Post-Covid-19, businesses have been focussed on the bare necessities: research1 shows 59% describe themselves as "surviving". But as the recovery continues, there’s a growing group of small and medium enterprises (SMEs – businesses with fewer than 100 staff) that say they made changes to the way they worked during the pandemic, and plan to stick with the changes.

EECA's new Gen Less campaign, "Say no to business as usual", is about giving businesses the tools they need to take the adaptability and innovation they’ve shown in the face of a huge health challenge, and do exactly the same for our greatest environmental challenge.

EECA's GM Marketing and Communications Jo Bye said, "Businesses are focusing on efficiency, which isn’t surprising. Their most pressing concerns are reducing costs and retaining customers. Our research shows that, inevitably, climate action has been pushed further down the list. But climate action shouldn't be discounted as 'just another thing to consider', it could actually be the opportunity to save even more money and operate more effectively – while also reducing your impact on the planet.

"What we've all seen in the last year is that smaller businesses have had to face big challenges and many have quickly adapted and reacted to their operating environments. Taking a similar initiative on the climate action front could help businesses save money while lowering their carbon footprint – and make themselves even more attractive to customers."

EECA's research found that reducing cost and retaining customers are top priorities for 74% and 73% of businesses, respectively. The focus on improving efficiency has also made a huge leap – 48%, up from 37% in the previous quarter.

But climate change is seen as a very important issue by just 42% of businesses, as many think New Zealand is too small to have a global impact. Just 12% report having sought out information on climate actions for businesses in the last quarter.

And given that SMEs make up 97% of all New Zealand businesses and the Business sector is responsible for 40% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions, they're hugely important for contributing to New Zealand's zero-carbon goals. But 70% them don't know where to go for information.

EECA's Gen Less website(external link) hosts advice, case studies, and tools (including the new co-created Climate Action Toolbox(external link)) to show smaller businesses across every sector what they can do to tackle their carbon footprint, Bye says. “For many years, EECA has been working with Aotearoa’s largest energy users and emitters to lower their energy use and switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy for their industrial processes. We've also supported many businesses transitioning their fleets towards electrification. There's a lot of knowledge that we've gleaned from participating in a variety of innovative projects and it's important to share those insights and guidance for organisations of all sizes to help them on their journey. And that's why we're kicking off our Gen Less 'Say no to business-as-usual' campaign this week to raise awareness where this information exists.”

Bye says, "Gen Less is about the power of collective action. One person, or one small local business will not have enough of an impact by themselves, but add them up and you very quickly see a real effect. The reality is, New Zealand is on a net-zero pathway, customers demand to see businesses doing their part, and costs are rising. It makes good business sense to change with the times, rather than having the times force change on you.

"Small businesses proved their agility and adaptability through COVID – the climate emergency is no less pressing, and we think the business community can show real leadership here."

Learn about the campaign at link)

1EECA/TRA Business Monitor, Oct-Dec 2020