Thank you so much for inviting David and me here tonight. We are enthusiastic supporters of the Sustainable Business Network and its kaupapa, and we’re delighted to be here.
Nine days ago, when we hosted the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at Government House, I was pleased to tell him that we in Aotearoa New Zealand are achieving real momentum in our efforts to address issues that are close to his heart – sustainability and conservation.
I was able to tell him that business, the public sector, academia, iwi and community groups are working together to halt and reverse degradation of our environment, to address water and soil quality, to protect our biodiversity, and to reduce waste and pollution.
New Zealanders have realised that no one group can do this on their own, and to bring about real and lasting change, we all have to be working towards the same ends.
I noted that with our comparatively small population, we have been able to be nimble and responsive to challenges in the past, and that there is great optimism that we can make the changes needed to make a sustainable and prosperous country for future generations of New Zealanders.
It’s particularly pleasing to see this sensibility and commitment to action being embraced across sectors, across the political divides, and across our country. The recent passage of the Zero Carbon Bill through Parliament, with broad cross-party support, is further evidence of that growing consensus.
I think we will all agree that sustainability is now mainstream – and that there has been a discernible mind-shift since your first awards 17 years ago.
The concepts of manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga – of being careful and caring custodians of the planet – are widely embraced across Aotearoa New Zealand, and we have a much deeper appreciation of our interdependence with the natural world and with each other.
Earlier this year I hosted a meeting of the Aotearoa Circle at Government House. It was so heartening to see government agencies, scientists, NGOs, and the business sector coming together to initiate workplans of action to improve the wellbeing of our environment, our flora and fauna.
The mood for positive action was summed up by a speaker from a major corporate when he said ‘Failure is not an option’.
Your 600 members are part of that same drive for positive results. In learning how to make their businesses more sustainable, they are supporting their communities and becoming committed kaitiaki of the environment.
Your network is giving people the tools they need to make changes in the way they operate and in their products, and opportunities to learn from other people’s successes. That means the impact of the network is exponential – and we will all benefit from the results – with a healthier environment, better products and a prosperous business sector.
And in working towards a more sustainable Aotearoa/New Zealand, we are meeting our obligations as global citizens to meet the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.
My hope is that the Sustainable Business Network’s awards will inspire still more New Zealand businesses to become involved, keep evolving, and operate in ways that will benefit them and garner public support and approval.
As your members develop innovative ways of tackling old and evolving problems, the impact of their work will ripple out into our communities, and into the wider world.
My sincere thanks to everyone involved with the Sustainable Business Network for the incredibly important work that you are doing.
And congratulations to all the finalists here tonight and thank you for your dedication and commitment.
I wish you every success in your efforts – and encourage you to spread the word – because we want everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand to be guided by the ethos and spirit of this whakatauki:
Manaaki whenua, manaaki tangata, haere whakamua
Care for the land, care for the people, go forward.