The corporate raiders—talking circular economics

We need to move away from the take, make, throw system, says Hannah Blumhardt, a senior associate in Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Institute for Governance and Policy Studies. “The idea of a circular economy is how we can meet people’s needs… in such a way that the economic system doesn’t produce waste or pollution.”

Dr Sarah-Jane O’Connor, from the University’s Centre for Science in Society, sits down with Hannah and Dr Ben Walker (Ngati Raukawa), a lecturer of organisational behaviour within the School of Management to discuss how a circular economy could learn from mātauranga Māori, and how it might impact our views on management, the environment, and our future.

“Every year without fail, issues related to waste or plastic pollution are in the top ten issues that concern New Zealanders. The linear way of doing things is so normalised that I think we don’t question it, or almost it’s like we believe that wastefulness is inevitable,” says Hannah. In this episode of our podcast series, we ask what we can do to change this.

An estimated 17.49 million tonnes of waste is produced each year in New Zealand, of which 12.59 million tonnes ends up in landfill. The Government has already made small changes to how New Zealanders cause waste pollution, for example, banning single-use plastic bags in 2019.

But Hannah says, “I would like to see less emphasis on businesses needing to change and more emphasis on government showing some leadership and recalibrating the rules of the game.”

Dr Walker explains how the circular economy way of thinking can contribute to how those managing businesses will operate in the future, and how in Māori culture many of the ideas that create a circular economy are already happening: “making the most of resources and not wasting things.” He explains that tikanga Māori calls for a multi-dimensional approach, taking the environment and the community into consideration.

“I am trying to get the next generation of business managers to think about the objectives of their businesses in different ways. They don’t all necessarily have to come back to the financial bottom line, there are other bottom lines that consider environmental impact,” he says.

“For instance, the quadruple bottom line gets at the idea that businesses shouldn’t only be judged on their financial performance, but also on their social, cultural, and environmental impact.”

Hannah and Dr Walker agree they would like to see the Government place a baseline requirement on businesses to implement regulations contributing to environmental impact. “We need to move on to a position where being sustainable isn’t either a competitive advantage or disadvantage—we need to make it easier,” says Hannah.

Listen to Dr Ben Walker and Hannah Blumhardt discuss this in Episode four of our sustainability podcast series.