Scotland flies the flag for delivering sustainable business practices that help companies stand out from the crowd

“Scotland has the unique opportunity to set the trend on a global scale,” said Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), commenting on the success of Scottish businesses at the recent European Business Awards for the Environment (EBAE).

The EBAE’s are presented every two years and aim to recognise and reward European companies that set an example by successfully bringing together innovation, economic viability and environmental concerns. These illustrious accolades highlight the outstanding eco-innovative practices and products of companies throughout Europe.

The 2016-17 competition was fierce with a record 148 entries from across Europe all vying to win one of six prestigious awards in various categories from management (medium and large entities, micro and small entities) to product and services, international business cooperation, process and biodiversity. This year, six Scottish businesses were finalists.

THE BEST OF THE BEST

The route to the final was not an easy one. Those that made the shortlist were already ‘the best of the best’ – the most innovative, environmentally responsible and far-sighted businesses across Europe. To be eligible for the EBAEs, European companies must first have been winners in their country’s national award schemes and then nominated by their national coordinating bodies. In the UK, businesses must have succeeded in one of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA)’s accredited award schemes.

The six Scottish finalists – CMS Window Systems, Jessie Mac’s, Bridge Biotechnology, Celtic Renewables, Todd Fish Tech (Lobster Pod) and Peel Tech – were shortlisted for EBAEs following their success at the Vision in Business for the Environment of Scotland (VIBES) Awards, one of the RSA’s accredited award schemes.

"This is a continuing story of success for VIBES winners, many of whom have been shortlisted for EBEAs over the last few years”

Gillian Bruce, Chair, VIBES Awards

Gillian Bruce, SEPA’s Advice and Engagement Unit Manager and Chair of the VIBES Awards, commented: “To have six VIBES winners shortlisted is tremendous and is a real testament to their hard work and commitment to Scotland’s sustainability. This is a continuing story of success for VIBES winners, many of whom have been shortlisted for EBEAs over the last few years.”

A WIN FOR CMS WINDOW SYSTEMS

The road to the EBEA final is a long and competitive one, but this makes gaining a place on the shortlist an even greater achievement. Cumbernauld-based CMS Window Systems is a company which has done just that and proved its credentials as one of the most sustainable businesses in Europe when it was named the winner of the 2016-17 Management (medium and large entities) Award at the EBAE ceremony in Tallinn Estonia on 27 October 2016, CMS Window Systems is one of the UK’s largest companies which designs, manufacturesand installs PVCu, aluminium and timber composite windows and doors.

The judges were impressed by CMS Window Systems’ strategic integration, performance improvement, transparency and credibility in environmental management – and particularly by the business’ unique Innovation Hub.

BUILDING INNOVATION

The Hub was previously an old derelict warehouse, ready for demolition, with an EPC rating of ‘G.’CMS Window Systems transformed the Hubusing retrofitted external ‘stone wool’ insulation, thermally-efficient windows and doors, energy-efficient lighting and IT equipment in addition to the installation of aa heat recovery heat pump climate control system. As a result the Hub is now ‘A’ rated for energy efficiency and it is also a working model of what can be achieved by refurbishing even the most dilapidated of buildings, while avoiding filling landfill sites with demolition waste.

The vision for the CMS Innovation Hub project is far-reaching. It aims to showcase some of the most advanced and sustainable building products available to the UK building industry and to make the space available to use, free of charge, for theoretical and practical training for stakeholders and peer organisations. This is providing a range of groups with the latest information on industry standards, sustainable construction practices and energy saving products, thereby driving the environmental sustainability message deep into the wider community.

There were plaudits, too, for Perthshire hostel, Jessie Mac’s, which was runner-up in the Management (small and micro) category, proving that businesses of any size can be sustainable. This resourceful business in rural Scotland has, in just four years, transformed a 150-year-old energy guzzling building into a sustainable, green hostel.

THE ROUTE TO SUCCESS

The successful journey of CMS Window Systems, Jessie Mac’s and other pioneering Scottish businesses owes much to the continuing commitment of VIBES. This strategic partnership with enterprise and environmental groups, the Scottish Government and SEPA, holds annual awards to acknowledge best practice by those businesses in Scotland which are taking significant steps to reduce their impact on the environment.

Terry A’Hearn, SEPA’s Chief Executive, said: “The VIBES Awards fulfil a vital role. They provide a forum for Scottish businesses to showcase their achievements and potentially gain Europe-wide recognition.

“By demonstrating the value of sustainability to business, VIBES is helping Scottish companies to deliver on SEPA’s ‘One Planet Prosperity’ regulatory strategy ¬– one of the first environmental regulatory systems in the world that is suited to the challenges of the 21st century. A key element of the strategy is to encourage and support businesses which seek to find innovative and efficient ways to go beyond standard levels of compliance, while operating within Earth’s capacity to support us.

“It will ultimately be businesses that are more sustainable that will continue to thrive, helping to create more lasting and inclusive growth in Scotland"

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive, SEPA

“There are huge economic incentives for going beyond basic compliance and it will ultimately be businesses that are more sustainable that will continue to thrive, helping to create more lasting and inclusive growth in Scotland. Both VIBES and SEPA share a vision to encourage the efficient use of resources, improve environmental performance, support the wider goals of sustainable development and enhance the competitiveness of business to create sustainable economic growth.”

IT’S GOOD BUSINESS SENSE

The financial aspect is key. “From micro start-ups through to global brands, businesses are quickly realising that shifting to a circular economy makes sound business sense,” said Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, commenting on the EBEA Awards. “Our competitive edge will be sharpened by better use of resources. Using materials and energy efficiently leads to smarter products and services.”

“Successful competitive organisations of the future will be those which, like CMS, use natural resources wisely”

Andy Kerr, Managing Director, CMS Window Systems

Andy Kerr, Managing Director at CMS and the driving force behind the Innovation Hub, strongly agrees. He said: “As the business landscape evolves, it’s great to have the opportunity to show the European business community how sustainability is a help, not a hindrance, to success. Winning at the 2016-17 EBAE Awards was not only a great honour, but also reinforced the message to the business community across Europe that successful competitive organisations of the future will be those which, like CMS, use natural resources wisely, minimise environmental impact, value employees and build partnerships within the communities in which they operate.”

IT’S AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL

The benefits of this approach for people, the environment and business success are irrefutable. So, what are the first steps a business should take to becoming a potential environmental award winner?

Dr Malcolm Aickin, Chair of the RSA Environment Awards Forum, advised: “As environmental innovation and sustainable best practice continue to rise up the agenda, entering an award can provide a way for individuals, businesses and organisations to stand out from the crowd. Businesses need to demonstrate a consistent improvement in the product, service, process or management of the company for the welfare of society, along with environmental protection and sound financial performance.

“We also recommend that companies develop a track record showing that they embed sustainability in their business culture. This is where the RSA 'Guide to Good Practice – Organising and Sponsoring Environmental and Sustainable Development Awards' can be an invaluable tool. With more UK businesses getting on board, we’re aiming for continued success with future European Business Awards for the Environment and can guide and support businesses through the process. Working towards an environmental award is an invaluable opportunity for businesses to boost their profile and a practical way to achieve a healthier, more innovative and more sustainable economy for all.”