London Blog

UK organisations battle for ‘Green Oscars’

The London Fire Brigade were big winners last time round. Does your workplace care about sustainability enough to follow in their footsteps?

Andrea Chipman

UK companies eager to promote their environmental credentials will want to mark their calendars for December 3, the deadline for entry in the seventh annual Sustainable City Awards sponsored by the City of London Corporation.

The ‘green Oscars’ were launched in 2001 to recognize the best performing private enterprise, public and non-governmental organizations and charities in the field. Last year, 120 entrants competed in eight separate categories, according to Emma Bara, Sustainability Officer for the City of London.

“There’s been a definite upsurge in companies seeing how important good sustainable practice is, both in terms of their image—if you want to be cynical—but also in terms of good business practice,” she said. A shortlist of five entries per category will be chosen in mid-January by a judging panel that includes representatives from trade bodies, voluntary sector organisations and businesses. The winners will be announced at a ceremony at Mansion House on February 13.

Organisations can compete in eight categories: Climate Change, Resource Conservation, Environmental Management in Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Sustainable and Responsible Finance, Travel and Transport, Sustainable Procurement, Access to Goods and Services for Disadvantaged Communities and Sustainable Building. In addition, the Corporation chooses an overall winner.

London Fire Brigade blaze trail

While entry to all but the SME and Access categories is open to any UK company, London-based organizations made a strong showing in last year’s awards. Most prominently, the London Fire Brigade was the overall winner, as well as taking the Sustainable Procurement prize.

“[The Corporation] said that they felt what we did had a holistic approach,” said Nick Tong, Group Manager for Procurement Strategy at the London Fire Brigade. “We had an approach that wasn’t a procurement-based function per se, but we were looking at everything from buildings to vehicles to waste streams to dealing with our supply base.”

The London Fire Brigade first put together a sustainable procurement policy in 2005, looking at waste issues in its 112 fire stations. This year, it signed up to the Greater London Authority’s own sustainable procurement policy .

A belt made from recycled fire hose. Over 500 were sold at the Live Earth concerts.

The organisation is already on track to meet the GLA’s low emissions zone targets by 2008, and has replaced 249 of its fire trucks with modern vehicles over the past four years. The Fire Brigade has committed £4.4 million to installing renewable and low carbon technologies in its fire stations—including photovoltaic systems, wind turbines and combined heat and power systems. It has already changed over to green electricity tariffs across the organisation

The Fire Brigade’s policy also takes into account the social side of sustainability, Tong noted. To take one example, when tendering cleaning contracts for the capital’s fire stations, it requires that all bidders pay their cleaners a “London living wage,” he said.

Winning the award has given the Fire Brigade a higher profile and raised interest in sustainability and green issues among its 6,000 plus employees, Tong added.

“We’ve now got an ‘LFB Green’ project underway to encourage our staff to volunteer to be green champions—for energy efficiency and recycling—in our stations,” he said. In addition, the organisation is advertising for a head of sustainable development, a new position it expects to fill early in the new year.

European recognition

Meanwhile, the Sustainable City Award is also giving winners the opportunity to raise their public profile beyond the UK. The program is currently one of only five accredited gateways to European Business Awards. One contender is likely to be last year’s winner in the SME category of the Sustainable City Awards, London printing firm Bovince. The Walthamstow-based company was recognized for its development of the Bovince Tree of Sustainability, a nine-branch set of goals that it has applied to all levels of its business strategy, said Derek Hall, Quality and Environmental Manager for the company.

“We’ve got a sustainability policy and a long-term vision that says we want to be the most respected screen and printer company,” Hall said. “We’ve set short-term yearly objectives that lock into long-term goals, and gradually we are drilling it down into daily activities.”

Information on the awards are available at the City of London’s Sustainable Development Unit. Entries are due by midday on December 3.

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