Taking care of our environment

Taking care of our environment is one of the four cornerstones in our company quadrant, by which we measure our success as a business. So it’s something we take very seriously here at SWE.

As former Sustainable Business Council Executive Director Penny Nelson explained, “A growing number of businesses are looking beyond sustainability as compliance or risk management and are seeing growing opportunities from embedding good business practice… They understand the close connection between their own long-term success and having healthy communities and ongoing access to natural resources. You can’t have one without the other.”

We couldn’t agree more. It is important to us as a company to be able to hold our heads high and demonstrate we work in an environmentally-sound manner – as verified by external accreditation and additionally validated by environmental awards.

As part of our ongoing commitment to our environment, here are just some of the initiatives we’ve been involved in recently:

“Toitū net carbonzero certified”

We are extremely proud to be a Toitū net carbonzero certified organisation (formerly known as “carboNZero”) in accordance with ISO 14064-1 and the GHG Protocol.

SWE has been certified under the world-leading Toitū net carbonzero programme since 2017.

Toitū net carbonzero certification is accredited by the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS ANZ) and was the world’s first to be accredited under ISO 14065.

This marks SWE’s commitment to environmental leadership, assuring customers with the most robust and credible evidence that our efforts to manage, reduce and offset carbon emissions for our business are effective and credible and emission reductions have been independently verified.

SWE now has an effective net zero carbon footprint – ensuring our clients and community know we meet and exceed international standards and best practice.

Details of our certification disclosure are available at https://www.toitu.co.nz/our-members/members/southern-water-engineering

SWE Vineyards
SWE wins Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards

Other awards, recognition and accreditation

Recent recognition of our company includes:


As well as our Toitū carbonzero certification, we also hold the following accreditations which further substantiate our commitment to quality, health and safety, environmental  standards:

  • ACC Workplace Safety Management Practices Secondary Accreditation
  • Marlborough District Council Health and Safety Pre-Qualification Approval
  • IrrigationNZ Member and Blue Tick accredited (all our work meets the standards set by IrrigationNZ)

Energy and fuel use

Our Environmental Impact Policy is updated annually and covers office supplies, purchasing, energy, water and fuel use, waste and business culture.  Examples of our practices in regards to energy and fuel use include:

  • We have purchased two electric bikes and our staff using them have drastically reduced their use of company cars and travelled over 4,500 kilometres by electric bike since their purchase in 2017. We will purchase company electric bikes for any of our staff who wish to take us up on this offer.
  • We are currently investigating the purchase of a fully electric car. We intend to use this to further reduce our use of fossil fuels as a business.
  • We manage workflow and coordinate jobs in the same geographic area in the same day to minimise inefficient travel time and fuel usage. Furthermore, all our vehicles are serviced regularly to maintain fuel efficiency, and we record and review fuel use over time.
  • Our company vehicles have been upgraded to new Holden Colorados for the added fuel efficiency this affords us. The fuel efficiency on our previous vehicles averaged 14 litres per 100km – whereas our Holden Colorados average approximately 9 litres per 100km.
  • We have retro-fitted double glazing and full insulation in our main office to ensure a healthy and environmentally-friendly office environment. Our new buildings (such as our fabrication workshop and electrical services workshop) are built with double-glazing and full insulation as standard – as will any future buildings.
  • We use low energy heating, and lights and computers are all turned off when not in use.
  • We make efficient use of water for cleaning plant and vehicles.
  • We have installed rainwater harvesting capability. We are able to use the water collected to irrigate our extensive (and growing) gardens, to clean plant and vehicles, to flush toilets and so on. We estimate this will give us an annualised ‘oversupply’ of around 15,490 litres – reducing our water take from the well supply to a minimal figure.
  • We have investigated solar power options to ascertain the most appropriate solutions for our business requirements. In 2018 we will install solar panels which will allow us to generate significant power for our business and we estimate this will reduce our take from the grid by at least 30%.
Stephen Leitch (SWE) on ebike
SWE waste and recycling

Waste and recycling

  • We recycle cardboard/bottles/plastics/steel/copper/aluminium from workshop and field and wood products from suppliers’ packaging (such as bunding for PVC piping).
  • Inspired by Sugata Mitra’s idea of “building a school in the cloud”, Stephen (SWE Managing Director), has developed relationships with people in the Solomon Islands who have the ability and passion to develop IT networks – but are lacking the hardware or the financial resources to acquire it. Then he set about partnering with Marlborough District Council to collect surplus (retired) computer equipment, which SWE is paying to ship to the Solomon Islands for installation and usage in local schools. SWE is also in discussions with a local Marlborough IT company to assist with setting up networks and enhanced satellite access to the internet. It is a game-changer for IT, internet access and education in the Solomon Islands. They tell us it will change not only their present – but their future, for generations.
  • We have offered recycling services for our clients since 2011. In 2011, we purchased the first dripline (plastic pipe for vineyard irrigation) recovery machine in New Zealand and developed a relationship with a plastic recycler. This allowed us to offer a dripline recovery service, rewinding dripline into tightly packaged coils for reprocessing. Vine covers and netting can also be collected for recycling. This has a major impact on the waste streams and environmental impact of the vineyard industry in Marlborough.

Dams and water storage solutions

  • We actively encourage our clients to consider water storage facilities / dams for enhanced climate resilience. We offer a full design, build or project management service to make this a reality for clients.
  • As well as having completed a number of large scale new dam projects, we have also audited existing dams, where either we or our client believe it is performing under-par. In one such case (based on measurements taken prior to the project) we estimated that the client’s dam was losing 25% of its 42,000m3 capacity. This roughly corresponded to 58 days of watering for 10 hectares of grapes (18m3 per hectare per day). Following our remediation project, this water is no longer being lost and can now be used to irrigate their vines.
SWE - Riverlands Revitalisation Project

Riverlands Revitalisation Project

We have partnered with our wine industry clients and colleagues to help progress this visionary scheme to enhance the Riverlands industrial estate – with environmental, social and cultural knock-on effects. We brought in a landscape architect to help drive the project forwards, and have already donated time and will donate money and expertise to ensure the project is fulfilled.


We have completed our proprietary ‘SmartAudits’ on over 2,100 hectares’ worth of vineyards – identifying potential water and power savings in every audit (of up to 50%) for our clients.

The SWE team continually look for ways to take the potential savings and reduced wastage identified by a SmartAudit and communicate good environmental practices and projects that will inspire our clients to look at how good environmental management makes for good business. Measuring and monitoring help determine more accurately how much water to use (considering soil type and grape variety) – rather than just setting the timer. It is about creating a refined approach that conserves water, saves power (less pumping) and provides bespoke growing conditions for each variety.

As experts in water conservation we are well positioned to lead by example through measurement analysis and solution development case studies when it comes to environmental management. We strive to share our knowledge and commitment to social environmental management through sharing knowledge and best practice at industry conferences – such as Romeo Bragato Conference 2015, the Winery Engineering Association Conference 2016 – and community presentations, like the Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards field days 2017.

Stephen Leitch, conducting a SmartAudit
SWE Smart Kids

Donating time and money

Some of the other ways we get involved in our community include volunteering our time and donating good and services to worthy environmental causes:

  • Department of Conservation: Stephen Leitch has been involved with Department of Conservation planting at Stephens Island (Marlborough Sounds), trapping at Coal Island (Fiordland), and assistance with removal of wilding pines (Marlborough).
  • Te Hoiere Bat Recovery Project: Stephen and Mike Cooper (SWE General Manager) are actively involved with Te Hoiere Bat Recovery Project – a combined effort between Forest and Bird members from Nelson-Tasman and Marlborough and community volunteers. Volunteers like Stephen and Mike clock up around 80 hours a month checking 500 traps across 150 hectares – to decrease the populations of rats, stoats, possums and feral cats that threaten the livelihood of the local long-tailed bat population.
  • “The Great Drain Game”. We provided the funds, materials and labour to get the project completed, and Marlborough District Council provide the freshwater educator, Anna Crowe, to deliver the programme in schools. It will also be used at community events such as ‘The Amazing Eco-Race’ and school galas. See more about this on our News page.

“We work, live and play in Marlborough. We want to make it a better place for our staff, our clients and our future generations.”

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