Entrepreneurs Geoff Ross, of 42 Below fame, and Phillip Mills of Les Mills are leading a ginger group 25 or so business leaders to champion sustainability as a business strategy for New Zealand.
Branding itself as the 100% Initiative, the two have roped in a who’s-who of Kiwi enterprise including Rob Fyfe of Air New Zealand, Jeremy Moon of Icebreaker, Rob Fenwick of Living Earth, Lloyd Morrison of Infratil, Sir George Fistonich of Villa Maria, and some 20 others in a privately funded steering group.
For the past seven months the group has been meeting with 200 or so other business leaders and influencers to garner support for an industry-government taskforce into cleantech and sustainability.
“We’d like to see the government set up a joint task force with business, comprising the best of our collective brains as well as some international experts to help capitalise and grow these opportunities,” says Mills.
His view is that there are many smart, cheap things that can be done to give industry a fighting chance to exploit the sustainability opporunities.
Mills and Ross say the average business in New Zealand already has access to expertise and a suite of tools to minimise their impacts and cut expenditure. The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Business Network have been banging on about this for years but it’s just one part of the picture, they say.
The other part is about supporting the growth of new, clean industries in Aotearoa and evolving away from those that are both polluting and passé.
“We have location and purity credentials that are a key point of difference to our competitors,” Ross says. “Some 90 percent of our GDP is linked to this one way or another.”
“For me,” says Mills, “it was coming to the understanding that the short-term economic crisis would pale in comparison with the long-term ecological crisis we’re creating. It’s going to cause far larger problems for our industries in the future. We need to link economic fixes with long-term solutions to those larger problems. And the business opportunities in this arena are actually huge.”