3R Group Chief Executive Adele Rose.

By Adele Rose, 3R Group Chief Executive

Working in sustainability can be frustrating sometimes. The problems can look too big, too embedded, changes take too long.

But then again, we’re an optimistic lot – tough and resilient, with an eye on what could be, where the opportunities lie and how, with a good nudge, we could make the changes that will take us down a better path. Get a group of us in the same room and the energy and excitement for how business can lead us to this better future is palpable. 

Sadly, the ‘nudge’ isn’t quite what any of us had in mind – a global pandemic. The scale of the human toll is undeniable, both from the effects of the virus itself and the consequent economic impact.

Yet it’s heartening to hear thought leaders, in many spheres and from around the globe, now considering how we can best use the changes forced upon us and new economic stimulus packages to create a better world. Like us, they envision building a more sustainable, equitable and resilient economy and society. Not in 5 or 10 years’ time, but now.

At 3R we’ve long imagined a different future – a future without waste, inclusive and sustainable, where social and environmental outcomes are equally as important as profit.

So, what does a 3R future look like? It’s a little something like this:

New Zealand economic, social and environmental policies are shaped around a circular economy. Economic growth is no longer king. We’ve decoupled growth from the low waged economy. Our focus is on maximising impact across social, environmental and economic bottom lines.

Product stewardship, where producers and consumers take responsibility for what they produce and consume, is no longer an ideal that a number of standout companies have voluntarily adopted, but BAU. Manufacturers look to maximise our collective resources through effective design, collaborative resource recovery and circular systems.

Natural capital and social wellbeing are factored in at every point. Our economy and our supply chains are resilient. Our products are highly valued by export markets for their sustainability. 

People and business thrive. Papatūānuku breathes easy.

We face many of the same challenges in this time as everyone else but our resolve, commitment and excitement for the new world that awaits us keep us going. If anything, we see this time as shining a light on the vulnerabilities of current economic systems and global supply chains, which combined with a necessarily domestic outlook for now, may create lasting change.

We’re all for that change. We’ve been working toward it since we started in 2004. Change can be challenging to effect, but what this time has shown us is that we can unite to solve big challenges, find the positives and care for one another as we do it. We can break down our mission into bite size chunks and work together on the policies and practices that will protect us and put us in the best shape to face the future.

Let’s not allow the environment to be our next COVID-19. Unlike this pandemic, the changes we envision will protect it for our future, and enable our businesses, economy and people to flourish in harmony with it.

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, ēngari, he toa taki tini.

Our strength is not from ourselves alone but from us all together.