Towards the implementation of sustainable business practices in New Zealand organisations: A review of current activities and new trends such as the Natural Step framework.

Thumbnail Image
Gehrke, T.
Environmental management
Sustainable management
Sustainable development
ISO 14001
Environmental policy
Environmental indicators
Green branding
Business care and environment
Cleaner production
The Natural Step (TNS)
Description of form
Rights holder
Issue Date
Peer-reviewed status
Working Papers
The purpose of this paper is to review the current business practices of organisations that are working towards environmental sustainability in New Zealand, and to note new trends. Business managers are aware of the competitive advantage they may gain through such practices and a number of New Zealand businesses have taken up the challenge of implementing sustainable practices over the last decade. International companies and local businesses reliant on overseas markets are in the forefront of combining regulatory compliance with meeting additional environmental performance criteria. However, there are a number of New Zealand businesses that restrict their efforts to regulatory compliance only. Small businesses, in particular, perceive that long-term investment may need to precede any expected gain and, as a result, are reluctant to commit to environmentally sustainable practices. In New Zealand, local government is a major driver of the move towards sustainable business practices. It is raising awareness and fostering business involvement through local award schemes, coordination services, and having field officers work directly with businesses to assist them with sustainable business practices, such as waste management. There are a number of initiatives from which businesses can choose if they wish to operate in a more environmentally sustainable way, ranging from cleaner production and process-oriented changes to the introduction of an environmental management system (EMS). There is however, a lack of coordinated and subsidised advice to businesses, particularly small businesses, on the range of sustainable business practices available to them. There is also a need for education to reinforce the fact that many businesses can achieve financial gain from very little investment in sustainable practices (often time only). For example, a quick waste stream analysis undertaken to determine what wastes are being generated where in a production process is likely to give rise to alternative cost- and environment efficient practices. In this light, The Natural Step concept (TNS) can be examined as a possible overarching strategy that businesses may apply when developing sustainable business practices. TNS is a framework that provides direction and context for initiatives towards environmentally sustainable business practices. It consists of four scientifically accepted system conditions that are deemed necessary for sustaining the environment?s life support systems. The Natural Step concept originated from a consensus process among Swedish scientists in the 1980s and has since been adopted by many scientists, businesses and local governments throughout Scandinavia, North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Companies that have introduced TNS into their operations include IKEA Furniture, Scandic Hotels, Interface Carpet, Electrolux, and the Collins Pine Company. The Warehouse and Phoenix Foods, a small New Zealand-based company, are currently working towards meeting the TNS four-system conditions. The TNS concept could be used to foster a more coordinated and national approach for New Zealand businesses wanting to move towards sustainable practices, as it allows for a degree of freedom that can be tailored to the requirements of particular industry and business operations to combine profitable business activities and processes with sustainable practices.
Gehrke, T. (2000). Towards the implementation of sustainable business practices in New Zealand organisations: A review of current activities and new trends such as the Natural Step framework (Working Papers No. 1-00). Lower Hutt, New Zealand: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.