Role of NZ sustainability professionals

12 Jun, 2020
Sustainability block cover

A ground-breaking report launched in collaboration with Oxygen Consulting, the Sustainable Business Network (SBN), the Sustainable Business Council (SBC) and Auckland University of Technology (AUT), provides in-depth insights into the rapidly evolving roles of sustainability professionals within New Zealand organisations.

Sarah Holden, Director of Oxygen Consulting, said, “We undertook this research to help grow and support the sustainability profession, from the pathway to employment, to the skills and competencies organisations are now looking for within the profession.”

Over the last twenty years, sustainability has moved from a grass roots movement to organisations having a fiscal responsibility for it. This means there is a growing number of dedicated sustainability roles, as well as more students seeking out these roles, and learning institutes increasingly integrating sustainability into academic pathways – which the AUT Business School has extensively incorporated into their undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

“It’s great to see sustainability formally recognised as a profession of choice,” said Rachel Brown, CEO of SBN. “We know millennials are desperately keen to be a part of a more regenerative future – and this report shows them how.”

The research, which surveyed 130 New Zealand sustainability professionals, was undertaken in February and March 2020. ‘Sustainability’ includes responsibilities that address the social, environmental and economic risks to the organisation. Participants included those in full-time, part-time, or contractual positions within public, private and not for profit sectors.

Marjo Lips-Wiersma, Professor of Ethics and Sustainability Leadership, commented on how their research partners stated the value of utilising the AUT ethics process, which the team was guided through by Peter McGhee, Senior Lecturer – Management.

“Our expertise was also particularly helpful in framing the survey questions. We had previously undertaken international qualitative research interviewing sustainability officers and hence knew what mattered to them. Given the significant interest in the findings, we aim to regularly repeat the research.”

“I really valued the academic lens AUT brought to this research and the opportunity to take us through a robust ethics process, ensuring we respected the participants and their contribution appropriately.  As this is a piece of foundation research, it was great to be able to collaborate with AUT and provide a solid basis for future iterations.” said Sarah.

“I hope that it will be useful for AUT in shaping pathways for students seeking out sustainability careers and in growing such business/university research collaborations in future. “

"Working together with Oxygen Consulting, SBN and SBC is a great opportunity for AUT to support organisations that put sustainability at the heart of their business.” said Marjo.

“This report very effectively combines practical and research expertise, and these findings are important in shaping AUT's current and future sustainability learning and teaching."

The report has been gaining good traction, with nearly 1000 interactions through downloads and the live webinar presentation of findings. You can read the full report here and watch the webinar here.

BEL_Marjo Lips

Read more about Marjolein Lips-Wiersma

BEL_Peter McGhee

Read more about Peter McGhee

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