The problem: Firms are coming under more pressure from stakeholders to show credible and executable plans to eliminate greenhouse gases.
Why it matters: Decarbonization efforts aren’t keeping pace with climate-related risks.
The solution: Align and incentivize the board, management, and talent to build sustainability into manufacturing processes and business models together.
It wasn’t a stroke of genius. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was a solution so practical and obvious as to be overlooked. But it took a frontline worker on the ground every day to think of it.
That’s how David Benattar, the chief sustainability officer of New Zealand’s largest retailer, The Warehouse Group, describes the company’s partnership with Tech-Collect NZ to launch free e-waste collection services at some of its stores. The group includes Noel Leeming, the country’s leading retailer for technology and appliances, and Warehouse Stationary stores. Why not make it easier for them to bring in their old phones, laptops, tablets, and other electronics for recycling?
Given The Warehouse Group’s massive scale in New Zealand, joining forces with the Tech-Collect NZ has made a significant difference in both the company and the country’s sustainability efforts. The Warehouse Group has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions in its operations by 2040, and reduce its scope 3 emissions by 80% in the same period. New Zealand as a country has committed to net zero by 2050. Reuse and recycling of products and materials can make a significant contribution to net-zero —the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates it can help reduce emissions by 45%—by avoiding the extraction, production and transportation emissions associated with virgin materials.
The program, first trialed in partnership with The Warehouse Group in 2021, has expanded to 28 Noel Leeming and five Warehouse Stationary stores across New Zealand, collecting and recycling more than 183 tonnes of e-waste. “For leaders, sustainability can be conceptual,” says Benattar. “It’s the people on the ground that are making it tangible.”
But for many companies, the transition from theory to reality isn’t happening fast enough—not just for our planet, but also for employees, customers, investors, regulators, and other stakeholders. Mark Lancelott, a Korn Ferry senior client partner specializing in sustainability solutions, says it’s no longer enough for companies to announce when they hope to reach net-zero carbon emissions, which is when greenhouses gases emitted are offset by those taken out of the atmosphere. “The days of setting a date and getting kudos are over,” he says. “Now the emphasis is on implementation and showing that your plan is credible and executable.”