Building businesses the smart way - Gudrun Cartwright on this year's Asda Environmental Leadership Award entrants

Gudrun Cartwright, Environment Director, Business in the Community, shares her thoughts on the key themes apparent from this year's Asda Environmental Leadership Award.

The Asda Environmental Leadership Award infographic

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The last year has seen some seminal moments for the global environmental agenda.  From the Sustainable Development Goals to the landmark climate change agreement in Paris, there is renewed momentum on solving some of our most challenging environmental issues.

We were delighted to see that many of the entries to the Asda Environmental Leadership Award are at the forefront of thought and action leadership, championing a new approach to managing environmental issues that moves away from reducing negative impacts towards building their business in a ‘smart’ way, so it will be resilient and prosperous for many years to come. 

Key themes from within our finalists show that leading companies are:

  • Understanding how environmental issues are going to impact on them, now and into the future and designing products, services and operational models to maximise opportunities and minimise risks.

  • At the cutting edge of piloting new ways of working, such as factoring natural capital into investment decisions, embedding ‘future ready’ thinking into services for clients, maximising business and community value through re-use and remanufacture.

  • Pioneering best practice within their sectors, from creating innovative new buildings and ways of working to adopting a strategy that transforms waste management into resource productivity.

  • Collaborating widely across whole value chains and within sectors to share what they have learnt and make it easier for other companies to make the same gains.

Our Award Winner Whitbread has incorporated many of these important themes and demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to address environmental challenges by implementing efficiency measures and investing in energy saving initiatives. Their environmental and energy strategy prioritises investment in innovation and ‘piloting’ to inform future developments and approach including the Costa Eco-Pod (a zero energy coffee shop) and Hub at Premier Inn (a suite of new city-centre sustainability hotels). The Hub hotel by Premier Inn has already achieved 40% less water usage, 30% less energy usage than building regulations require and 100% renewable energy supplies the site.

Whitbread’s innovative approach to smart growth is clearly leading to commercial benefits with the aim to apply the insights from these pilot building developments across all of Whitbread's properties. The potential scale of impact is enormous to influence the wider retail industry by becoming one of the lowest impacting businesses in their sector. Within a hugely competitive market, Whitbread has put sustainability as its USP and is clearly creating value and ensuring the business will continue to prosper.

With the need for action more pressing than ever it has been really heartening to see that business is leading the way and delivering tangible benefits for themselves and the communities they serve.  We hope that these stories inspire you to take action and see for yourself the opportunities that could transform your business into a smart, resilient and prosperous company for the 21st Century and beyond. 

See all the Finalists and Shortlisted case studies in the Asda Environmental Leadership Award.