limited

Commendation: Foodstuffs NZ Ltd

Christchurch Airport pioneered the use of a large-scale New Zealand-designed system that heats and cools the building using the artesian water reservoir below the terminal. This was a world first.

Since the new terminal opened in 2013 the Airport has worked hard to cut total energy use. In the past year alone it has saved more than 6 percent. Since the 2012 financial year, carbon emissions have been cut by 22 percent.

Christchurch Airport has worked with consultant Enercon, which conducted a detailed energy audit, and with the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) on a collaboration agreement. By January 2018, the airport will have achieved more than 10 percent in energy savings, more than twice the target set by EECA. This has been achieved at a time of record passenger numbers.

Restoring Nature

Sponsored by Department of Conservation

Winner: Zealandia

Commendation: Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari

Zealandia is a conservation project restoring 225 hectares of ecosystem and threatened species. A world-first predator-proof fence has provided a safe haven for native flora and fauna for nearly 20 years.

Restoration of this valley in central Wellington has been an incredible success, largely as a result of thousands of hours of volunteer effort. Native species have dramatically increased, and several species that were wiped out from the area have been returned. Eighteen species have been reintroduced, most of which now have thriving, self-sustaining populations. This includes some of our most charismatic species, such as little spotted kiwi and hīhī, as well as tuatara and spotted skink. Birds once extinct from the mainland are now flowing beyond the fence. Kākā, kākāriki, tīeke and hihi can often be spotted in suburban backyards for the first time in New Zealand’s recent history.

The sanctuary attracts over 120,000 visitors annually. It is an opportunity to reconnect people with the natural world.

The project has involved a range of partners over many years including Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Department of Conservation, iwi and community groups.

Transforming Food

Sponsored by Yealands Family Wines

Winner: Common Unity Project Aotearoa

Commendations:

  • Otago Locusts Limited
  • Pakaraka Permaculture

Community Unity Project Aotearoa is building a local food ecosystem to address the lack of accessible, affordable, healthy food in Lower Hutt.

The project is developing a self-fertilising ecosystem by transforming borrowed lawns into organic, intensively productive micro-farms across the Hutt Valley. It is growing food while creating employment, feeding hungry school children and increasing accessibility of healthy food via a co-operative grocery, The Common Grocer.

The project provides training and support to community members wishing to become farmers. In return, these members contribute a portion of their harvest to the land owner, and some to the Koha kitchen (an initiative that feeds 2,500 school children every day). They sell the rest to cafés, restaurants, markets and The Common Grocer.

Since 2012, almost 7,000 kilogrammes of produce has been produced for the Koha kitchen, making 21,000 lunches for school children. Through collaborations with Kaibosh and Commonsense Organics, 7,530 kilogrammes of food has been rescued.

Hardwired for Social Good

Winner: Bayfair Shopping Centre

Commendation: Little Yellow Bird

Bayfair has become the most accessible shopping centre in New Zealand, helping the one in four New Zealanders who have an accessibility need.

In October 2015, Bayfair was the first business to achieve the top rating of Platinum from Be.Accessible.  In November 2015, Bayfair became the first New Zealand shopping centre to install a parking space for dogs. It then installed charging facilities for electric vehicles and mobility scooters.

By improving accessibility, Bayfair has raised awareness, demonstrated community leadership and met the needs of the growing number of people with accessibility issues. It has shown how practical improvements can be implemented to enhance accessibility.

Accessibility is now business as usual and ingrained in Bayfair’s culture. It has changed the way not only retailers, staff and centre management view accessibility, but the general awareness of the community and public.

Future plans include making shopping easier for autistic children and parents.

Partnering for Good

Winners:

  • Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari
  • New Zealand Post & New Zealand Red Cross

Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari combines close public viewing of whales, dolphins and sea birds in the beautiful Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, with important marine science research conducted on board.

Far more than just seeing these magnificent creatures, passengers are immersed in important scientific research conducted on board. They are also able to enjoy an expert education about whales, dolphins, other marine marine-life, all while contributing directly to their protection. This is through a partnership with the Department of Conservation and both Massey and Auckland Universities.

Working alongside key partners, Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari has collectively achieved significant gains with respect to the preservation of species and environment through research, education and awareness all whilst simultaneously developing a unique visitor experience and thriving business. 

For 17 years Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari has been educating passengers about the importance of the Hauraki Gulf and its inhabitants. Alongside this public education it has also provided its vessel the Dolphin Explorer free of charge for the purposes of marine-life and environmental science research efforts. It has voluntarily and directly contributed to dozens of PhD and Masters-level research studies. In the past 12 months alone 15,000 passengers have enjoyed this unique experience.  

Revolutionising Energy

Sponsored by EECA Business

Winner: Vector

Commendations:

  • Bayfair Shopping Centre
  • Reid Technology Ltd

Vector partnered with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei on a revolutionary community housing project. The 30-home residential development for first-home buyers includes a networked system of solar panels and batteries, inspiring energy conscious behaviour.

The Kāinga Tuatahi housing project in Ōrakei is democratising access to new energy technology, while reducing power bills. The partnership between Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Vector enabled the technology to be part of the development, with a bespoke funding arrangement making it accessible to buyers of affordable homes.

The system is networked, meaning individual residents can share excess power with others in the community who need it more. New technology is coming which could enable peer-to-peer distribution outside the community. This would enable gifting to those with less means to purchase energy.

The community solution became fully operational across all 30 homes in December 2016. It helps Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei fill the role of kaitiaki of their land. They are able to facilitate greater self-sufficiency and have reduced the community’s environmental impact. In the first five months following installation, 47 percent of the community’s energy needs were met by onsite generation and 2.84 tonnes of carbon dioxide was saved.

Smarter Transport

Sponsored by Opus International Consultants

Winner: Flip the Fleet

Commendations:

  • Ecotricity
  • New Zealand Post

Flip the Fleet aims to accelerate uptake of Low Emission Vehicles (LEVs) in New Zealand by measuring and communicating their performance and benefits.

Anyone can enroll free of charge and every month upload metrics from their LEV’s dashboard to a communal database. The software then calculates and reports metrics such as return on investment, trends in efficiency, battery state of health, and greenhouse gas emissions avoided. Users are alerted if their vehicle is performing poorly, or affirmed if they are leaders.

By using this ‘citizen science’ approach, Flip the Fleet is leveraging the passion and experience of early adopters. Uncertainty and lack of knowledge prevent many people from buying LEVs. By pooling data, Flip the Fleet brings the debate onto an evidential and scientific footing. The company connects users, business and policy makers. It launched in June 2017 and hopes to have monthly data from over 1000 LEVs by June 2018.

NZI Greatest Contribution to a Sustainable New Zealand

Winner: New Zealand Post

Commendations:

  • Wishbone Design Studio
  • Common Unity Project Aotearoa

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