Trump on sustainabiliity

November 15, 2018

​If you thought New Zealand was immune to the policies of the new U.S. President, Donald Trump, you are sadly mistaken. For better or worse, Trump's Contract with the American Voter, outlining his 100 day action plan to Make America Great Again will be felt across New Zealand, by our local businesses. ​

Other rhetoric during his campaign would also indicate that businesses engaged in health care or the environmental sectors and, low income people who need government support, will not fare so well.

On economic sustainability

Economic sustainability is the ability to support a defined level of economic production indefinitely.

In June of this year, Moody’s predicted 3.5 million job losses if Trump was elected. With higher unemployment, house prices would fall and the stock market would plummet, weakening the U.S. economy.

The U.S. is New Zealand’s third largest export market. Between January 2016 to September 2016 the value of New Zealand goods sold to the US stood at $2.6 billion. A weakened US economy will negatively impact the amount of goods (such as meat, diary and wine) we sell to them.

This would not be in our interests, given that we rely heavily on trade. A negative impact to our exports would negatively impact our ability as a country to grow.

On social sustainability

Social sustainability includes aspects such as ensuring basic human rights, labour rights and community development.

Trump has indicated investing a much needed $1t into their transport infrastructure. This would, however, come at the cost of funding for non-public schools and tax deductions for childcare and eldercare.

Getting rid of 'Obama-care' was one of Trump’s main campaign promises. The public have already seen the impact of their votes, with their health insurance premiums sky-rocketing on average 25 percent next year. The elimination of subsidies which made healthcare affordable for so many could cause up to 20 million people to lose their insurance over the next couple of years.

To cover their costs healthcare providers would look to other sources such as fees from private healthcare providers and drug manufacturers, and these costs would be passed on to us, as consumers, to cover.

On environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability is the rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely.

If you recall in 2009 Trump’s view that climate change was a problem requiring urgent action, you’ll be sorely disappointed with his campaign when he called climate change a hoax, threatened to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, committed to easing restrictions on drilling and mining on federal lands, and promised to push for oil pipelines and other controversial energy infrastructure.

The impact on New Zealand is the global impact — the loss of momentum to lower emissions and the acceleration of sea rise, extreme weather events and loss of habitat.

Globally, popular opinion is increasing demand for companies to switch from fossil fuels. Tesla is showing the way to an electric future that delivers cars which are faster, at $0.30 per litre to charge are cheaper to run and have reduced emissions.

Here in New Zealand, there is little we can do about the climate change policies of the US — except for leadership by example. We do not have the funds to invest in sustainability on a global scale, but we do have many New Zealand companies working towards a more sustainable future.

Companies want sustainability

As many companies are discovering one of the biggest drivers of their future success lies in their ability to develop and implement sustainable practices.

Even before that, businesses such as Air New Zealand and Z Energy had recognised that their long-term viability would depend upon their ability to better account for the environmental impact associated with their use of fossil fuels, carbon emissions and waste.

Continued attention by companies such as these, to these sustainable practices is helping to keep some of the barriers to a more sustainable future in check.

Employees want sustainability

The long-term success of companies also lies with the thinking of their current employees and the next generation of employees.

Numerous surveys around the world indicate younger employees are more willing to work for companies with strong performance in sustainable practices, at the cost of lower salaries.

The same surveys also suggest companies with poor sustainability performance will suffer through an inability to attract top-end talent, as well as through demands for higher salaries from employees who are willing to work them when compared to their more sustainable competitors.

Consumers want sustainability

A related factor, which may help to stem the degradation of economic, social and environmental sustainability under Trump, is consumer demand. There is growing demand from consumers around the world that businesses produce products and services in a sustainable manner that might address personal health and wellness, social fairness and inclusion, economic stability, ethical production, and/or the protection of natural resources and the environment.

These consumers are supporting their statements with their willingness to pay more for goods and services that are being produced with sustainability concerns in mind. Approximately 66% of global consumers surveyed in Nielsen’s October 2015 “The Sustainability Imperative” report that they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, up from 50% in 2013.

We are lucky to live in one of (if not the) best places in the world, and our politicians do care about social issues as well as driving business.

And Trump doesn’t take office until January, so any potential policy changes are still a little while off.

Assurance that investments can be aligned with values.