Biodiversity Initiative a New Zealand First

Biodiversity Initiative with Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

Profile Group, parent company to APL Window Solutions, proprietor of the Altherm, First and Vantage brands, is the first Kiwi company to back a scheme that helps regenerate native forests and wildlife.

The concept of carbon offsetting is all about trying to create something positive to make up for something negative. But in New Zealand, the carbon market has created a perverse incentive to plant pine trees, rather than natives.

These manufactured forests are often biodiversity deserts, with none of the fruit, seeds, or nectar that our species need. But a New Zealand first biodiversity and conservation initiative is helping to incentivise more native and riparian planting, ecology protection and sustainable land management.

We have already taken a number of major steps to reduce and offset our own carbon emissions and are on a mission to gain Toitū net carbonzero accreditation. But we took a big step in a more sustainable direction in 2021 by agreeing to become the first participant in an innovative new biodiversity credit scheme.

Keeping it local

The market was launched by New Zealand carbon management and certification company, Ekos with the aim of raising funds for conservation management through the sale of biodiversity units. Profile Group’s purchase of these biodiversity units provides Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari in the South Waikato with the financial resources required to look after an 83 hectare block until 2025.

The reserve is a 3,363ha forested ecological island with a 47km-long predator-proof fence and, previously, the organisation struggled to raise enough funds to meet its annual operating budget. Now it is able to raise additional funds from businesses that want to embed biodiversity into their value chains.

Early adopter

Mikayla Plaw, Executive Director of Organisational Development and Sustainability at Profile Group, said that they were delighted to be an early adopter in this new biodiversity market. “This is a fantastic way for us to deliver on our business responsibility and environmental impact reduction goals as well as supporting a truly meaningful local project,” she said.

The biodiversity arrangement is Profile Group’s second initiative in environmental offset schemes and follows Profile Group’s recent move towards carbon-zero status through acquisition of renewable energy certificates from Kawatiri Energy which generates power from the Lake Rochfort hydroelectricity scheme near Westport. Profile Group purchased the renewable energy attributes of Lake Rochfort's 4.2 MW generating capacity in an annually renewable agreement.

Market-based conservation financing

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari CEO, Phil Lyons, said that the organisation had to fundraise every year to reach its annual operating budget, focusing on visitor revenue through education programmes and ecotourism, philanthropy, community grant funding, and corporate, local and central government partnerships. “Now we have an opportunity to raise funds in a market environment from businesses that want to embed biodiversity into their value chains,” Lyons said.

Ekos founder and CEO, Dr Sean Weaver, said he developed the market-based conservation financing mechanism to unlock a new source of private sector money for conservation. “The delivery of the UN sustainable development goals will require US$6.9 trillion in investment annually. It is a mathematical and financial certainty that there is not enough money in philanthropy and taxpayers’ pockets to meet this funding challenge,” Weaver said. A practical and robust structure for market transactions in this space was needed, and the deal with Profile Group was an encouraging proof of concept.

“This conservation financing programme does not put a price on nature. It puts a price on the human labour and technology cost to look after nature,” he said.

Mikayla Plaw said that the ability to purchase biodiversity conservation outcomes off the shelf through a transparent funding instrument was a compact and convenient option for Profile Group in its drive to lighten the company’s environmental footprint. “We are proud to be involved and see this as a long-term arrangement,” she said.