Richard Pearce

Richard Pearce reports on new accounting efforts underway in New Zealand

New Zealand Businesses for Social Responsibility (BSR) was set up in 1998 by Hubbard Foods Ltd which gave considerable financial support, totalling $NZ60,000 in the first two years. Since then, there has been a steady increase in membership, now numbering 180 companies.

One BSR focus, encompassing many elements of social responsibility, is triple bottom line reporting–reporting on company performance under three headings – financial, social and environmental. Or as CEO Dick Hubbard describes it, “People, Planet and Profits”.

The first such annual report on Hubbard Foods has recently been published. In his CEO statement, Dick Hubbard writes that the report wasn’t easy to produce: “It’s hard to be honest and self-critical in a public way, it’s easy to highlight your successes but hard to highlight your failures and your areas for improvement.” On the impact of global warming, the report concludes that Hubbard Foods needs to have 150 hectares of native forest to act as a carbon sink.

Another objective of Hubbard Foods is to provide as much employment as possible, in particular to the long-term unemployed. Over the last year over half the new employees have come from the employment service, Work and Income New Zealand.

With Hubbard-like thoroughness, a fourth bottom line has been added to the report – Influencing – which reflects the commitment Hubbard Foods puts into being a good role model and actively advancing the practices of socially responsible business.

In this section, Dick Hubbard also identifies some of the dilemmas facing the company. One is the conflict between the desire to provide as much employment as possible and the desire of those already employed to have what they see as adequate remuneration. In early 2000, the trade union indicated that they were not happy with the balance being struck. The report indicates that Hubbard Foods expects that over the next few years the manning rates will tend to drop which will enable wages to rise.

BSR is currently producing guidelines for triple bottom line reporting for small to medium enterprises. They are also writing a guide on how to be a sustainable company.

BSR is working with two other like-minded organisations, The Auckland Environmental Business Network (AEBN) and the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD).

The AEBN focuses on small to medium businesses and encourages them to incorporate environmental concerns. Businesses that start doing that will be better prepared as legislation in this area gets tougher. AEBN run seminars and programs like Green Fleet that trains companies how to use less fuel – or to offset emissions through planting trees. The Green Office Guide gives information on how to make your office more environmentally friendly – some points are quite obvious such as the use of energy efficient bulbs.

The BCSD involves large New Zealand businesses, including Hubbard Foods, who pay $NZ10,000 to NZ$20,000 for membership by invitation. They are strongly linked to the World Business Council with about 160 member companies – most of them multinationals who pay more. Because it is so well resourced it can do substantial research projects. It is linked around the world with about 40 regional partner organisations like BCSD.

The vision of the BCSD is essentially to provide business leadership as a catalyst for change towards sustainable development – to promote eco-efficiency. Eco-efficiency encompasses a double win –for the bottom line and for the environment.

I asked the Operations Manager of the BCSD how they saw the Kyoto agreement. They are undertaking a joint project with the Ministry of Economic Development and in that are working with BCSD members including Hubbards, representing food manufacturing, Care Research who stand to gain through consulting and research services, BP New Zealand, Meridian Energy and Milburn Cement who have massive emissions. Clearly the double win is not available all the time.

CIB IN BRIEF

Caux Initiatives for Business (CIB) encourages business leaders, young professionals, NGO representatives, trade unionists, experts and decision makers to work together to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of values - in personal conduct and in economic life.

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