1 Aug 2023


by Jenny Barrett

Ōtautahi Christchurch

The venue, the agency, and the AV company

Whilst sustainability is on everyone’s radar, for some it sits in the too hard basket, and for others it remains on the list of things to do. With many cities across New Zealand committing to net zero emissions, Ōtautahi Christchurch recently announced that it will be delivering a comprehensive Business Events Sustainability Framework this year. ChristchurchNZ, the local economic development agency, is encouraging the events sector to do its bit to help achieve the city’s target to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2045. We talk to three Christchurch companies involved in the entertainment industry who have already initiated their own sustainability journeys and believe that every business can play a part.


The Venue:

Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre

Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre

Te Pae Christchurch’s first step on its sustainability journey was to get an accurate benchmark of operations to find out where they were at and what they needed to do, with a focus on achieving net carbon zero operations. General Manager Ross Steele explains, “The goal is then to bring clients and suppliers along on the journey and look at ways to work with them to minimise the impact of the events we host, something we are well supported in with Ōtautahi Christchurch’s own commitment to reaching net zero emissions.”


When looking for partners to assist the Centre in its journey to carbon zero, Toitū Envirocare was the obvious choice for Ross, “Toitū has been an invaluable part of our journey to date. The guidance and support they have provided us since 2020 in their capacity as New Zealand’s strongest environmental programme has set us up well to take this next step. The fact that their programmes take a science- based approach also gives us the confidence to aim high and set big goals in this area.”

Toitū is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, a Government- owned Crown Research Institute. Though developed for New Zealand business needs, Toitū Envirocare’ offerings currently serve over 800 clients worldwide. A team of scientists and business experts, they offer a system of robust environmental programmes that are internationally recognised. They provide the science-based tools to measure and recommend actions and capture the evidence businesses need to make real progress.

Toitū Envirocare have supported Te Pae Christchurch to draft the agreement to commit to reduce its environmental footprint and work towards being a certified Toitū net carbon zero organisation, and to measure their progress to date. The Centre has achieved gold level accreditation from both Toitū Enviromark and Qualmark’s Sustainable Tourism Business Awards and was the recipient of the Exceptional Achievement in Environmental Management Award in the 2022 Toitū Brighter Future Awards.

For Ross such external acknowledgements are an important part of bringing the whole team on the sustainability journey with you; “Sustainability is a key operational pillar for us and an area that our leadership team is genuinely very passionate about. It is our people who actually ‘do’ sustainability; the implementation, the monitoring, and all the hard work. These awards are wonderful recognition for our team’s commitment in this area.”

Food waste becomes soil

However it is also about the little things. Ross and his team were just as delighted to partner with the Canterbury Community Garden Association (CCGA), the Just Dirt Trust and City Care in the distribution of soil food created by the Centre’s onsite dehydrator.

Provided by Sustainably, the dehydrator has the capacity to process 200 kilograms of food waste a day and works by heating the Centre’s excess food (food that is unsuitable to be donated to Foodbank Canterbury) to a set temperature over nine hours, reducing the food to a soil-like consistency which is rich in nutrients, “It’s fantastic to see weekly pickups of soil food underway and to hear about the benefits local gardeners are finding as they use the soil food.”

The Events Consultancy:

RAD Agency

RAD Agency’s Mille Taylor and Kate Radcliffe-Reid

RAD Agency is the result of a fortuitous partnership between environmental scientist Mille Taylor and event organiser Kate Radcliffe- Reid, borne of Kate organising Millie’s wedding, “I realised that I was focused solely on the success of the event and the enjoyment of the participants, not on the impact that the event was having on the environment. Millie asked all these questions of the venue, hire company and caterer that I would never have considered. I knew then that there was a need for Millie’s expertise within the wider events sector.”

RAD Agency offers an alternative to larger accreditation programmes for businesses or events looking to establish their sustainability objectives. Millie and Kate partner with SMEs and event organisers offering practical advice on how to minimise their carbon footprint, be it within the company itself or in the service it provides; “Many smaller companies think it is just about recycling or reducing waste, but sustainability is much broader than that.

We can measure a business or an event’s environmental impact and calculate how much they can mitigate, be that through logistics or the event plan, hiring rather than purchasing, supporting local businesses, or by offsetting carbon through tree planting. We focus on how they can make a genuine difference, making suggestions that they then have the option to implement. We find that our clients are immediately starting work on 70 to 80% of our recommendations and are often surprised to see how much they are saving economically too.”

There is currently a lot of interest in RAD Agency’s work in the corporate space, not surprisingly in the holistic health and well- being sector, “We are working with two companies who are looking to reduce the impact on the environment of their functions; we’re also coordinating the events for Earthweek; offering sustainability advice to event organisers through ChristchurchNZ, and we have won a scholarship from the social enterprise ‘Business but Better’ which has led not only to a mentorship from Brianne West, CEO of Ethique but also coordination of her speaking tour.”

Kate’s real passion though is the entertainment sector; “I love providing relatable, educational support to festivals, concert organisers and those in the corporate events industry, not bogging them down in paperwork but making it easy for them to make a real difference and to simply be ‘good humans’.”

The AV Company:



Craig Whitnall, CEO of the longstanding event technology, production and integration company Shipleys, believes business has no choice but to start now, “The phrase ‘climate crisis’ rather than ‘climate change’ is very apt. With the predicted rise in sea levels and the impact we are having on water cycles we are irreparably changing our entire planets ecosystem, not just for our children’s children but for our whole human family and all creatures on this earth. The delicate equilibrium formed over millions of years is being severely disrupted as we head towards the planet’s sixth major extinction event, with some predictions saying we could lose half of all animal species on earth in the next eight decades.”

Craig knows his stuff and how bleak the future could be, but he has not given up on humanity yet, “We need to help people to conceptualise what the future will look like if we don’t all do something and also provide guidance and support to enable others to make a difference.” For Craig that education and empowerment can come from government, agencies and consultancies but also crucially from small business, “There are over 700,000 registered companies in New Zealand, even if what you’re doing is small, collectively it matters.”

At Shipleys, Craig’s approach started with the people, “I have spent the last ten years building a team who are conscientious citizens, good people, who have values that align. We talk about sustainability internally and think about what we can do, not only in the long term, but as part of our day to day decision-making.”

As a result, four years ago the office phased in waste management systems. Craig set up recycling bins and waste disposal services for packaging including plastic, rubber, cardboard, and polystyrene; for empty toner cartridges; for scrap metal including cabling; for small projector lamps, tubes and other items containing mercury; and for electronics via Ecotech Services, a local Christchurch company, “We are a technology integrator so we are regularly removing old hardware from clients premises and unpacking new. All those components and the metals on the PCB’s are no longer going into landfill. If every small business did the same and saved even a couple of tonnes of waste each a year, that’s going to make a difference to our environment.”

Next on the list was carbon emissions, “We have considered switching to electric vehicles for a long time now, but the economics still don’t quite stack up for us yet. To purchase vehicles suitable for our workload is quite a significant investment and recovering from Covid, we don’t have a lot of spare capital and need to allocate funds to support our core business before we are able to invest in this area too.”

Craig’s dream is to run a fully EV fleet and take advantage of their north facing office by installing a roof covered in solar panels to provide power to charge the vehicles, “That’s where I want to be, but in the meantime all businesses can start with the simple stuff. Sort your waste, recycle your electronics, swap your warehouse lighting to LED, and investigate electric vehicles.”

Craig takes a philosophical approach to his business decisions, “As the dominant species on this planet we have a responsibility to protect all species, to preserve our ecosystem, to make responsible decisions to minimize the suffering of others and to do all we can to continually improve the quality of life for our human family and all future generations.”

To learn more about Shipley’s sustainability programme visit


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