A frequent question I get asked about climate change is what can an individual do about it? The quick answer is to use your power as an individual consumer to encourage even more NZ companies to adopt zero carbon targets.
There is now an 80% consensus (RNZ Poll, 2020) in New Zealand that climate change is a serious reality and that the Government should do more to ensure the problem is remediated. Similar climate majorities exist in almost all countries. With such a consensus, the power of the consumer community to encourage or pressure boards of directors of NZ companies to pursue responsible zero carbon policies, constitutes real leverage.
Organisations are available to assist businesses to measure, monitor and reduce emissions. Toitū Envirocare and the Green Building Council are piloting a Toitū carbon zero building operations certification programme. There is also an educational trust (www.EKOS.co.nz) to assist companies on carbon offsetting and zero carbon.
Business leaders have a high-profile role in directing zero carbon targets. A total of 105 leading Kiwi chief executives have committed to climate action via the Climate Leaders Coalition, which is facilitated by the Sustainable Business Council. This required the CEOs and companies to commit to measuring and reporting their greenhouse gas emissions and to work with suppliers to keep emissions down. These include Air NZ, Fonterra, Z Energy, Contact Energy, Westpac, Spark, KiwiRail, Sandford, The Warehouse group, Ngai Tahu Holdings, Vector, Ports of Auckland and Sky City. These companies account for nearly half of New Zealand greenhouse gas emissions. While Fonterra remains a member of this climate coalition, it has attracted criticism from some respected commentators for failing to be sufficiently pro-active in reducing its agri-methane footprint. Agri-methane constitutes 71% of total NZ agricultural emissions so is a key component of our international agreements.
Dairy companies need to be aware that future international and NZ markets will almost certainly reject products that are perceived to be associated with climate damaging emissions.
Well-coordinated sector responses are particularly powerful. Lion New Zealand has established a “whole family” carbon reduction approach across its NZ manufacturing sites. Lion, which holds 30% of the national alcohol beverage market, has set itself pathways to zero carbon targets via a partnership with Toitū. The whole family approach includes The Pride and Little Creatures Brewery in Auckland, Panhead Brewery and Havana Coffee Works in Wellington, Wither Hills winery in Blenheim, Emerson’s Breweries based in Dunedin along with the Liquor King Stores.
Investments are an important part of the transition to zero carbon. The NZ Super Fund has signed up to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The CEO of the world’s largest fund manager, Blackrock Investments, recently stated that the funds core future strategy will relate to climate sustainability.
Be selective in choosing which companies you do business with and then choose those with serious intent to achieve zero carbon footprints. If you do this, you can not only play a personal practical role in achieving a sustainable climate, but also contribute to minimising the anticipated long-term loss of life (83 million deaths globally) associated with future climate warming, as determined by the respected journal, Nature.