How have the UK Green Business Awards changed over the past 14 years?

BusinessGreen staff
clock • 4 min read
How have the UK Green Business Awards changed over the past 14 years?

The UK Green Business Awards and their forerunner the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards have now been running for over a decade - and Trewin Restorick has judged them all

I was one of the judges of the first BusinessGreen Leaders Awards way back in 2010. The awards have now morphed into the UK Green Business Awards, which will take place this evening and will bring together over 550 top executives, entrepreneurs, and investors from across the green economy. And after 14 years I am somehow still on the judging panel and am once again looking forward to what will be a celebration of the very best of the country's trail-blazing sustainability initiatives at a packed and prestigious London venue. 

Looking back, I thought it would be interesting to consider what have been the significant changes in the award entries. Here are my views on how the awards (and the green business community they celebrate) have evolved for the better - and where further progress is needed. 

Class Leaders

The awards have reflected the increasing levels of sophistication and engagement with the low carbon/sustainability agenda. A broader range of award categories are now required to accommodate the level of specialism and expertise of the sector. Concepts such as 'Net Zero Strategy of the Year' or 'Green Heat Project of the Year' might induce chortling disbelief from the comedian hosting the event but illustrate how far the sector has progressed. When the awards were first launch, many of these categories would have seemed far-fetched or not even have been considered but they are now part of the mainstream conversation.

It has been interesting to see which sectors have taken the biggest leaps forward since those first awards in 2010. For me the main areas of transformation have been in the energy, transport, and finance sectors. With energy and transport there are now clear transition paths towards low carbon. These have been driven by some fantastic innovations which have won awards in the past helped by a changing economic picture and clear policy expectations. In the past few years, the awards have also suggested that the investment community is joining the party and it is getting increasingly challenging to decide which companies should win the investor awards.

More like this please

One of the most eagerly anticipated categories is Company of the Year. Inevitably the winning companies and runners-up are truly inspiring illustrating how a successful business can embed sustainability into their strategy. Increasingly though I am disappointed that the pool and diversity of entries is not expanding. The short-list tends to be a round-up of the usual suspects with relatively few surprises.

Is this an indication of 'green hushing' where companies are fearful of raising their profile making them more prone to questioning from activists or is it that truly embedding sustainability into companies is proving increasingly challenging during a cost-of-living crisis and an increasingly hostile political narrative?  Either way it would be fantastic to see more high-quality entries in future years.

Could do better

There are three categories where the quality of applications hasn't kept up with the overall standards or have even declined. The most obvious is Politician of the Year.  Unfortunately, some of the most influential and compelling political voices have left the stage and there are few strong new contenders emerging. This lack of impressive leaders reflects the political vacuum the sector faces which has significantly hindered progress.

The quality of public engagement and behaviour change campaigns have also been increasingly disappointing. Despite growing overall awareness, more extreme weather events and hardening scientific evidence there are few campaigns that have broken out of the green bubble with inspiring and compelling messages. Fresh thinking and new approaches are needed if we are to achieve the significant changes in consumer behaviour required alongside the technological advances we are seeing.

And I have often been disappointed with the circular economy entries. There are a few notable exceptions and there are some great initiatives targeted at specific areas, but overall few have shown the bravery and scale required to truly shift to a circular model. Hopefully this is a sector that will rapidly develop in future years.

Lifetime Achievement

One thing that hasn't changed in the presence of James Murray as Editor-in-chief of BusinessGreen.  I have known James since he tentatively presented the idea for the BusinessGreen concept to his publisher back in 2006. From these humble beginnings, James has been the driving force taking BusinessGreen and its prestigious awards to new heights. During this period his strength of voice and passionate beliefs have grown, making him one of the most respected environmental commentators in the UK. This has been reflected in his increasingly compelling opening remarks at the award events.  He should really be recognised as a true award winner. 

Reflections

I have increasingly come to see the value of the awards. Many sustainability leaders are brave souls fighting lonely and challenging battles to innovate and transform. The awards present an opportunity to see that they are not alone and that there is a growing movement seeking to achieve the same things across a diverse range of sectors. The awards are a point for reflection and celebration showing how cumulative action can achieve significant change at scale. I have been privileged to have been a judge through the evolution of the awards and look forward to an uplifting event this year.

Trewin Restorick is CEO of Sizzle.

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