All hail the positive disruptors23 Apr 2014
Past winners of the ICAEW Sustainable Business Award prove than any organisation can transform themselves, their industry – or the way we all do business
Disruptors come in all shapes and sizes. The National Business Awards has recognised a wide range of organisations that have demonstrated transformational innovation – with much of this driven by sustainability.
“The context in which business operates is radically different than it was 50 years ago – socially, environmentally and economically,” says Jen Morgan, Co-convener of the Finance Innovation Lab – created by the ICAEW and WWF to design more sustainable financial models. “In a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world what will the next 50 years bring and how can UK PLC prepare for the next 50 years?”
The ICAEW Sustainable Business Award recognises those that have been asking themselves that question long enough to demonstrate impact. Enabled by a cohesive culture and embedded values, Marks & Spencer’s Plan A won this Award in 2012 for how it has engaged a wide range of stakeholders across a vast organisation to prove the business case for sustainability. Innovations like schwopping and the M&S Archive have grown out of this to engage both customers and communities.
Flooring company Interface, winner of this Award in 2011, set some very ambitious targets related to sustainability as part of its Mission Zero – and achieved much more than anticipated.
“Mission Zero has had a number of commercial benefits for our organisation – more than we ever thought possible,” explained CEO Lindsey Parnell after receiving the Award in 2011. “Our products are better than ever, as Mission Zero has proved to be a tremendous source of inspiration for our design teams, spurring them on to come up with lots of great innovations. Mission Zero has been hugely beneficial from a talent point of view, allowing us to attract and retain some of the best people in the industry. It has also had a very positive effect on our corporate reputation, which clearly helps in attracting new business.”
While these large organisations are helping to transform industry practice because of their scale and influence, they are inspiring a new generation of start-ups and small businesses to embed sustainability.
“Sustainability is at the heart of what we do and we’ve become more sustainable as a result,” said Marcus Hill, CEO of London Bio Packaging, after winning the ICAEW Sustainable Business Award in 2013. Triumphing over finalists including ‘Future Champion’ Anglian Water, Kingspan and Veolia, London Bio Packaging demonstrated that sustainable business makes business sense.
“London Bio Packaging has a fresh, engaging, profitable and sustainable business model,” said ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza, commenting on its win. “Their commitment to sustainability was apparent through their entire purpose and operating model. They are a model for an upcoming generation of innovative businesses who are transforming the meaning of sustainable business without even needing to label it as such.”
While debate continues about what sustainability means and what it encompasses, the aspects recognised by the National Business Awards are those that relate to the bottom line and future growth. Judges look at the sustainability objective and what has been achieved in the context of growth, financial performance, staff engagement, customer focus, innovation, leadership and ethics.
“A person walking without a plan and with no defined start or finish point is simply ambling,” said Stuart Hayward-Higham, Technical Director of SITA UK in a blog about the ‘circular economy’ for the Resource Show. “Ambling is great for those who wish to enjoy the activity of being on a journey, but is less productive for those who want to get from one point to another in a defined timeframe.”
While sustainability, or transformation, is a journey, there are always milestones – and the ones your organisation have reached may be worthy of national recognition.
The National Business Awards are now open and the deadline for entries is 23rd May. To find out more about the ICAEW Sustainable Business Award, and how to enter, visit www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk.