Z’s mission to ‘redefine what good looks like’

Sustainability September 5, 2022

Z Energy - Community & Sustainability Framework

As New Zealand moves collectively towards a more productive, sustainable and inclusive economy, there has never been a more important time to truly understand what community and sustainability really mean for our people and Aotearoa New Zealand as a whole.

While the two fields were once approached as separate beings, the intrinsic interconnectedness of community, nature, and climate dictate that they’re not mutually exclusive.

Z’s new 2030 Community and Sustainability Strategy deliberately marries the two topics together, providing a clear pathway for how Z can achieve meaningful social and environmental outcomes in areas that are most relevant to our business, and the communities in which we live and operate in.


Global issues, local perspectives

Our newly appointed Head of Sustainability and Community Abbie Bull is acutely aware of just how intertwined support for the community is with support for the natural world. That’s why Z’s new Strategy deliberately focuses on generating greater positive impact for social and environmental outcomes, by focusing more deliberately on biodiversity outcomes and more strategic social and environmental impact.

An environmental planner with a background in biodiversity, Abbie is keenly aware of the very real challenges facing the world right now. Across the globe countries are facing significant challenges to protect and preserve our natural environment, and New Zealand is not exempt from this issue.

Following the release of both the final advice of the Climate Change Commission and the new Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2020 - Te Mana o te Taiao, there is widespread acknowledgement that collective action from Government, businesses, not-for-profit organisations, and individuals alike is urgently needed to tackle biodiversity challenges.

“There is no doubt in my mind that in order to overcome the multiple crisis that we face as business and as societies that we have to be more strategic and more impactful in our actions”.

As a key player in NZInc, the Strategy shows Z’s commitment to playing its part in driving collective action. Abbie is determined that Z’s forward-thinking sustainability measures are “authentic and meaningful.”


Taking a Stand

“From the moment I started here I found a real commitment to how we can have a more positive impact on New Zealand’s communities and environment. This is reflected in Z’s stands, which are aimed at changing the game in Aotearoa for the better and realising extraordinary means going beyond that of conventional voluntary action,” says Abbie.

“We didn’t want to be constrained by existing frameworks or ‘the way we’ve always done it, or the way other corporates approach it’ if they didn’t make sense from an environmental perspective. So doing the right thing has sometimes meant being open to change and taking risks.”

Abbie explains that the Strategy provides a framework for us to deliver against three strategic goals: to empower communities, to restore nature and wellbeing, and to take a leadership position in the transition to a low carbon future. It also allows Z to constantly challenge their level of ambition and redefine what good looks like in this space in the years to come. 

She points to Z’s Stands on community and sustainability:

“We stand for a resilient and healthy Aotearoa that empowers our youth, neighbourhoods, and Z whānau and we stand for an environmentally sustainable New Zealand that is an example to the rest of the work and an inspiration to Kiwis.”

“It’s about understanding the impacts we create, directly and indirectly, taking ownership of those, and then doing something meaningful about it. This includes enrolling others in positive action, whether through partnerships or increased awareness, providing a clear line of sight between actions and the aspirational vision we share. The Strategy is a chance for us to clearly define the outcomes we are trying to achieve through our business activities and with our philanthropic giving, measuring our impact and making informed choices to constantly improve that impact.” 

Abbie adds that all this can also be applied both as practical measures, but also as a spiritual or cultural framework centered on wellbeing. Valuable insights can be gained when exploring this concept in the context of mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori.

“There is in increasing body of literature exploring the connection between human wellbeing and the wellbeing of nature,” says Abbie. “Learning from te ao Māori and recognising the importance of mātauranga Māori gives us unique opportunities to deepen our understanding of the connection between people and the environment.”


Delivering meaningful impact

Abbie has looked to companies here and abroad for best practice examples of what community philanthropy and a sustainable business could look like.

She urges every single one of us to ask, "how can we do the most good, even if it means taking risks and embracing bold change?”

“This is about redefining what good looks like,” says Abbie. “It’s not just about what we give, it’s how we give and enabling community organisations to do their best work.”

Z’s long running and hugely successful Good in the Hood programme, where local community groups have benefitted almost $8 million, is now in its 10th year

“With every dollar you spend philanthropically, you need to make sure it achieves a positive outcome and delivers a meaningful impact,” she says.

The Strategy also outlines Z’s commitment to a low carbon future, which at its core is about being relevant to the daily lives of New Zealanders now and into the low emissions future, aiming to meet our customers wherever they are along the way with real options to solve what matters for them along their own sustainability journey.  

With support from Chief Executive Mike Bennetts, Abbie has been able to encourage those around her to think differently about how Z achieves its sustainability goals.

“Nature is an important part of our lives in Aotearoa New Zealand. We have been entrusted with unique and special biodiversity, with many of the species living here found nowhere else in the world,” adds Abbie.

“We all have an obligation to protect our natural environment for the benefit of future generations, and by acting now and working together to tackle the challenges that threaten biodiversity, change can happen.” 

Abbie also emphasises Z’s continuing commitment to Aotearoa and its people. For us, this means showing a meaningful plan of action against our commitments of being ‘for New Zealand’ and delivering against what we stand for as a company.

“Z always has and always will do our best by New Zealand.”