James Murray's speech to the fourth annual BusinessGreen Leaders Awards
Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the fourth annual BusinessGreen Leaders Awards.
Tonight is an evening of celebration, and we have much to celebrate.
The UK's green economy has never been in better health.
All of our BusinessGreen Leaders have once again demonstrated they are at the cutting edge of business innovation.
And, most importantly, BusinessGreen has just passed 39,000 Twitter followers - you have no idea how childishly happy this makes me.
We've got an amazing evening planned.
We've organised a wonderful, sustainably sourced dinner.
We've booked the brilliant Mark Watson to be our compere for the evening.
And we've slipped Fifa a brown envelope stuffed with used fivers to ensure that you are not missing any football this evening.
We tried to do the same with the Lawn Tennis Association, but apparently Wimbledon is above such things.
Tonight, we welcome you back to the Brewery for a second year.
But if tonight's venue is familiar, there are plenty of differences with last year's awards.
If last year I praised the green economy for defying the tough economic backdrop, this year green businesses are leading the UK's economic recovery.
If last year I marvelled at the green innovation our readers demonstrated, this year that innovation has been even more prevalent, as green businesses have marched into the mainstream.
If last year I hailed the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards as the UK's premier green business awards, this year the awards are bigger and better than ever.
A record year
As you can see by looking around you, it has been a record year for BusinessGreen.
There are more than 500 green business leaders here tonight - we've even had to take over the balcony to fit you all in.
And just to reassure you, this is not like the Oscars where the people sitting at the back have no chance of winning. There are some winners among you. Although if you do win, please hurry to the front - we're on a tight schedule.
The growth of these awards is great news - and not just because it keeps me in a job.
The success of the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards allows us to continue to expand the service we provide every day, delivering up-to-the-minute news and analysis and providing a platform for our in-depth BusinessGreen Plus service.
But more importantly, media brands are always a reflection of the sector they serve.
Our expansion is just a mirror of your expansion.
Our success is only possible, because of your success.
Your hard work, your commercial acumen, your constant innovation, is what gives us a green economy to report on.
Unfortunately - and I hate to dampen the mood on what is a night of celebration - the success of the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards presents one small downside for most of you.
This year the awards are more competitive than ever.
We had over 250 entries, meaning that for everyone on the short list, there were plenty of entries that didn't make the cut.
And for those who did make tonight's shortlist the competition was fierce.
Many of the categories were like a World Cup Group of Death.
All of which means that if you, like England, fall short please take satisfaction in your achievements.
And, as I say every year, y'know, be cool...
Anyone caught biting a competitor will be banned for the next 12 awards.
The reason the awards were so competitive is that this remains the most important, inspiring and exciting sector in the world.
The theme of this year's awards was innovation and if there is one characteristic all our BusinessGreen Leaders share it is their willingness to innovate, to embrace the future.
Earlier today, I asked the BusinessGreen team to shout out their favourite stories of green business innovation from the past year. This is what we came up with:
- The trucks powered using compressed air,
- the pollution-eating pavements,
- the electric cars that can travel 300 miles on a charge,
- the tomato skins being used to make plastic,
- the floating wind turbines,
- the skyscraper farms and eco-engineered flood defences,
- the emergence of green bonds and crowd-funding,
- the Chinese carbon markets and Mexican climate laws,
- and, of course, the solar-powered plane that is going to fly around the world.
And that list barely scratches the surface.
Every day, new and inspiring stories confirm that businesses around the world are investing all the time, energy and resources they have in tackling the environmental crisis we face.
The challenges may be daunting in the extreme, but there is no doubt this sector has the courage, the capabilities, and the commitment necessary to deliver the green innovation we need.
I've always believed that to be the case, but looking at this room, and having considered the entries you put forward for this year's awards I am more confident of it than ever.
Now, all that is left for me to do this evening is to say a few quick thank yous.
Firstly, I have to thank the BusinessGreen team for their work throughout the year and in putting on tonight's event. The services we provide - the website, the events, BusinessGreen Plus, and of course our awards - are not small undertakings and we can only deliver them thanks to the talent and hard work of the BusinessGreen team.
Secondly, I have to thank our guests this evening from Westminster. Politicians face plenty of criticism over environmental issues, and no doubt some of it is justified. But it is worth remembering that while there will always be policy disagreements the UK is blessed with an overwhelming majority of politicians who are broadly supportive of the green economy.
Sadly our original keynote speaker Ed Davey has seen ministerial duties pull rank and he has had to send his apologies. But tonight, we are lucky enough to have some of the most powerful advocates for green business in the corridors of Westminster as our guests and I thank them for their continued support of both BusinessGreen and the sector as a whole.
Thirdly, I must thank our sponsors, without whose support this evening would not be possible.
A huge thank you to Enphase Energy, IEMA, Solarcentury, Innasol, Ricoh, and, of course, a particular thank you our lead sponsor URS.
Without the backing of our sponsors, advertisers, subscribers, and indeed all of you here tonight, we would not be able to continue to provide the award-winning service that is BusinessGreen. Your on-going support is massively appreciated.
And finally, I have to thank all of you here tonight...
I say the same thing every year, but I only say it because it is true.
Our readers are among the most exciting, most passionate, and most inspiring people I have ever met.
You make writing about the green economy a pleasure and a privilege, and for that the whole BusinessGreen team would like to say thank you.
Although, this is an entirely superfluous expression of gratitude,
Because no one works in the green economy for the plaudits - even if they fully deserve them.
You work in the green economy because you know there are no issues more important than the ones you are wrestling with.
There are no business opportunities more exciting than the ones you are targeting.
And there are no sectors more rewarding than the one you work in.
I sometimes look at the leaders of the green economy and think you are experiencing what Isambard Kingdom Brunel, or what Henry T Ford experienced, or what Steve Jobs experienced when they delivered the innovations that transformed the world they lived in.
My point is this. The success of these business leaders and engineers was not inevitable - it took a huge amount of talent, hard work and hardnosed business acumen.
But each of these leaders increased their chances of success by placing themselves at the start of technological revolutions that were driven by a desire to deliver not just commercial success, but also genuine improvements in quality of life and prosperity.
Of course, for those in the green economy attempting to deliver the greatest industrial revolution in the past 200 years the challenge is disconcertingly huge.
We are not trying to bridge the Avon like Brunel, we are trying to re-engineer the entire global economy.
Ford may have famously faced customers who only wanted faster horses, but the fear of technological progress is arguably even more entrenched when it comes to clean energy.
Some days, when cynics and vested interests are fighting tooth and nail to protect their unsustainable business models, you must feel less like Steve Jobs on the day he launched the iPhone and more like Steve Jobs on the day he was forced from the company he founded.
And yet, these business titans from our shared history refused to cave in the face of the challenges they faced.
They knew they had the abilities, the arguments, and the resilience needed to emerge victorious and deliver the transformation society so urgently required. They knew they were on the right side of history.
It is not overstating it to suggest the leaders in this room and the leaders in the wider green economy are among the heirs to these inspiring business pioneers.
It may be a little embarrassing to speak in these terms, but you are fighting to deliver a cleaner and better future, and should be immensely proud of that fact.
So, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in raising a glass to our BusinessGreen Leaders of 2014.
Please enjoy your meal, enjoy the awards, enjoy Mark Watson's performance.
And thank you once again for your inspiring work and for your continued support of BusinessGreen.
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