Leave no New Zealander behind – an Election Manifesto
The homeless in Auckland number more than 23,000 people, estimates Auckland City Council.
That’s a population larger than in Levin or Blenheim sleeping rough on the streets, or living in motels, camp grounds, cars and emergency housing.
It’s a confronting statistic, which New Zealand business leaders tell me is of great concern.
As the election looms, the Sustainable Business Council Election Manifesto has revealed many leading New Zealand businesses are uneasy about the gap they see between the prosperous and the poor.
Forward-thinking companies don’t want to see anyone left behind. They believe business has a leading role to play in advancing New Zealand’s economic and social performance, as well as economic performance.
And they know if society doesn’t function well, business is at risk.
Our Election Manifesto makes it clear: businesses want to work with the incoming government on initiatives that will see New Zealand move to a low emissions economy and ensure no New Zealander is left behind on the path to economic prosperity.
The making of our manifesto
We met with senior leaders from some of our 91 members, and conducted a survey over several months, to determine what sustainability issues they most wanted to work on with the new government on.
SBC members contribute a substantial proportion of New Zealand’s jobs and income: they employ 128,000 full-timers and collectively generate 29 per cent of the private sector’s GDP.
Our Election Manifesto outlines where businesses see opportunities for collaboration, investment and partnerships with government.
Number 1: Climate Change
Climate change and the transition to a low emissions economy is the number one priority for our members this election.
All of them have expressed a desire to work with the incoming government on a long-term plan to move to a low emissions economy; to develop climate change policies, which futureproof their decisions about investment, innovation and business growth.
Already, many are investing in technologies that will reduce emissions from the goods and services they sell.
Dozens of companies like Air New Zealand, Meridian and Flick are replacing their ground vehicle fleets with electric vehicles. Z Energy has built New Zealand’s first $26 million biofuel plant and Westpac has created a one billion dollar CleanTech sector investment fund. Increasing numbers of members are targeting being net zero businesses by 2050, or sooner.
These significant initiatives show leadership and will have a large impact.
But our members say they are concerned the government is lagging behind. They want to see the debate around climate change de-politicised.
And they want to collaborate on initiatives that promote the use of low emissions technologies, like tax exemptions for electric freight trucks or biofuels.
Leave no one behind
Our Election Manifesto demonstrates the second most significant sustainability issue for business is the welfare of regional communities, small and medium businesses, and young or vulnerable New Zealanders.
I regularly come across companies who cannot attract staff to live and work in Auckland because the cost of living is too high. Or that are concerned about people sleeping in cold cars or damp garages.
Businesses want to partner up with government and community organisations, so more Kiwis can get into meaningful work, education or training.
One fantastic example of a partnership already up and running is The Warehouse Red Shirts in Community programme. The company has partnered with the Ministry for Social Development to help 16 to 24 year olds, who aren’t in work, education or training, to gear up for job applications with work experience in retail.
The Spark Jump programme is another great example, aiming to stamp out the digital divide, by helping children in low income families learn online at home. Community partners are helping Spark distribute five thousand free internet modems over the next year, along with cheap broadband packages.
These companies see the benefits of these programmes and partnerships on not only their business, but also their local communities.
If there’s one thing the Election Manifesto has hammered home – it is that more can be achieved when government, business and community organisations work together.
This article was originally published in Business Plus magazine.
Please read the Sustainable Business Council’s Election Manifesto in full here.
Contact: Renee Graham, Communications Manager