Being environmentally aware – and able to back it up – is good for business. Increasingly, consumers, retailers, manufacturers and government agencies worldwide are favouring products and services from environmentally responsible companies. But business sustainability goals like ISO compliance, permits and waste and emission reductions can be tricky endeavours to implement, monitor, evaluate and disseminate.
As the world moves towards a cleaner, greener economy, the need for effective environmental management systems becomes increasingly apparent. In response, University of Auckland Doctoral students Logan Wait, Manuel Seidel and Richard Cross took the plunge into entrepreneurship and launched ecoPortal. With the assistance of the ICEHOUSE business incubator, the three mechanical engineers have brought to market a web-based environmental management system that assists organisations in obtaining 100% pure credentials, managing certification like Enviro-Mark®NZ or Eco Warranty, and reaching international standards of environmental management such as ISO 14001, ISO 9001 and OHSAS 18001.
Manuel (second from left) and Logan (right) at the ecoPortal launch talking to prospective clients (Richard is absent from photo).
ecoPortal is a support system for businesses wanting to enhance their pure advantage and authenticate their environmental principles with action. “You paint the 100% pure vision for your company,” says co-founder Logan Wait, “ecoPortal will help you make it happen.”
Designed and developed in New Zealand, ecoPortal provides a single platform for development and maintenance of a company’s multiple management systems such as Health & Safety, Environment and Quality. The software integrates all of these management systems into one, enabling an efficient and streamlined flow of information throughout the company, plus improved recognition and understanding of responsibilities and interrelationships. In other words, ecoPortal presents a clear snapshot of all that is going on across an organisation in terms of managing sustainability, health & safety, quality and overall business risks. It provides companies with the tools to measure and mitigate those risks, evaluate progress against key sustainability indicators and encourage company-wide participation. Together with a network of independent advisors, the online environmental management system helps to design, implement, and maintain effective management systems to reduce an organisation’s operating costs and environmental impact.
“With one integrated management system” says Wait, “operational efficiency is increased and overall performance improved, risks are reduced as visibility and engagement are enhanced.” ecoPortal thus makes it simple to gain and maintain international, national or industry certification standards, meaning companies can export anywhere in the world with confidence in their environmental credentials, gain a competitive edge in tenders, showcase their progress to employees, customers, clients and competitors, measure and manage out costs of waste and energy, and integrate management systems such as Quality and health and safety into one.
“ecoPortal aims to simplify everything a company needs to know about improving its environmental credentials and sets a roadmap for how to get there.”
- co-founder Logan Wait
Furthermore, ecoPortal is people-oriented. It’s social network features encourage teamwork, recognise people’s achievements and empower and engage employees to achieve success, further embedding the sustainability ethos throughout the company. “You might say it is the Facebook of environmental management systems,” says Wait. People can upload files and images to help contextualise what they are doing, giving greater visibility to activities that traditionally might be hidden in the bustle of a large company. Users can feel part of their company’s improvement programs. ecoPortal provides a platform for them to voice ideas and opinions. The ecoPortal ideas register, for example, is a great mechanism for collecting, assessing and communicating new ideas.
ecoPortal has been a critical success factor for a range of New Zealand clients, from Universities like Unitec, to heavy manufacturing companies such as Autex and Criterion. Going forward, ecoPortal has significant growth potential in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and the USA. Interest has also been expressed from Canadian, Australian and Indian markets. The critical strategy to succeed in these international markets will be to develop a robust network of distributors and consultants and simultaneously market to both advisors and clients. In the domestic market ecoPortal enjoys little competition, but overseas the company competes against other online environmental management systems by emphasising the programme’s ease of use and simplicity.
In the ICT world, Logan has experienced leveraging New Zealand’s clean green image to be an implicit, rather than explicit endeavour. ecoPortal recognises a fine balance between the benefits of advertising the ‘Kiwi’ origins of the product with the need to appear “in the tech loop” and up to date with respect to international online environmental management systems.
That being said, there are significant advantages to being a Kiwi cleantech entrepreneur. Firstly, investors, government and other support agencies in New Zealand are highly accessible. The company has received valuable support from organisations such as The University of Auckland, Spark and The ICEHOUSE. Secondly, New Zealanders are known to possess a ‘do it yourself’ attitude. Kiwi businesses aren’t afraid to swim against the current. In fact, ecoPortal have broken a few unwritten ‘rules’ when it comes to the traditional growth approach – start small, build up domestically, then expand internationally. Logan Wait recounts the philosophy of Derek Handley, co-founder of the hugely successful New Zealand mobile agency Hyperfactory, who “saw no problem with going straight off shore because they were dealing in a high-tech software market.” Reflecting on this, Logan’s advice to other Kiwi tech start-ups is to understand the risks, listen to the good advice, and, “when you understand the reasons behind the rules, then you can break them.”
On Green Growth, Logan expresses a sentiment common to so many clean-tech and environmental companies in New Zealand. “The New Zealand market is severely behind the sustainability eight ball relative to those markets that we compete in,” he says. But Wait believes, like Pure Advantage, that New Zealand has one of the greatest opportunities of any market. Overseas, governments and companies make extraordinary efforts to incorporate sustainability into national policy and corporate practice, while here New Zealand, it is already embedded into culture and philosophy; intrinsic to our geography and industry. The only problem is – we need to show it off. “We have the potential to demonstrate a much deeper, more genuine sustainability than the current global green growth leaders,” says Logan, “the credibility and transparency that New Zealand can offer will always win over the competition.”
For more information visit www.the-ecoportal.com