Talking sustainability with Liesel Rowe

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the people who work at solarZero care about sustainability and the environment. For many, their passion for sustainability and wanting to be able to help make a positive change is a key reason they join the company.

One of these incredible people is Liesel Rowe, solarZero’s Senior Marketing Manager and Sustainability Lead.

A little about Liesel

Liesel joined solarZero (then still known as solarcity) in 2014 as the Marketing Communications Specialist. Seven years on, she’s moved up the ladder and alongside her marketing duties, it’s Liesel’s job is to ensure solarZero is delivering on its commitment as a Toitū carbonzero certified company, and find new opportunities to help the company lower its emissions even further. 

“I had always been interested in sustainability and the renewables industry, so it all seemed to fit into place. Seven years later I’m still excited every day by what we are doing.”

solarZero has been Toitū carbonzero certified since 2010. Getting certified involves measuring every carbon emission associated with the business, including work vehicles, travel, the amount of rubbish thrown out, and even the materials used for promotional items like the ink used for printed materials, or the uniforms our field team wear. 

As well as ensuring solarZero sticks to its commitment to halve carbon emissions over the next couple of years, Liesel is looking into how the company can, in the future, become carbon positive. This will include measuring emissions not only from the business but the supply chain as well.

While it’s a time-consuming process, she says she doesn’t think twice about doing it as it’s at the heart of our values.

Sustainability is at the heart of what we do

As the company becomes more sustainable, so have the people that work there. Over the years, Liesel says she has noticed a change in the attitudes of those who work at the company. 

“When I first started at solarZero sustainability was important but it wasn’t the driving factor for employees to join. Now, we have staff members who grow most of their food at home, are completing courses in hydroponics, and genuinely want to involve themselves in the conversation. When a previous manager of mine replaced her Christmas paper with reusable bags I knew that we had started to make an impact.”

And, this sense of everyone coming together for a common goal was exemplified in 2019 when the whole company participated in the Schools Strike for Climate in September. She pitched the idea to Andrew Booth, solarZero CEO, arguing that it was important that solarZero stood by its values to do right for the children of tomorrow. The solarZero team really put in their all, creating signs and joining the thousands of people who participated in Auckland, as well as the rest of the country. She still gets goosebumps when she thinks back to that day and marching down Queen street with colleagues and the school kids who organised the protest.

The focus is on the future

Now, with the world’s focus on COP26, she acknowledges how important this moment in time is for the environment. She recalls a trip to Belize (back when we were allowed to travel) a nation that truly worries they’ll be underwater in the next few years if nothing is done. The trip really hit home how important it is that nations stand up, make changes, and follow through on the promises they are making to cut emissions and face this climate crisis head-on.

“Sometimes sustainability sounds like a topic that is too big to understand or feel like you can make a difference in. But change really happens when lots of people make lots of small changes - like using a keep cup, shopping at a refillery, or swapping shampoo bottles for shampoo bars. Pick three things you want to commit to, and you’d be surprised how quickly change happens.”

And business has a part to play. Liesel believes that businesses need to be kept accountable for what they say and do. Employees will no longer accept greenwashing or a tick but want to see real changes and improvements - something she thinks solarZero is getting right.

“Our business is unique in that sustainability is literally at the heart of what we do. Every day we power kiwi homes with sunshine, and everyone around the business really unites on this. In many businesses sustainability has almost become a token, a box to tick, but at solarZero it’s the people who really drive the importance of this.”