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Our sustainability policy

What do we mean by a sustainability policy?

Sustainability is a characteristic of an organisation’s activities that relates to their impacts  on the social, cultural, economic and environmental elements valued by groups in society. Activities may be assessed on a scale between sustainable and unsustainable, just as people’s behaviours can be considered on a scale between healthy and unhealthy.

A sustainability policy states the commitments made by the organisation in those areas that are considered important (material) by internal and external stakeholders. This policy sets out our commitment to sustainability in our core business and relationships.

In Manaaki Whenua our overall commitment to sustainability is reflected in our name and values – Manaaki Whenua, Manaaki Tangata, which signifies the inextricable link between the two.

The scope of our policy

Our scope includes the activities of Manaaki Whenua and our staff in the course of their work; our relationships with investors, clients, partners and suppliers; and the impact we achieve now and into the future through our work and partnerships.

Through this policy we commit to compliance with legislative requirements in our research and corporate activities and to continuous improvement under our compliance with the ISO14001 and other relevant standards.

The global context

By law, our work as a Crown Research Institute is focused on benefit to New Zealand, but the challenges we work on are globally relevant. We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for characterising those challenges, to help us better understand our role in the global context, and as a framework for our sustainability policy.


We engaged 18 internal and 14 external stakeholders to advise us on the materiality (greatest importance) of the SDGs for our organisation. 13 SDGs were identified out of the total of 17 SDGs. One (Life under water) was removed as being largely out of scope for our science; but one relevant target in Life Under Water (the impact of land-use on water quality) was added to our commitment under Life on Land. The materiality process recognised these resulting 12 goals would be delivered primarily by our science or by our culture and ways of working. Our process of stakeholder engagement has been assessed as meeting the requirements of the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard, and the guidance of the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System framework

Our strategy

Our 5-year strategic plan (Strategy-22) empowers our people to maximise their collective impact towards a set of four Ambitions for New Zealand (Our Biodiversity, Our Biosecurity, Our Land, and Our Environment) while focusing on three pillars: Our Culture, Our Ways of Working, and Our Science.

Strategy-22 provides a framework for delivering against the material SDGs (in numerical order) as follows:

  1. Our four Ambitions delivered through our science:
    • SDGs 2 (zero hunger), 6 (clean water & sanitation), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 13 (climate action), 15 (life on land), 16 (peace, justice & strong institutions).
  2. Our three Strategy-22 pillars:
    • Our Culture: SDGs 3 (good health & well-being), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work & economic growth), 10 (reduced inequalities).
    • Our Ways of Working: SDGs 12 (responsible production & consumption), 17 (partnerships for the goals).
    • Our Science for Impact: SDGs as for Our Ambitions, delivered through our pathway to impact with a focus on innovation, excellence, integration, value, and public engagement.

Our commitment to working with Māori

Through our commitment to the principles of the Tiriti o Waitangi we seek partnership, participation and active protection of Māori interests in all of our work summarised below.

Our commitments to achieving the 12 most relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals

In this section we provide the wording of the UN SDGs and our corresponding commitment, to be delivered through our science or our culture and ways of working.

Aligned with our four Ambitions and delivered through our science:

  • SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

    We will:  Support the development of food production systems that enhance soil, land, water and ecosystem services, and build climate change adaptation, working especially with indigenous peoples.

  • SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

    We will: Guide efforts to improve freshwater quality, enhance water-use efficiency, protect and restore water-based ecosystem services, and support integrated catchment-based governance and management

  • SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

    We will: Support development of integrated policies and planning that enhance resource-use efficiency, ecosystem services, climate change mitigation and adaptation, resilience to natural disasters, and inclusive governance processes, while decoupling waste from growth.

  • SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and impacts.

    We will: Empower organisations, sectors and the nation to measure, manage and mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions; understand climate risk and increase their resilience; and develop policies and plans that integrate social, economic, cultural and environmental dimensions.

  • SDG 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

    We will: Empower stakeholders to: conserve, restore and protect land-based ecosystems, soils and their services; reverse the decline of indigenous biodiversity and natural habitats; reduce the impact of invasive species; develop sustainable use of land resources; and develop equitable policies through partnership.

  • SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

    We will: In achieving Our Ambitions, support the development of responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making and governance by our stakeholders and the Treaty Partner.

Aligned with Strategy-22 pillars and delivered through our culture and our ways of working:

  • SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

    We will: Empower our people to commit themselves 100% to health, safety and wellbeing while executing our own responsibilities as their employer.

  • SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

    We will: Ensure gender equity in participation, leadership opportunities, conditions and reward in all aspects of our work, using enabling technologies where appropriate.

  • SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

    We will: Achieve sustainable economic performance that supports innovation, entrepreneurship, job creation, staff development, fulfilling roles and advancement opportunities with fair remuneration.

  • SDG 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.

    We will: Enhance the inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status and sustain income growth for our lower earners.

  • SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

    We will: Measure and manage our own consumption and outputs to sustain and restore natural resources, reduce waste and emissions and foster a circular bio-economy, while through our procurement and services encourage other to adopt sustainable practices.

  • SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

    We will: Partner nationally and globally to build capacity, enhance knowledge-and data-sharing and access to science and technology, and enhance the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.