A Shire supported Networking Event held at Commonfolk Mornington on 30 March 2023 featuring local businesses Commonfolk, Want a Sparky and Paringa Estate sharing how they kickstarted their sustainability journey along with examples of the practical measures they have implemented to reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint and embrace social responsibility.
The event also gave service providers in this sustainability space an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. Repower Mornington Peninsula, Sustainable Australia Fund and Mornington Peninsula Shire discussed the tools and resources that are available to support businesses who are willing to take that first step.
MC for the night, Ed Cotter from Sustainable Australia Fund, facilitated the evenings panel questions resulting in the shared summaries below:
Sam Keck, Co-Founder of Commonfolk, acknowledged that a common issue for businesses, and something they struggled with themselves, is not knowing where or how to start.
Overall, it’s clear we have several local businesses that are fighting the good fight. The team at Commonfolk, for example, are motivated to “do the right thing” and lead by example through the values of quality, community and a pioneering mindset.
As the business has grown however, they have identified ways to be as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible, such as installing a 35kw solar panel system and two Tesla chargers. Acknowledging that remaining viable is still a key priority for any business, Sam shared that since 2018, they have more than halved their power bill.
Nick Justice from Paringa Estate agreed that switching to a more sustainable form of energy was also one of the first steps for them, particularly as the wine industry can be quite energy hungry.
The winery received support with the Environmental Upgrade Finance (EUF), a loan for businesses to upgrade the energy, water or waste efficiency of their building. This helped the business reduce their costs while taking a big step towards becoming more sustainable. Other sustainable actions include the acquisition of two new electric cars on the property, preventing food waste by feeding food scraps to their chickens and making a conscious effort to support local producers and businesses.
Trent Jones, Director of family owned and locally run electrical business Want a Sparky expressed the benefits of their sustainable initiatives.
The business is at net zero emissions, making more power than they’re consuming and is around $800 in the green when their bills come in. After realising for themselves the good that can come from taking the steps to reduce emissions, they started a company called All Electric Homes to support the local community in getting off gas, decarbonising their homes and saving on bills.
Everyone agreed that sustainability is becoming more important to customers.
Nick assured the audience that in the future of the wine industry, businesses won’t be successful if they can’t prove that they’re a sustainable business. Sam stated that it’s important to be realistic: “keep using your keep cup, that’s great. But also recognise that the biggest impact you can have is going to and supporting businesses who are trying to make these bigger moves”.
The Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Katherine Cooper shared that Council is committed to helping businesses navigate these changes.
She encouraged all businesses to take advantage of the resources that are available on the MP Business website workshops, events, mentoring sessions and business development grants. They can also help facilitate Environmental Upgrade Finance.
Repower Mornington Peninsula is a volunteer organisation committed to an approach they call “community decarbonisation”. Belinda Rodman spoke on behalf of Repower in the opening presentation and reinforced how important it is to work collectively, to talk to each other and share experiences. In an effort to empower people with the knowledge they need to take action, Repower has developed a website that is rich in useful resources and objective, well-researched advice.
Georgette Godbolt from Sustainable Australia Fund spoke on support for businesses in the form of funding, specifically Environmental Upgrade Finance (EUF). EUF is flexible in that it is a low interest, long-term loan that is secured to your commercial property. Repayments are collected through local council rates and up to 100% of your project can be funded, meaning you can be cash flow positive in year one.
Green Moves Australia is an independent advisory service on energy efficiency, carbon reduction and sustainability. Founder Danielle King believes the first step for businesses is to perform an energy audit.
From there, look at what simple efficiencies you can make. For example, turning off unused power sources, adjusting your refrigerator temperature or reviewing the performance of equipment. These small actions add up and make a difference.
Taz Dunton from Dunton Group, Mornington Peninsula’s solar specialists, agreed that an energy audit is a good place to start. He also noted that doing your own research is good, but hearing directly from people who have gone through the process first-hand is always better.
Rohan Dinn from Green Eco Technologies touched on their solution for commercial food waste – a product called WasteMaster that reduces the volume of your food waste by 80% and turns it into compost. Rohan acknowledged that cost is a major factor for businesses when it comes to implementing sustainable solutions, but maintained that the positive impact and outcome outweighs this. Rohan suggested that businesses try to leverage government funding and support wherever possible.
This event was supported by Sustainable Australia Fund with additional speakers and resources from Repower Mornington Peninsula.
Thank you to all speakers who took the time to share their experiences, tips and tools with the local Mornington Peninsula business community.