Academic warns: Soon it will be ‘just in time to be too late’

Few organisations are equipped to respond to the challenge of reducing their emissions when the new Zero Carbon Bill becomes law, says a carbon and energy management specialist who is helping the country’s largest organisations build capacity by training a new breed of managers for the changes ahead.

Norman Smith, an academic/consultant hybrid, has for 25 years been developing and delivering post-graduate level capacity building programmes for all sectors of the New Zealand economy and Government.

A principal problem, he says, is senior executives do not yet understand the need to re-structure to achieve the trifecta of benefits awaiting;

• increased productivity/performance

• reducing their carbon footprint

• saving (lots of) money by saving energy

“They are staying with organisational silos which separate strategic/corporate objectives for sustainability from operational goals involving operational/energy use activities.

“This fails to realise the game has changed – forever – and these activities must become integrated in order to deliver overarching decarbonisation targets.”

As a result, there is invariably an internal disconnect and conflict between managers occupying head office based ‘staff’ roles but with no authority and budget and others in positions with the ability to effect change but no mandate to develop strategic initiatives.

“It’s going to get worse as pressure builds to ‘walk the talk’, not just measure their footprint but do something about it.

“The people employed to lead these programmes will come from a wide variety of backgrounds and will be up-skilled leaders – perhaps engineers, perhaps not – with diverse backgrounds. Their intrapreneurship and soft skills of internal advocacy and building internal coalitions will be critical to success.”

Once the Zero Carbon Bill becomes law it’s likely, he says, that the Government will lift its own game; right now while hospitals and universities are building capacity and developing carbon reduction programmes, larger departments appear to be slower off the mark.

Local government on the other hand was investing in staff training on the Carbon:Energy course delivered through the Energy Management Association, as were larger companies such as Fonterra, Oji Fibres, Winstone and Downers. (

He says overseas deep retrofits had proven many times the potential to cost effectively reduce energy costs by well over 50% – not just the 15% New Zealand companies generally settled for – while delivering productivity, decarbonisation and many other benefits which went straight to the bottom line.