Valuable lessons from Germany trip

21 August 2013

Ruth Venter Measuring carbon footprint: Ruth Venter at the Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting in Amsterdam.

It’s a matter of time before New Zealand organisations begin producing annual reports on their carbon footprints and sustainability, a University of Waikato masters student says.

Carbon footprint reporting

A three and a half month internship in Germany with not-for-profit organisation CBM – which works with people with disabilities in developing countries – has shown Waikato Management School student Ruth Venter what’s happening around sustainability reporting and measuring the carbon footprint of organisations in Europe.

“In the UK, carbon reporting is mandatory for NGOs,” she says.

“Everyone is mandating carbon and sustainability reporting. In Germany they are really on to it.”

Developing a reporting system

Ruth spent her time with CBM developing a system for the organisation to measure and report the carbon footprint of the organisation and to develop a policy around that which could be used at their offices around the world.

“That was initial idea,” she says.

“But I came up with a user friendly Excel system that could calculate the carbon footprint for anywhere. They were quite stoked with that, three years work in three and a half months.”

She says air travel, electricity use and staff commuting proved to be the biggest factors for the organisation.

“I gave them the resource, it’s up to them how they implement it,” she says.

She will use the internship as a case study for her masters thesis, looking at carbon use in NGOs.

Global Reporting initiative conference

While in Germany, Ruth also got to attend the Global Reporting Initiative conference in Amsterdam, where she learned about the guidelines for sustainability reporting.

“I also built up a lot of contacts which were helpful for my work at CBM,” she says.

She says while organisations carry out integrated reporting in New Zealand, it is likely they will need to upskill to effectively report carbon use and sustainability measures.

CBM board member Helen Green says the value of internships was the fresh eyes and enthusiasm they bring to an organisation.

They take part in a concise programme of work “that is essential for the long term well being of a company, but that gets set aside in the busy-ness of the day to day work.”