New research into New Zealand’s sustainability profession has found Kiwi businesses are continuing to invest in and prioritise sustainability by embedding it more broadly across their organisations, but highlights there are challenges ahead.
Oxygen Consulting in collaboration with the Sustainable Business Council (SBC), Sustainable Business Network (SBN) and Auckland University of Technology (AUT) will today launch the
2022 Insights on New Zealand’s Sustainability Professionals.
Director of Oxygen Consulting Sarah Holden says the 2022 findings are to be celebrated as despite the ongoing challenges of a global pandemic, more and more businesses continue to strengthen their investment and resource in sustainability, as well as embed the work more greatly across their businesses.
“This is a major turning point for the sustainability profession. In the past sustainability has often been treated as an add on to organisational strategy, whereas we are now seeing growing maturity in embedding it to core strategy, and broader business roles increasingly having sustainability responsibilities added to them.”
“Coupled with this, we have also found sustainability governance is growing, which is assisting in the prioritisation of sustainability within the organisation and enhancing support for sustainability professionals in their roles. As a result, we are seeing less talk and more action in the sustainability space, as well as sustainability professionals who are engaged, feel empowered and well supported, and feel connected to other business teams in their organisations.”
Sustainable Business Council Executive Director Mike Burrell says the findings are very encouraging as more and more businesses move to put sustainability at the very core of their organisation.
“We know business as usual is no longer an option. We have moved into a new era where fully embedding sustainability into your business strategy is the new business as usual – and it is great to see these results reflect that movement.”
“2022 is a critical year for New Zealand’s sustainability profession with the government set to deliver its first Emissions Reduction Plan and National Adaptation Plan. This research shows there is increasing commitment to embedding sustainability right across organisations and it will be important to see this trend continue as complex issues such as climate change and inequality continue to accelerate and we as a country move to turn our climate ambition into action.”
Challenges for the profession ahead
Despite the encouraging results, the research has also identified challenges ahead that may impact the sector’s ability to effectively address sustainability in the future. This includes future capability and competency needs, as well as a lack of ethnic diversity within the profession.
Sustainable Business Network Chief Executive Rachel Brown says the demand for skills and expertise in this area is only going to continue to grow and diversify.
“The jobs we need in the future are not going to be replicas of the ones we know now. If we are going to meet the level of ambition needed, we need to scale up the capability within all organisations. We also need to build new sets of skills by bringing diverse thinkers into our teams with a common goal. This is a massive redesign and upskilling challenge and the hunt for skilled staff is now global.”
“91% of respondents said there isn’t enough capability in their organisations to address future sustainability topics. So, investing in capability building – across organisations – is a no-brainer. Learning on the job will not give us the skills needed, particularly in areas like designing for a circular economy and regenerating natural systems. The good news is there are a lot of learning opportunities available, but business owners and directors have to be willing to invest in this.”
Auckland University of Technology Professor of Ethics and Sustainability Leadership Marjo Lips-Wiersma says bridging the gap between academic learning and getting one’s first sustainability role is a critical enabler to building capacity.
“In a fast-moving field, organisations benefit from the latest research and applications university learning provides. As the role of a sustainability professional continues to develop, so too do the skills required to meet growing and increasingly complex challenges.”
“There is no shortage of young people who are keen to make a difference through purposeful work that will help drive a sustainable future. It is increasingly important for organisations to work with universities, promote their career options for committed young aspirant sustainability employees and also provide them with internships so their skills can be swiftly utilised.”
Addressing future challenges
A panel of sustainability professionals, including Charles Ehrhart (Chapter Zero Steering Committee Member and Partner of Climate Change, Decarbonisation and Sustainability, KPMG), Claire Waghorn (Sustainable Transition Leader, Christchurch International Airport) and Bella Conyngham (Partnerships Associate at ToitÅ« Taha Centre for Sustainable Finance) will respond to the insights and discuss ideas for addressing future challenges at today’s
Now in its third year, Insights on New Zealand Sustainability Professionals is the only research of its kind in New Zealand. It reveals findings into the role of the sustainability professional, including the capabilities and competencies required, remuneration, job opportunities, and overall wellbeing.
Read the full insights report