The team at Waste Management has always been, and continues to be, inspired by our friend and colleague Sir Rob Fenwick.

It is with great sadness we learnt of his passing and we send our heart-felt condolences to his family and many friends.

Best known as a passionate environmentalist, Sir Rob has touched the lives of countless New Zealanders, including many of us at Waste Management.

His advice that it is “better to set high targets to strive for, even if you might fail doing so” resonated strongly with our team and served as inspiration as we carved out our sustainability path.

Sir Rob had a long relationship with our company, most recently as the chair of our Sustainability Advisory Board.

In this role, he worked closely with our executive management team, challenging us to make our sustainability strategy For Future Generations robust and aspirational, and helping us seek out new ways to reduce our carbon footprint.

Our history with Sir Rob began with Living Earth, the commercial composting business he co-founded in 1994. Through Living Earth Sir Rob was able to bring together his environmental ideals and business acumen. His business model was to craft amazing compost from organic waste that would otherwise go to landfill, and sell this on to New Zealanders for use in their gardens.

He described it as allowing people to participate in an environmental good by first separating their organic waste, and then closing the carbon loop by using the compost to grow new life.

In 1996 we entered a joint venture with Living Earth, and today we continue to follow Sir Rob’s vision of “closing the carbon loop” by collecting and composting over 100,000 tonnes of garden and food waste every year.

Sir Rob said Living Earth made him realise how big the world’s waste problem was and how little would change while waste disposal was so cheap. This was particularly true in the 1990s when New Zealand had no waste legislation.

Rectifying this has become part of Sir Rob’s legacy. He was called upon in the late 90s to help set up a waste strategy working group, which eventually led to the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 ­ a momentous step towards better regulation around waste.

Around this time, in 1999, Sir Rob also co-founded the Sustainable Business Council, with a goal of mainstreaming sustainability within the New Zealand business community.

Waste Management became a founding member, and today we are just one of many members who together make up 31% of New Zealand’s private GDP.

Instilling this commitment to sustainable development in the business community is another of Sir Rob’s many legacies that will live on.

Managing Director Tom Nickels says “First and foremost, Rob was always a gentleman, even when his patience was being tested. He understood that to achieve the end goal, it is important to bring people along with you and not damage relationships or respect through the process.

“On a more personal level, we shared many common interests – a love of family, Waiheke Island, the outdoors, optimism for the future, a commitment to the guardianship of our natural resources and a deep belief that protecting our environment and commercial business are natural partners.

“We will all miss him.”

Haere rā Sir Rob.

Kua hinga te kauri o te wao nui a Tāne. A great kauri has fallen.