Spearheading corporate sustainability

Spearheading Business Sustainability

Carolyn Cox, Green Business HQ

Starting your own business demands passion, and it helps immensely if it’s connected to purpose. Eight years ago, Carolyn Cox transitioned from working for large organisations to founding her own successful operation, Green Business HQ. Today, she stands out as a visionary entrepreneur making a big impact from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, driving the implementation of sustainable business practices in New Zealand.

Following her passion

Woman wearing white blouse riding bike with basket
Carolyn Cox, Green Business HQ

Carolyn kick-started her new mission as an environmental entrepreneur (ecopreneur) when she left her previous job as Unitec’s sustainability manager. Her early work in this field during the early 2000s ignited her passion for helping businesses implement immediate change, a process she found empowering. “It was great: you would approach a company and they would enact change after just one meeting.”

This fuelled her drive to establish Green Business HQ, but it involved a process of learning and growth. To navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship, Carolyn tapped into support systems such as the Regional Business Partners programme, which provided expertise in areas where she was lacking.

Passion and practicality

The road was not without its speed bumps. By late 2019, Green Business HQ had grown substantially, and Carolyn was on the verge of expanding her team, when the lockdowns due to Covid-19 quickly curtailed demand and the ability to scale. More recently, with the support and guidance of her mentor, Carolyn found the confidence to persevere, eventually hiring a part-time team member.

Carolyn also had to balance her passion for sustainability with the financial viability of her business. “In the beginning, I said ‘yes’ too readily; I took on loss-leading projects driven solely by my commitment to sustainability,” she admits. With experience, Carolyn grew more selective, and learned to approach projects in ways that were both economically and environmentally sustainable.

Carolyn notes the many benefits of embedding sustainable business practices into business. As well as helping the environment, building a positive business reputation, and ensuring market access there are often cost savings. Sustainability is also now a core component in the corporate bottom line, helping to improve image and attract talent:

“Many young people don’t want to join an unsustainable business. They’d rather work for someone who makes them feel good about their journey.”

Success stories

Green Business HQ’s success stories illustrate the power of the circular economy and sustainable business practices. One of Carolyn’s favourite examples is Flash Clinic, a dental practice. “The clinic reduced waste to landfill by an impressive 87 per cent by doing things like eliminating the use of rinse cups.” Green Business HQ not only helped the clinic achieve these results but also helped present their results to a dental association event, advocating for industry-wide change.

Another inspiring story involves Mitre 10, the home improvement retailer. With Green Business HQ’s guidance, Mitre 10 implemented a sustainability charter, and developed sustainable product and packaging guidelines. This has resulted in initiatives such as plastic pot and polystyrene recycling, as well as supplier sustainability. “They also realised they needed to have someone internal doing this work, so they created a role for sustainability,” Carolyn says. “That’s a big win!”

Find your support network

Not content with a business-by-business approach, Carolyn has addressed some of the challenges faced by women pursuing sustainability careers, particularly the limited entry-level opportunities. She set up the Women of Sustainability business network and emphasises the importance of seeking mentorship and leveraging networks. “It’s important that women feel they can ask for help. There is a lot of internalised pressure to ‘figure it out yourself’ but so many people are there to help you.”

To those keen to work in sustainability, Carolyn notes the importance of research, and not just desktop research. “Talk to the people in the system; you need to understand the internal operations and how they fit in with sustainability initiatives locally and globally before you make changes. There’s so much information out there on sustainability, and it can get confusing so providing clear guidance is crucial for businesses.”

Carolyn’s journey with Green Business HQ is a testament to the power of entrepreneurship in creating a sustainable future. Her passion for making a difference is as strong as ever, driven by the urgent need for change.

To learn more about sustainable business, check out Green Business HQ.