I was at a dinner party a few years back that really stuck with me. Not mainly because I was the oldest in the room by a good ten years, but because the shared theme around climate change and conservation overpowered one individual’s firm belief there “wasn’t a problem”.
It was one of those awkward moments where out of the twenty-odd guests, one decided to raise his voice, make a commanding point that we were all wrong, only to be completely ignored for the rest of the evening. Awkward.
But, this was inspiring to me. I saw firsthand that our younger generation, for the most part, have taken it upon themselves to embody values that could help our planet. Jump forward a few years and we all saw this amplified in the millions when Greta Thurnburg led an inspiring, global movement.
We’re not there yet though. As businesses continue to adopt a sustainability promise, many do so while also continuing to use environmentally damaging products. For example, being vegetarian, I see a lot of “clean, green and good for the planet promises” to then turn over the package and see “contains palm oil” or the packaging not being recyclable. (If you too have been to Borneo like me, we’ll share a deep hatred for palm oil and it’s damage to rainforests habitats).
It’s hard to see people living up to their green values here in New Zealand (which has traditionally been seen as a green country). Often, you can see rows of cars in their thousands heading into the city only occupied by one person. Public transportation is bad where we used to live – there is one bus route into the city and tens of thousands heading in daily. But, the region claims to be committed to sustainable development – go figure.
Head north of my current location and you’ll come to a small beach called Papakanui Spit. It’s here that vast crowds of tourists and locals come to soak the sun while one of the world’s rarest birds tries desperately to survive. The fairy tern’s population is calculated at 36. It’s largest threats are domestic and feral cats. For an Island of birds, you’d think we’d be taking this a little more seriously than we are eh?
For all the negatives, there are plenty of positives
The government recently announced a climate emergency, energy companies that are carbon-zero-certified are cheaper than traditional suppliers (check out Ecotricity), there are large businesses getting rid of unsustainable partnerships from overseas, and even local transport is moving green.
Like many others, I decided to put my money where my mouth is. I became a vegetarian out of a commitment to poor animal farming – I know not all farming is bad, but it’s not regulated adequately enough to be sure. I will eat freshly caught/hunted and prepared meat…the ol fashion way.
I also questioned travel arrangements, moved my home, and got a shared office to reduce emissions of any kind. Bushman Tours is now a 100% paperless business. We only recruit guides that will tour in their current regions, reducing travel.
For every bit of rubbish one of our customers finds, collects and disposes of during a tour, we’ll give them money back on their bookings as a thank you. We have a five and ten year sustainability promise that will see us send thousands of dollars back to climate change initiatives (regardless of when the borders decide to open).
We’re so committed to this, we signed documentation held by Government Agencies to confirm we will keep to this commitment. Then, Qualmark audited us to prove that.
We recently committed to the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Program, a commitment that is audited, strategised and maintained in quarterly, yearly and multi-year segments. Essentially, we’re telling our customers, Bushmen and our tourism bodies that we’re committed to prove our sustainability, forever.
If you too are looking at committing to this and keen on putting your money where your mouth is, here is an example of our fourteen commitments we’re embodying.
Our 14 Commitments
In line with what is required by Sustainable Tourism NZ, we’ve embedded these commitments into our organisation:
1. Sustainable Businesses: We’ve got our eyes set on long-term financial performances to support the overall economy, not just a glitch during COVID.
2. Capital Investment: BT will invest capital to grow, and improve quality and productivity for our Visitors and the regions we operate.
3. Productivity: We will remain innovative and have effective strategies to mitigate the effects of seasonality or a crisis.
4. Visitor Satisfaction: We’re big on customer satisfaction monitoring, evaluation and reporting ensuring an exceptional experience, every time.
5. Product and Market Development: We will innovate to improve or upgrade our offering to enhance visitor experience, maintaining an updated offering. (Just check out the website for proof on that).
6. Visitor Engagement: We take much pride in educating our visitors about New Zealand’s cultural and behavioural expectations. Pakeha are privileged to borrow this land, respect is key.
7. Sustainable Employment: We aim to pay a fair wage to all staff while ensuring our Bushmen’s fees are competitive and fair.
8. Quality Employment: We support our workforce to flourish and succeed while enjoying what they do. (You gotta love your job!)
9. Community Engagement: We will continue to actively engage with the communities in which we operate ensuring local is at the forefront of what we do.
10. Sustainable Supply Chains: We will only commit to partners or resources that prove socially and environmentally sustainable supply chains and fair trade – we research and interview every, single, one.
11. Ecological Restoration: We will support ecological restoration initiatives both financially and by providing resources back to operators.
12. Carbon Reduction: We will continue to have carbon reduction programmes towards carbon neutrality and have designed a decade long plan to maintain this.
13. Waste Management: Our business will have waste reduction and management programmes for everyone across the country, helping to educate and keep inline with our plans.
14. Education: We actively engage with our visitors and communities on the importance of restoring, protecting and enhancing Aotearoa’s natural environment. Education is key.
I believe this is all necessary. If you question sustainability practices and climate change, you’re becoming the odd one out at dinner parties, and no one wants that.