Making awards count

Finding innovative ways to save energy is big business. Jo Reeves reports on an accreditation scheme for environmental awards, which helps to give the best products on the market the prominence they deserve

Dwindling energy supplies combined with greater public awareness of the economic and environmental consequence of climate change and global warming as well as tighter regulation is making business sit up and take notice.

Domestic customers are also very aware of the increasing costs of energy supply.
Finding new ways to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions is big business, but there is an abundance of products on the market - and this creates the risk that the most effective could get lost in the quagmire.

Making a product stand out and gain recognition in the right industry is a challenge. While advertising can be effective, it doesn't offer independent endorsement, which can be invaluable in gaining new customers. Environmental awards are one way for related businesses to raise their profile within the sector and gain recognition for their products.

Two energy efficiency products that have both gained sales and success through entering awards are Windsave and Walltransform. The former won the European Business Awards for the Environment for product innovation. Scottish wind turbine manufacturer, Windsave, fought off tough competition from two other European finalists, and won the judges over with pioneering windmills made from recyclable materials and designed for individual houses and offices.

The Windsave System consists of a low-cost, building-mounted electricity generator which can be installed high on a vertical wall of any building with a bracket-supported metal pole. It has a top assembly comprising a three-blade fan (1.75m in diameter) in front of a cylindrical generator body that has a tapered tail fin attached behind it. An armoured electrical cable exits from the lower end of the metal pole and is fed into the property and connected to an isolation switch. A cable connects into the Windsave Plug'n'Save inverter box that is hard wired into the mains supply of the property.

The Windsave System works by converting wind power into DC electricity which is
inverted into 240V AC by the Plug'n'Save and delivered synchronously into the mains, thereby reducing the amount of electricity purchased by the consumer from the utility supplier.

The system works without any need for the owner to manage it on a daily basis. In high-wind periods it will automatically control the Top-works to prevent damage to the building or electrical system.

The Windsave System is suitable for almost every building as the only requirements for successful usage include a structurally sound building; a high, vertical wall; a clear view from the height of the Top-works of the skyline; a grid-connected mains supply; and an average electrical base load of 1-1.5MW per hour a year. Full production of the unit has now started with a view to an upcoming marketing campaign through the B&Q DIY stores.

Windsave qualified for the European Business Awards for the Environment by winning the Vision in Business for the Environment of Scotland (Vibes). These are run by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa). Central advisory unit manager and manager of the Vibes awards, Gillian Bruce, says: "Environmental award schemes are an excellent way of acknowledging and promoting good environmental practice in business."

Sales director at Windsave Graham Reed says the awards experience has boosted sales: "Winning awards demonstrates confidence in Windsave and the product - it will add credence in the eyes of the customer and help us in raising our profile and assisting sales.

"Also, as well as enhancing pride among our employees and our status in the renewable energy field, it adds credibility to an emerging market."

Meanwhile, Walltransform, producers of Wall-Reform, found that winning a national Business Commitment to the Environment (BCE) product award boosted sales and their profile in their target sector: the construction and energy efficiency industry.

The product is a unique thermally insulating plaster and render that can be applied internally or externally. Wall-Reform is a wall insulator and damp proofer and can reduce energy consumption, saving money, thereby helping the fuel poor and reducing carbon dioxide emissions significantly. It was initially aimed at the UK's seven million solid-wall properties currently not being insulated due to cost. The product also helps to alleviate condensation and stop damp.

Wall Reform is applied as a wet mix - the same as a regular plaster or render either by trowel or spray application. The product overcomes the problems inherent in the use of rigid insulating boards as it is wall mouldable, enabling it to be easily and consistently applied on uneven and irregular walls. This product fills a gap in the market where solid wall properties can be insulated to the same standard as cavity wall insulation at a more affordable cost.

With two BBA accreditations as a thermally insulating plaster and a remedial damp proof plaster, Wall-Reform has been recognised by the Energy Savings Trust as an energy saving product.

"The majority of our work is for local authorities and housing authorities. So, gaining recognition for the environmental aspect of our product is very important to us," says managing director Glen Melvin. "Winning the BCE awards really helped to raise our profile and awareness of the Wall-Reform product."

Both the BCE Award and the Vibes Award are accredited by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). This accreditation scheme for environmental awards sets a standard by which the quality of award schemes can be independently assessed and rewards those who fulfill the set criteria. With hundreds of UK environmental awards in existence, the accreditation scheme's aim is to improve the design, operation, efficacy and transparency of award schemes and give entrants and sponsors visibility of the highest-quality schemes.

Gillian Bruce says: "Accreditation, such as that given to the Vibes awards by the RSA, ensures that the design of schemes is such that they maximise the opportunity to raise the profile of winning entrants' environmental achievements, so that their actions can be used as exemplars for others."

In light of this, the RSA Forum is a database which has been set up to offer credibility and validation to the profusion of awards available - giving businesses peace of mind when it comes to choosing the best award for their purposes. The forum is part funded by Defra, which sees opportunities for the role of good environmental award schemes to help encourage the nation's move towards more sustainable production. "The success of UK businesses in developing innovation and demonstrating the generation of environmental products and practices is vital in proving our commitment to a more sustainable market in terms of production and consumption," says Defra's Environment, Business and Consumers Division.

Showcasing the UK's pioneering position in promoting sustainability and best practice in energy efficiency can also bring opportunities for organisations to expand into new internal or European markets and promote UK environmental expertise. Businesses benefit from involvement by receiving recognition for their efforts to improve their performance and show customers and stakeholders that they are committed to greening their products and activities.

www.rsa.org.uk

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