Wednesday, 29 August 2018 08:55

Committed to a low emissions economy

Written by  Greg Campbell, chief executive of Ravensdown
Greg Campbell says everyone wants to say they tried to leave the planet in better shape. Greg Campbell says everyone wants to say they tried to leave the planet in better shape.

When 60 heads of large New Zealand companies recently committed to a transition to a low emissions economy, some environmentalists were wary.

While many were prepared to take these leaders at their word, they rightly said they were keen to see evidence of the commitment. 

That position is understandable: these companies are responsible for at least 50% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the companies’ voluntary initiative, some may think the commercial world is slow to turn around. 

It’s not for lack of desire; everyone wants to be able to say they tried to leave the planet in better shape. That is why I was one of the signatory chief executives, representing Ravensdown. 

Our company has varied effects on the environment so we’re considering every facet of our operation and the impact of farming practice, as well as emissions. We’re getting bolder and more innovative in the practices and technologies.

Good intentions and the capability to make a difference are not enough. Scrutiny and ongoing transparency are expected and welcome. 

In order to ‘control the things we can control’ and get our house in order, we need to calculate our footprint first. The first step is transparency and accuracy about the many moving parts in our business which make up our footprint. We operate three manufacturing plants, seven lime quarries, 85 stores, a joint shipping venture and spreading aircraft and trucks. 

The first attempt at this assessment clearly identifies the shipping of minerals, rocks and fertiliser products as contributing to at least 75% of our carbon emissions. 

As part of our integrated reporting we have just publicly stated that everything linked to our operation, including international shipping, had a carbon emission footprint of 154,407 tonnes CO2. 

Because New Zealand suffers from the ‘tyranny of distance’, the footprints of manufacturers are greatly affected by the fossil fuels used by ships. So we’re pleased that the UN’s International Maritime Organisation has agreed to cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050. This is important because shipping in total worldwide is reckoned to be the world’s sixth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide – roughly the same as Germany. 

Autonomous ships and fuel cell technologies are beyond Ravensdown’s control but we can control our manufacturing and distribution. We estimate that these emit 31,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, including fuel for transport NZ-wide and for drying ag lime to make it suitable for soil. 

We have started identifying what could and should be done to cut carbon emissions, an important non-financial metric.  We are discovering many things we can and will try to reduce our environmental impact. 

For example, making superphosphate results in heat generation, and our plants generate electricity for their processes and for the national grid.  So we are looking at how to reduce emissions and boost efficiency of that generation.  

We intend to be upfront, reporting on progress or shortcomings, aiming ultimately to ensure that people who now expect more from business leaders are not disappointed.   

• Greg Campbell is chief executive of Ravensdown

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