Sustainable Business Award winners lead the way in protecting people and planet

The Sustainable Business Network (SBN) has announced the winners of the 20th Sustainable Business Awards at an annual ceremony this evening.

The urgency of sustainability issues has never been more pressing. This was highlighted by the UN Climate Conference (COP27) taking place earlier this month, against a backdrop of extreme weather events, an energy crisis and scientific data reiterating the world is not doing enough to tackle carbon emissions and protect the future of our planet.

SBN has been at the forefront of networking and advocacy to help businesses become more environmentally friendly since it was founded 20 years ago. It runs the annual Sustainable Business Awards to recognise the country’s leading business sustainability heroes.

Karma Drinks is the winner of the Supreme Transforming Aotearoa New Zealand Award for 2022.

The local organic drink manufacturer first won the Social Impactor category, before taking the top prize ahead of the other two finalists – Ecotricity and McCain NZ’s Timaru Plant.

Karma Drinks was born from an idea on Piha Beach, where three friends first thought of forming a company to make ‘Karma Cola’ out of ingredients that were good for the land, good for the growers and good for consumers.

To hold themselves accountable to their mission to produce the world’s most ethical soft drink, they established The Karma Foundation. 1% of revenue from every Karma Drink goes to the cola nut growers and communities in Sierra Leone. The foundation guarantees the funds raised help drive economic and social independence.

Since 2012, more than 43 million Karma Drinks have been sold. This has enabled three bridges to be built, 135 girls sent to school and eight teachers funded, enabling education for a further 614 children in three newly build classrooms. The company has also supported farmers to revive forest farms and provided seed funding for 33 local entrepreneurs. These repaid loans have been distributed to 26 new entrepreneurs. Three villages have set up rice and groundnut seed banks, three more have rice mills, one has a guesthouse and four have new community meeting spaces.

The judges commented that “sustainability IS Karma Drinks’ core business” and the company has “a genuine depth of integrity and sincerity throughout operations.”

They noted the company exemplifies what a ‘value chain’ can be – creating real social value for communities and environmental value for the earth, all the while creating a valuable product. It was acknowledged for its kaupapa of ‘delivering trade, not aid’.

A finalist for the supreme award and winner of the Communicating for Impact category is Ecotricity. Since January 2022, this company has been on a mission to educate Kiwis about Electric Vehicles (EVs). Staff test drive every EV that comes into Aotearoa New Zealand and provide video reviews and information on the company’s dedicated YouTube channel. This helps buyers make informed decisions and removes any fear about the switch to EVs.

Also a finalist for the supreme award and winner of the Climate Action Leader category is food manufacturer, McCain NZ’s Timaru Plant. Since 2020 McCain has undertaken new initiatives and innovative technologies to reduce energy use to identify ways the company could be more energy efficient and use less carbon. The company has carried out heat recovery and boiler conversion projects which have resulted in a carbon reduction of 34,517 tonnes.

Rachel Brown ONZM, Sustainable Business Network CEO and Founder, said, “Given the last two years and the uncertain times we are in, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the sustainability achievements of organisations and individuals. The issues facing our planet are now at crisis level.

“All the finalists deserve a massive round of applause for continuing with this vital work, particularly in the face of future uncertainty.

“Collectively, the nine winners are leading the way and it was great to see such diversity of action among them – including impact from organisations focusing on local issues as well as the outstanding work of purpose-led Karma Drinks, which are now recognised as a leader on the global stage. Amongst this variety were the common threads of action on climate change and a focus on sustainability throughout the chain. Congratulations to them all!”

Insurance company NZI is the Principal Partner in the awards. Executive GM, Garry Taylor said, “our latest Wild Weather Tracker reveals 69% of New Zealanders are concerned about the impacts of climate change, but only 40% have taken action to prepare in the past six months.

“The role businesses play in minimising impacts and driving change becomes more critical every year.

“All our winners and finalists are perfect examples of the change we need to see in our communities to contribute to a more sustainable New Zealand, and they should be incredibly proud of their efforts.”

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