In 2001, Sarah Butler-Sloss (see picture below) launched the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy. I’ve been a Trustee since 2005, and it’s one of the most inspiring initiatives I’ve been involved in since then.
Every year, an eminent panel of judges assesses submissions from a wide range of applicants, and selects a small number of winners under an international category and an UK category.
The Awards themselves are substantial (up to £40,000 for international Awards and up to £20,000 for UK Awards), but there’s a lot more to it than just picking up the cheque. A real differentiator of these Awards is the amount of advice and support that Award winners get, especially in the developing and emerging economies. (The small team that runs the Awards are also actively involved in policy analysis and advocacy work).
But the highlight has to be the annual Awards Ceremony, which is just one of the most uplifting events of the year!
Richard Sandbrook (pictured) was a great friend of mine, and one of that small band of people that helped create Forum for the Future back in the mid 1990s.
Tragically, Richard died in 2005, after an extraordinary career in the environment and development world, going right back to the early 1970s. (If you check out the website, you’ll see a ‘timeline’ for Richard’s career, tracking his own endeavours against the growth of interest in environment and development issues).
His death was a terrible blow to all those who’d worked with Richard over the years, all over the world. The most fitting thing we felt we could do was to set up a Trust in his name, to help promote one of the things he did best throughout his life – bringing together people who would normally find it very difficult to talk to each other to help solve some of the world’s most pressing sustainability issues.
He did this with such humour and native wit that people couldn’t help but find the common ground between them!
The Trust is chaired by my Forum Co-Founder Director, Sara Parkin.
Willmott Dixon Holdings Ltd – Non Executive Director
Willmott Dixon is the second largest privately-owned company in the world of construction, regeneration and support services. It’s still very much a family enterprise: Rick Willmott represents the fifth generation of Willmott’s since the company was established in 1852!
It’s seen significant growth over the last few years, and is now generating revenues of around £1 billion a year.
Forum for the Future has done quite a bit of work with Willmott Dixon over the last 10 years, with a Partnership for 5 of them. I became a Non-Executive Director in 2010.
Construction and support services are critical economic sectors – both for the economy and for the whole sustainability agenda. We find ourselves right in the thick of today’s big debates about feed-in tariffs, the Green Deal, zero-carbon housing, Display Energy Certificates and so on. Willmott Dixon has set itself ambitious targets (carbon neutral and zero waste to landfill by 2012), and is working hard to build sustainability into every aspect of its operations through Re-Thinking – our ‘centre of excellence for sustainability’. We also produce an annual sustainability report.
I’ve been hugely enthusiastic about the role of innovation and cleantech entrepreneurs for years and years: sustainable technology breakthroughs may not provide all the answers to all of today’s converging crises, but we haven’t got a hope in hell without those breakthroughs. So there’s been plenty of banging the drum for cleantech – but no hands-on involvement!
And then I was introduced to Ceravision, and started to find out about its High Efficiency Plasma Lighting. Any technology that can help businesses reduce their energy consumption and emissions of CO2 by around 50% was bound to get my attention – and I’m so pleased it did. I’ve now become Ceravision’s Environment Advisor, both in terms of its own environmental performance (it’s already certified under ISO 140001), and the positioning of its high-bay luminaires and street lights.
The company’s production has been small scale so far but production is rapidly ramping up. Awards are being won and the competition is getting worried.
For me, it has been eye-opening to hear just how hard a journey it’s been for Chief Executive Tim Reynolds and Chief Technology Officer, Andy Neate (and their investors!) to get Ceravision this far. An endless succession of barriers and legal hassles.
All I can tell you is that it isn’t easy being a green start-up. But it’s certainly exciting – and Ceravision now promises much.
Other Advisory Roles