Let’s talk environmental impact

If you’re launching into sustainable waters, make sure you have a clear plan and goal, including a means to measure the impact of all of your activities.

Impact. A simple word with big meaning, particularly when it comes to sustainability.

As the head of the country’s official ecolabel, I’ve had the opportunity to share the success our licensees have had in reducing their environmental impact by committing to the Environmental Choice New Zealand (ECNZ) ecolabel.

From my six years of experience, I’ve come to believe there are no shortcuts to sustainability – it’s hard but rewarding work with benefits for everyone to reap.

When starting a sustainability journey it’s often difficult to see the wood for the trees especially when the going gets tough.

As the focus of this edition is sustainability, I’d suggest that focusing on the end result is a great way to stay on track – so keep your eye on the prize.

With this in mind, I was thrilled to get confirmation of the powerful environmental effect of ecolabels recently. ECNZ took part in an international study to measure the impact of ecolabels.

Carried out by the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), the research found that by using ECNZ-verified sanitary, paint and cleaning products, consumers can significantly reduce their environmental impact and annual emissions.

As the official and only Type I ecolabel in New Zealand, ECNZ puts its licensed products and services through a rigorous verification process before giving them the seal of approval.

Products and services that carry the ECNZ label have been verified by independent auditors and have met the most stringent environmental standards across their whole life-cycle.

The GEN study revealed that using ECNZ-labelled toilet paper saved an estimated 21,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2018.

To put that into perspective, that’s equivalent to the weight of Auckland’s Sky Tower. Similarly, by using hand-dishwashing detergent with the ECNZ ecolabel, kiwis may have avoided exposure to more than 75,000 litres of the most persistent undesirable substances.

That’s a total of approximately 37,500 2L bottles of these substances that are not ending up in our waterways because of ECNZ verification.

The study also showed that consumers who used ECNZ-licensed paint may have helped save around 3000 tonnes of pollutants being emitted to air last year when compared to other locally manufactured paints.

These are just three examples; virtually every ecolabelled product (or service) has a similar tale to tell. Investment in the ecolabel and the specification and standards underlying it has a definite payback in the sustainability and environment ledger.

Have you got sustainability goals for your business? Considering the impact of your organisation’s actions on the environment and community are key to staying connected with them.

The results from the Measuring the Impact of Ecolabel study were not only a big coup for the ECNZ ecolabel, but a strong stepping-stone for ongoing investment in our specifications. For example, a growing conversation we’re having is around the ethical impact of our licensed products and services. Definitely food for thought.

So if you’re launching into sustainable waters, make sure you have a clear plan and goal, including a means to measure the impact of all of your activities. Most importantly, don’t forget to celebrate and share all your sustainable wins – both small and big!

Francesca Lipscombe is the general manager of the New Zealand Ecolabelling Trust which administers the Environmental Choice New Zealand ecolabel on behalf of the New Zealand Government

This first appeared in the November issue of INCLEAN NZ magazine 

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