Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to 11e Annual BusinessGreen Leaders Awards.
More durable than a COP26 zoom meeting.
More competitive than the post-Brexit job market.
More cautiously optimistic than Emma Raducanu’s bank manager.
The BusinessGreen Leaders Awards are both the UK’s most prestigious green business awards and a crucial part of this year’s Net Zero Festival.
This evening is therefore above all a celebration.
A celebration of the best of the green economy and the continued advancement of the net zero transition.
A celebration of your remarkable achievements and admirable resilience over the past two years.
A celebration of the chance to bring people together again with caution.
The last time we gathered here a little over two years ago for the ninth annual BusinessGreen Leaders Awards, it coincided with the very day that the UK’s net zero goal was put into law. .
A lot has changed in a short time since we were last able to host these rewards in person for the last time.
The rush to net zero targets now covers two-thirds of the global economy, while the wave of electric theft, floating wind turbines and rewilding projects continues to accelerate.
After flirting with the idea of a deadly coup, Donald Trump decided to spend more time with his climate skepticism in a sinking Florida.
And then there was the little question of a deadly pandemic that stops the world.
The theme for tonight’s celebrations is half-pandemic chic, with a dash of clean tech optimism and a shadow of climate-ravaged dystopia.
Who would have thought two years ago that the logistics scores for the next BusinessGreen Leaders Awards would be less e-tickets and cars and more vaccination passes and lateral flow testing?
We give a whole new meaning to the idea of a masked ball.
I was at an event last week where people were asked to wear bracelets to indicate how comfortable they felt with social contact tonight.
Red meant please no handshakes; the white meant they would welcome a handshake, probably with a sanitizer order alongside; and the blue meant… meet me in the bathroom.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to turn 40 and still have to overcome the social anxiety of a Freshers’ Ball traffic light party, but here we are.
Seriously, everyone here has had to demonstrate that they’ve been double-bitten or provided a negative covid test, but please try to give people space where possible and stick to the guidelines. people’s choice.
Of course, we all find our way into a new era defined by volatile risk levels, looming known unknowns, and the trauma of trying to deal with a still unfolding tragedy. If anyone is to understand how difficult it is, it is those of us who work every day to tackle climate change.
Either way, kindness and empathy are very useful tools for moving forward.
This and a clear sense of community harnessed in the pursuit of a shared mission.
One of the defining and yet underreported stories of recent years has been the continued march of the green economy into the mainstream and the concomitant increase in public engagement with the natural world. In a time of uncertainty and dislocation, this community is reshaping the world for the better.
Emissions have continued to decline, cleantech records have been steadily broken, and as you’ll see at next week’s Net Zero Festival, emissions targets are now translated into consistent and credible decarbonization strategies.
Meanwhile, the public has never been more concerned with the escalating climate threat, nor more convinced of the restorative power of nature.
Of note, as negotiations for the crucial COP26 climate summit intensify, the Prime Minister is in New York this week to tell world leaders that the arguments against climate action he has married himself have been totally rejected, and that in the future “the only great powers will be the green powers”.
In doing so, he suggested that “climate change is no longer an issue that concerns only the neglected fringes”, which seems a bit rich coming from a man with what we can only describe as somewhat personal style. unique – if David Cameron gave his hairdresser an MBE, Boris Johnson’s will deserve a George Cross.
But setting aside Johnson’s criticism of “bunny hugs,” the unspoken admission is clear. You and your peers around the world have won the point.
You did it thanks to your ingenuity, your entrepreneurial spirit and your resilience.
You have done so through many of the projects, innovations and businesses celebrated here tonight.
You did it by demonstrating that a clean, healthy and sustainable economy is achievable, desirable and essential.
And you convinced not only Johnson, but also President Xi, who said this week that China will stop funding overseas coal-fired power projects; President Biden, who just pledged to step up US climate finance; and the CEOs of virtually every big business and big investor on the planet.
Inevitably, this view continues to meet some pockets of resistance, who have attempted this summer to argue that the best response to soaring fossil fuel prices is to increase our dependence on fossil fuels and that the most sensible way to deal with growing climate impacts is to ignore that they are happening and complain about the cost of climate action.
It is an argument that is doomed to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions, the force of rising tides and the unstoppable economic advance of clean technologies at competitive cost. As Keynes pointed out, “whatever we can really do we can afford.”
Again, this victory will be yours – and Keynes’s, obviously, it can take decades, but he always tends to be right in the end.
It is essential to remember that this progress is happening. Because, as we are all painfully aware, the scale of the challenge remains beyond colossal.
The pandemic is not yet over and it is quite possible that it will not be the last health crisis we will face. Meanwhile, emissions are increasing again. The IPCC’s latest report on the scale of the climate threat was rightfully terrifying.
We have only 30 summers left to complete the fastest industrial revolution in history and build a net zero emissions global economy.
All of this only serves to make the work presented tonight even more impressive.
Thank you to our judges for their time and expertise.
Thanks to the BusinessGreen team who worked so hard to make this evening possible.
Thanks to our charity partner Little Sun, who you will hear about later.
And thank you to our sponsors for this evening, Persefoni, and to our many business partners for this year’s Net Zero Festival:
Atkins, BCG, Schroders, The Climate Pledge, Bank of America, Derwent London, Drax, Energy Saving Trust, Engie, Facebook, GSK Consumer Healthcare, Hitachi, Kingspan, Midrex, Tetra Pak and Volvo.
Without the support of such partners, we wouldn’t be able to host events like tonight’s awards and next week’s Net Zero Festival – which you should definitely sign up for if you haven’t already. .
But above all, thank you to all of our finalists.
At the end of this year’s judging process, I received an email from one of the judges, in which they wrote:
“It’s trite to say that they all deserved to be winners, but I really struggled to tell the difference between so many who all deserved high marks. Of sustainable projects, innovation, dedication. so many individuals to drive positive change. I looked at the nominations at the same time the most recent IPCC report came out full of pessimism – it was a restorative tonic to read about individuals and companies really trying to do things to make a difference. “
They are right, of course. This year’s prices were definitely more competitive than ever. There have been many close calls and it is truly true that everyone here tonight is worth celebrating.
Like I say every year, if you miss the main prize tonight, you know, be cool.
Because if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that there are few things more important and more powerful than a sense of community.
And the green economy is a community – a competitive community for sure, but one that can share each other’s successes and build on each other’s efforts.
A community that, through one of the most difficult and tragic times that many of us have ever known, managed to redouble their efforts to build a better economy.
During the endless depths of the first lockdown, when pubs and schools were closed and padlocks adorned the playground gates, the Murray family relied heavily on the great philosophical lessons contained in this masterpiece. classic, Lego movie 2.
“It’s not all great,
It is not a realistic expectation.
But that doesn’t mean
We shouldn’t try.
To make everything great
In a less idealistic way. “
Good luck and congratulations to all of our finalists tonight.