Over the coming weeks, The Chamber of Commerce is sitting down with each of the major award winners from the recent Westpac Waikato Business Awards to find out what they did to stand out from the crowd. This weeks “Winners Insights” is with Taryn Storey, head of strategy and customer engagement at the NZ National Fieldays Society, winners of the 2020 Social & Environmental Sustainability award sponsored by Wintec.
Corporate social responsibility is no longer simply a series of buzzwords that businesses spout in the hopes of garnering positive publicity. Instead, it’s a feasible and necessary component of a business strategy. Consumers are becoming increasingly more socially conscious of their actions and the impact they have and expect their favourite brands to follow suit.
It was a pleasure to see one of the Waikato’s long-standing organisations – the NZ National Fieldays Society (NZNFS) – lead by example with a robust and innovative sustainability plan. This led to them taking out the Social and Environmental Sustainability Award at the 2020 Westpac Waikato Business Awards. Taryn Storey, head of strategy and customer engagement at NZNFS, says innovation is a main driver for an organisation that has cultivated a culture which proves sustainability and profitable business practices can coexist.
Sustainability can be hard to define at the best of times and when it is further separated into what is socially sustainable and what is environmentally sustainable it can get even harder. For NZNFS, they are aware that every action they take has both positive and negative impacts on both people (employees, attendees, exhibitors and stakeholders) and the environment. Taryn says that by identifying and measuring these impacts they can then be managed.
“This is a critical part of the process and when done right, it can create new business partnerships, sources of innovation, employee engagement and productivity increases, the community becomes more involved and much more. It is simple to say and much harder to do, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.”
The 2019 Fieldays was the most sustainable physical event to date with NZNFS recording a standardised carbon footprint of 31kgs per person – its lowest ever. NZNFS also reduced the amount of waste sent to landfills by 10,285kgs and saved 445,000 litres of water in comparison to 2018’s event.
This dedication to its sustainability practices has seen NZNFS become certified by the Instep Sustainable Event Programme. This means they follow the international standard ISO 20210 employed by high profile global events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. This international accreditation has placed NZNFS as a leading voice in New Zealand sustainability alongside its status as a leader in the agriculture industry.
“We have to set an example for the country and help our audience as much as we can,” says Taryn.
“A sustainable agribusiness sector not only has to produce sufficient food to meet demand, both now and in the future, but must also produce food with regard to the environment. It also needs generate sufficient return so growers can support the lifestyle they and their next generations require.
“The ‘weight of the world’ is literally on farmers shoulders and getting it right is crucial.”
Richard Ferdinands, operations manager, has been the driving force for sustainability at NZNFS, but Taryn says the entire organisation is aware that it is a challenge that requires a team effort. That is why the sustainable culture at NZNFS is the difference between them and their competitors.
“As NZNFS has played a larger and larger role in sustainability, the passion of our people has attracted more passionate people which has created the culture and a team of people that want to make a difference.
“It is a culture that we try to instil throughout everything we do, a culture that needs to be actively cultivated in a collaborative way. We are grateful to have some very passionate people who are committed to making a difference.”
Some key components of sustainability are thinking ahead, planning for the future, being innovative, and embracing new technologies. NZNFS embodies this ethos and aims to build on its current systems whilst being open to integrating the latest technology and concepts into its arsenal of sustainable strategies.
The challenges of 2020 saw NZNFS adapt rapidly to the Covid-19 health restrictions in order to continue on with the event and achieved this by hosting the event virtually. This allowed guests to connect with exhibitors in a safe way, enjoying the elements of Fieldays without the health risks. Virtual events have risen in demand and popularity over the past year and Taryn believes that integrating this aspect alongside the traditional Fieldays model is a viable strategy.
“A hybrid of in-person and virtual events will enable us to cater for a wider audience, enable participation from further afield, and naturally reduce our carbon footprint. However, there is an unmatched value in connecting and learning in-person that has an intrinsic sustainability we wish to support.”
NZNFS is also dedicated to fighting species loss, a global problem that is currently almost 1000 times greater than historical rates. Species loss leads to a reduction in both genetic diversity and the health of our ecosystems.
To address this issue, NZNFS have implemented a ‘Predator Free’ programme on their 114-hectare Mystery Creek property and have recently established a Predator Free Community Hub. As a community hub, NZNFS trains and supports their neighbours so they can administer their own backyard traps.
“Biodiversity is the basis of agriculture. Its maintenance is essential to produce food and other agriculture goods and the benefits these provide humanity, including food security, nutrition, and livelihoods,” says Taryn.
“This site and surrounding sites are home to the critically endangered long-tail bat that is being pushed out of Hamilton due to expansion, as well as native birds, lizards, and long-finned eels. We want to ensure our precious native fauna is still around for future generations of New Zealanders.”