Greener Northern Rivers businesses

NORCO Co-operative Ltd is one of a dozen businesses on the Northern Rivers that has signed up to a program to help business tackle sustainability challenges and increase profits.

The first phase of the Sustainability Advantage Program - an initiative of the NSW Department of Environment, Conservation and Climate Change - is under way.

Katrina Luckie is executive director of the Northern Rivers Regional Development Board, which is co-ordinating the program in this region.

“We've just started phase one, which is diagnostics - sitting down with businesses and working out what they need to look at first to start making changes to the way they operate,” she said.

The second phase is internal development and action.

Other organisations to join the Sustainability Advantage Program include Brookfarm, Summerland Credit Union, Lismore City Council, Lismore Workers Club, Feros Care, Cawarra Cosmetics, MultiTask, Sunshine Sugar, Southern Cross University and the Byron Bay Cookie Company.

Ms Luckie said the aim of Sustainability Advantage was to help companies understand what sustainability meant for them, to accelerate the preparation and introduction of environmental strategies and to target future initiatives to manage resources more efficiently and collaborate with stakeholders.

Norco chief executive Murray Richardson said that like many businesses with foundations in the rural industry and a growing portfolio, Norco was facing unprecedented challenges.

“Taking action on sustainability is not just a token gesture for us, it's a critical issue for long-term viability and we are committing considerable resources to finding solutions and making improvements right throughout our supply chain,” he said.

Norco joined Sustainability Advantage to help put in place strong internal processes and shape specific projects, in which both dairy farmers and employees would be involved.

Preparing for the introduction of an emissions trading scheme was also on the company's agenda, Mr Richardson said.

Norco strategic development manager Graham Correy said the co-operative had an important leadership role to play. Part of its vision was for the Northern Rivers to be seen across Australia as leading the way on environmental change and sustainability.

He said to start, Norco would make a full analysis of its carbon footprint with the aim of reducing emissions and had appointed a person to establish on-farm environmental performance initiatives with milk suppliers.

“Our Green Team is a new idea too. It is made up of employees and some of our dairy farmer suppliers, who will design and champion projects and help with implementation in the workplace, farm and home,” Mr Correy added.

Last Thursday and Friday, staff and one dairy farmer and supplier, Kath Robb, attended a sustainability seminar at Djanbung Gardens in Nimbin to put the program in place and begin to make changes.

Mr Correy said everyone was enthusiastic about the Sustainability Advantage Program. The group had already come up with a slogan: “To go fast, travel alone; to go far, travel together.”

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