Sustainability: From “nice to have” to “must have”

By Daniel Taylor, head of manufacturing, NZTE

A number of industry commentators from around the world have made their manufacturing forecasts for the year ahead, and among the obvious (supply chain disruptions, labour challenges), one that really stood out was the movement of sustainable business practices from “nice to have” to “must have”.  This trend has been noticeable for some time, but it’s interesting to see experts coalescing around this as a key topic for 2022.

Firstly, what does it mean when we talk about sustainability? NZTE’s global practice lead for sustainability describes it as follows:

“Sustainability taking a long-term, intergenerational view. A successful and sustainable business model is one that’s commercially viable, offering a desirable and profitable product or service. It’s future-ready to succeed in an evolving world with rising commodity prices and changing regulations. It also contributes toward a sustainable society and economy that delivers social progress within environmental limits.”

But why does this actually matter? As it turns out, there are a lot of reasons. As consumers become more and more discerning, a genuine commitment to sustainability provides a license to operate, and even sometimes a competitive advantage for manufacturers. This holds true wherever you are in the supply chain, as customers – be they distributors, retailers or end users – reach right back to the source to understand the provenance of their purchases.

Sustainability is also becoming an important employee proposition, particularly in a tight labour market, with workers looking to work for organisations that are not only commercially viable, but doing so in a sustainable way.

There are also cost and regulation imperatives that make sustainable manufacturing the smart option, and here the experts seem to agree that the regulation framework globally is only going to continue to tighten.

And because of the above, there is a solid link between sustainability and profit.  What was previously seen as a cost can now be viewed as an investment for both the short and long-term viability of your business.

While this may be a relatively new area for a number of manufacturing exporters, the good news is there are some simple steps you can take to get started; engage your stakeholders to understand what is most important to them and what will have the most impact, focus your efforts on these areas that will have the biggest material effect, and find the people in your business who are passionate about sustainability and utilise them. I’d also recommend a visit to our free online portal myNZTE – it’s packed with resources to help you on your sustainability journey.

Daniel leads NZTE’s Manufacturing Export Customers team. He has held roles as trade commissioner in Europe and Australia, and NZTE private secretary to the Minister for Economic Development. Before joining NZTE, Daniel was operations manager at Global Fruits. 

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Xpress Engineer NZ, NZ Engineering News or the parent company, Hayley Media.