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How companies are stepping up to help Kiwis be more sustainable

To create a cleaner, greener, more sustainable New Zealand, we all need to play our part. And companies are stepping up to help Kiwis make change – here’s how.

While New Zealand has some ground to make up in the sustainability space, many organisations and businesses are already seizing the initiative and making a difference.

When it comes to responding to the environmental, social and economic challenges we're facing, one company leading the charge is Countdown.

Serving almost three million customers every week and employing one of the nation's biggest workforces, the supermarket chain takes its corporate responsibilities extremely seriously.

Central to its blueprint for the future is a sustainability strategy featuring 20 ambitious goals to be achieved by 2020; commitments which fall into the categories of people, the planet and prosperity.

All are aligned with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and together they demonstrate Countdown's determination to minimise the environ-mental impact of their operations, while having a positive effect on staff and local communities.

The commitments range from improving the recyclability of their packaging, to reducing the entire company's carbon emissions, as well as encompassing everything from ensuring there is no gender wage gap in their organisation, to investing profit back into community partnerships and programmes.

Kiri Hannifin, Countdown's general manager corporate affairs, says this focus on sustainability is both about acting responsibly and responding to customer demand.

"We believe New Zealanders really want sustainability in all things," she explains. "Not just in the environment, but also with social responsibility.

Countdown's initiatives make it easy for customers to also jump on board and do the right thing.

Banning plastic bags

By the end of 2018 Countdown will no longer be offering single-use plastic carrier bags. Embrace the change by using reusable bags now.

Reducing and recycling

Countdown was a founding member of the Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme, which enables customers to head into stores to recycle items like bread, frozen food and cereal bags. And don't forget you can now recycle Countdown meat trays since the supermarket made the move from black foam packaging to the new clear trays.

Embracing imperfect products

In 2017 Countdown launched The Odd Bunch, a scheme which collaborates with farmers to sell imperfect fruit and vegetables. In purchasing this produce you are helping prevent around 500 tonnes of edible food go to waste.

Helping the community

Countdown has a number of partners it works with to address critical social need. In particular, its Food Rescue Programme donates around $5.8 million worth of food to farmers and charities each year; something customers can also get on board with using the purple donation bins in-store.

Kiri is keen to point out these initiatives are just the start of Countdown's move towards a more sustainable future.

"We've got lots more to do and this is just part of our journey," she explains, pointing to the organisation's work to combat climate change, which has already led to a 9% drop in their carbon emissions between 2016 and 2017.

"We're really ambitious and committed to exploring what else we can do as a retailer and as a country to better protect our environment and communities for future generations."