The winners of Business in the Community’s (BITC’s) Responsible Business Awards – which celebrate the outstanding achievements of companies tackling key social and environmental issues – were announced tuesday night in London. The winning companies across 13 categories each demonstrate that making a positive difference in society can also be a key driver for business performance.
National Grid was named as the winner of the most prestigious award of the evening, the Responsible Business of the Year 2014. It was recognised for its commitment to creating sustainable energy solutions for the future whilst supporting the need for economic prosperity now. It has lowered greenhouse gas emissions by 53% since 1990 – in line with an 80% reduction target by 2050 – whilst embarking on the biggest network expansion in 50 years. As well as investing billions to embed responsible practices across the organisation, it is also inspiring the next generation of talent through education programmes, engaging schoolchildren with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects to help drive interest in the practical challenges of energy and sustainability.
Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid, said: “We invest time and energy working with young people today, making sure they understand the amazing world of engineering and energy, and are inspired to come into this fantastic sector. We’re responsible for inspiring the next generation of talent to make sure they are in place to keep the lights on and the gas flowing for our society, long into the future.”
A stand-out theme for a number of the winning businesses this year’s winners, is a commitment to nurturing talent through education, employment and training programmes. As a result, these businesses saw direct impacts on their own growth and workforce engagement or wellbeing.
For example, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, winner of the Work Inclusion Award, reduced staff turnover and recruitment costs, and boosted employee satisfaction as a result of its programme training ex-offenders to help them enter employment. EE, winner of the Inspiring Young Talent Award, saw a 50% reduction in early attrition rates and sickness savings of £2.7m through its apprentice scheme to tackle high youth unemployment. EDF Energy, winner of the Education Award, helped Okehampton School in Devon to save £100,000 by being more energy efficient whilst enthusing young people about science-based careers; crucial as 39% of local businesses say they struggle to recruit skilled workers.
Novus Property Solutions was also a big winner, scooping the Santander Responsible Small Business Award. The family owned property refurbishment and building maintenance firm, which is headquartered in Stoke-on-Trent, has reduced its environmental impact by diverting 97% of waste from landfill. It has also secured 70% of its business through repeat contracts, and is winning new projects with companies who share similar commitments to social responsibility. It also demonstrates a commitment to skills development and sustainable workforces with 11% of its employees being apprentices and trainees.
The Responsible Business Awards Gala Dinner was supported by Jaguar Land Rover, which was named Responsible Business of the Year in 2013. Continuing the emerging talent and employment theme of the event, its chief executive Dr Ralf Speth announced that as a legacy of its Responsible Business of the Year accolade, it was extending its engineering training programme to target former military personnel as they seek manufacturing opportunities following careers in the armed forces.
The 2014 Responsible Business Award winners were selected from a group of over 150 leading companies recognised by Business in the Community for demonstrating commitment and achievement in responsible business. Collectively, these businesses have supported over 400,000 young people to find employment, saving society £24.6m through reducing the impact of unemployment or exclusion. Cost savings of approximately £10m have been linked to these organisations through wellbeing and engagement programmes. Furthermore, 80% of companies that have embedded environmental sustainability into their core products and services are seeing improved public and stakeholder perceptions as a result.
Stephen Howard, Chief Executive, Business in the Community, said: “Responsible Business Award winners are examples of how innovation can drive both positive change in our communities and clear benefits in terms of business growth, customer engagement or staff wellbeing. I congratulate all of the winning companies for playing their part to build a new contract between business and society and a more sustainable future for us all.”
The event took place at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in front of 1,400 representatives from leading companies in the presence of BITC’s president HRH The Prince of Wales. HRH The Prince of Wales was accompanied by his sons The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, in recognition of work being done by responsible businesses to create employment opportunities for ex-service personnel.
HRH The Prince of Wales, President of Business in the Community, said: “One of the biggest differences the corporate sector can make, is the development of the skills needed to fill the skills gaps and create the employment and economic independence that enable individuals to contribute fully to the community in which they live.”
In the only individual award announced on the evening, the HRH The Prince of Wales also appointed Marc Bolland, Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer, as the Prince’s National Ambassador for Responsible Business. Mr Bolland will work with regional Prince’s Ambassadors to encourage responsible business practices across the UK.
The event was co-hosted by comedian David Walliams and Sky Sports anchor Natalie Pinkham, with a performance by the Military Wives Choir and young spoken word artist George the Poet. For full details of all the inspiring 2014 Responsible Business Award stories please visit www.bitc.org.uk/awardstories