Sustainability Leaders Awards 2017 speech

In case you missed last night's Sustainability Leaders Awards ceremony, here is the short opening address I gave at the London Hilton on Hyde Park, in celebration of those who are driving the green industrial revolution.

Sustainability Leaders Awards 2017 speech

Good evening ladies and gentleman and welcome to the 2017 Sustainability Leaders Awards!

Tonight, we are here to celebrate real sustainability excellence and reward those who are really setting the standard when it comes to doing business better.

Now, I know this gets banded around a lot at awards ceremonies, but this year really has been the biggest year we’ve ever had for these awards – as evidenced by the fact that we’ve had to move venues so that we can fit everyone in.

There are almost 500 of you here tonight, representing the companies, organisations, and individuals that are demonstrating how more sustainable ways of doing businesses are both possible and profitable.

And hundreds more of your colleagues and competitors would love to have joined you. For every entry that made the shortlist, several failed to make the cut. And as a result, the quality of the entries up for consideration this year was truly remarkable.

But edie takes no credit for the success of the Sustainability Leaders Awards. If this event has grown, it’s because you have grown. The Awards really are a shining example of just how far businesses are prepared to go to drive the green industrial revolution.

Now, the past 12 months have not been easy – 2016 was a year of the unexpected in many respects; it was a year that saw the established world order effectively turned on its head. And really, it was a year that taught us that, no matter what we might be told by the powers above or read about in the media, faith in one’s own abilities is more accurate than any expert’s opinion – well, that was certainly the case for Leicester City.

Of course, the turmoil caused by the likes of Brexit and Trump will have some impact on the green economy. But if 2016 was the year of uncertainty, then 2017 is the year of courageousness; of progression, of innovation and ambition.

Or, to put it another way, 2017 is the year of sustainability leadership.

This is not just rhetoric. The past year has thrown up numerous examples of individuals and organisations going to great lengths to deliver sustainability success, not just from within their own operations but also through new collaborations and sector-wide commitments.

And as these are annual awards, I really should illustrate this by talking about some of the inspiring stories edie has covered over the past 12 months…

In 2016, we saw membership of the RE100 commitment to 100% renewable energy grow to more than 80 of the world’s biggest companies.

It was the year that the science-based targets initiative saw more than 200 companies sign up.

It was the year that the likes of Mars, Ford, Vauxhall, Vacherin, MillerCoors, Nestle and Unilever all hit major zero-waste-to-landfill milestones.

We saw the Europe’s largest floating solar system developed in London, just south of the River Thames.

We saw Nissan pioneer a scheme that will allow consumers to sell energy stored by their cars back to the National Grid.

And, perhaps most significantly, 2016 was the year that the Paris Agreement was formally ratified by 125 countries – including the UK – putting us on a pathway to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

This list of public and private sector pledges and collaborations goes on.

And if tonight’s awards are about anything, they are about recognising those sustainability professionals who are taking action; who are actively building a better and more sustainable economy.

They are also about saying a big thank you: thank you for your support of edie – and thank you for your entry to these Awards. While I’m thanking people, I must also thank the sponsors of these Awards: Acre, The Energy Institute, Smartest Energy and Total. Without the support of our sponsors, we wouldn’t be able to put on such a grand event for you all tonight so a big thank you to them all.  

And also, I wanted to say a huge thank you to our judges – judging 19 awards is no easy task but, as ever, the calibre of the judging panel has allowed us to apply the highest level of knowledge and experience to determine all of the winners this year. So thank you to them all.

Now, often in speeches like this, the speaker will sign off by reciting some words of wisdom in the form of a famous inspirational quote or a poem. And I must admit that I did think about doing that tonight.

But as I began to google around for quotes on positivity or passion or perseverance, I was reminded of a rather emotive comment that was left on one of edie’s news stories last week, which I thought would be perfect to recite to you all. As I think, in a strange way, this comment encapsulates the mood of environmental professionals.

Now this is a genuine comment that was left on an article that was published on the eve of the presidential inauguration. And the comment comes in the form of a poem, from a man named Rod, who is an energy consultant here in the UK and has been a regular edie reader and commenter over the past few years.

So, here’s Rod’s poem that he left on our article – no prizes for guessing what or who this poem is about: –

Excrementally speaking, he looks like a lump,
An Environment-hating, blusterous dump.
A kick in the rump, for this odious chump,
From his New York Tower, this conman should jump.

So, short and sweet there from Rod, but effective I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now of course, I’m not condoning anyone jumping from any towers. But I do think that, in a strange way, Rod serves to highlight the passion and feeling of defiance that our readers have. And he represents an industry that is continuing to prove that a low-carbon economy is possible and clean technologies can work, regardless of what those in power may initially believe.

On a serious note though, it is a real honour to be a journalist in this space and to be able to write the stories about the fantastic progress you’re all making in your jobs. The more time I’ve spent getting to know this sector and the people that work in it, the more I have felt positive and optimistic about the direction we’re heading in.

But if I have one message for you, it is for you to all to shout about it; tell your own stories and do all you can to promote the great progress you’re making. It is critical that you tell stories of of how we are transitioning to a low-carbon, resource-efficient future – now, more than ever.

And please do be ready to share the successes here in this room tonight. Please tweet all about it using the hashtag #edieAwards. Enjoy your meal, enjoy our excellent compare for the night, Mark Watson.

But above all, please do join me in celebrating all of our winners and shortlisted entries this evening. You ALL deserve to be celebrated for your hard work and tonight, that is what we’ll do.

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