Environment important for New Zealand’s consumers

Almost three-quarters of New Zealand shoppers claim would walk away from a product if they did not approve of its manufacturer's environmental performance.

A poll of 3,000 people conducted over a six month period showed that seven out of ten thought a company’s environmental record would have a big impact on whether they would buy its products.

But, as with other surveys of this kind, the News Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development’s the poll also highlighted a gap between intention and information, with 36% of respondents convinced that the country’s companies are generally very environmentally responsible, while 39% thought they are not.

In its analysis, the council looks at the positive pointing out that many of those who say they would buy the product even if they disagreed with a company’s ethics would do so because they feel they do not have a choice and are potential customers for a business which can offer them a greener alternative.

“They stay with these companies because they see no ethical alternative, their families or children like the products and they feel powerless to affect company behaviour,” said Peter Neilson, chief executive of the council.

“What that shows up is a tremendous opportunity for companies and New Zealand to take market share – by engaging in sustainable practices – and riding a major ‘green wave’.

“This is why it’s critical we get the right policy detail in place as the Government fleshes out its sustainable development policies. The aim is not only to improve the quality of life here, but also overseas.

“It’s a solid way to combat possible new technical barriers to trade, like the food miles argument which is not evidence based.

“Already some in Europe are talking about the ‘obscenity’ of importing from New Zealand and are embarking of blatantly protectionist paths. The French Prime Minister last year asked the European Union to investigate imposing new border taxes on countries which have not put a price on emissions or carbon.

“Environmentalism used to be seen as only just a cost on business. Now it’s the biggest opportunity in 30 years if we handle it correctly.”

Sam Bond

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