Doing green business – a report on the current achievements and future needs of the green industries in the Northern Rivers – was officially launched in Lismore last night. The report was prepared by Regional Development Australia-Northern Rivers (RDA-NR), which undertook the extensive project in 2011 by consulting more than 300 local businesses.
Thomas George MP opened the launch, followed by Walkley award winner Liz Minchin, who was proudly promoting her book, Screw Light Bulbs.
‘This is the first time this information has been gathered,’ said RDA-NR CEO Katrina Luckie. ‘It has provided a great opportunity to learn about the contribution green businesses are making to our economy and for us to better understand what support they need in the future.
‘Green businesses have much in common with other businesses in the region. Many are fairly new and most are quite small, but there are some big players too, who are exporting their services across the country and around the world.’
For a small gathering, the talent was intense! From organic macadamia growers to market gardeners, one could not leave the launch without feeling inspired by our local green industry.
Jeff Parr from Plantstone participated in the study. Plantstone (or phytolith) carbon research is emerging as one of the most exciting new tools to counter global CO2 emissions. It started off as a sidetrack to his PhD. The process of screening plants to determine their ability to store carbon excited local SCU Professor Lee Sullivan and the pair created the business Plantstone.
Jeff explains that a business can still be created out of a naturally occurring process. ‘We have Australian, American and South African patents on the methods of quantifying and then use these methods for the purposes of locking up carbon.’
What nature designed as plants’ armour against insects and pests could potentially hold the key to locking up carbon for years to come. Jeff admitted that the impacts of genetically modified species to this naturally occurring process are not yet conclusive. As with most inventors and innovators, business decisions don’t always take priority, or come naturally. Jeff added, ‘Both Lee and I are scientists, not business people. We would benefit from a business hub… we literally don’t have time.’
The report makes a number of recommendations that green business operators feel will help them to scale up for the challenges ahead. These include: tailored training and support in finance, business management and marketing; more opportunities to network and collaborate with others in the sector; and public education about making better choices for the future.
A common thread in the green industries is the responsibility and accountability the business integrates into their strategic planning.
Klara Marosszeky of Australian Hemp Masonry validated, ‘I currently have a lot of demand for hemp buildings, but not enough supply of the fibre. There have been situations in the past where Queensland farmers destroyed their crops as there was no demand; this needs to be brought into sync. I feel a responsibility if I encourage an industry to develop, not like mining industries!’
The hemp industry has suffered years of misinformation in the media, yet it is profitable and sustainable in other countries. A sustainability educator herself, Klara asked that there be educational support for green industries, particularly clear information about hemp. ‘It has been legal to grow industrial hemp since 2009 and I am hoping that soon the food authorities will confirm the positive findings about hemp as a grain. Although my business interest is in building materials, I am very vocal on behalf of the whole industry.’
The general feel is that the time is right for investment in green industries. This survey has attracted confidence and support from all levels of government. Participants have provided RDA-NR and the economy in general with hope of an alternative to planetary degradation.