In his welcome speech at the awards dinner in London last night, Prince Charles said that the awards had attracted over 30% more applicants this year and for the first time in the six years since they were launched, entries from non-UK companies outnumbered those from UK companies.
“The awards were set up to recognise organisations that are embedding sustainability into their strategy and decision-making, with leadership from their finance teams, and I am delighted to see just how far the message has travelled,” he said.
He added that the awards recognised and highlighted the pivotal role that many finance leaders are already playing globally to generate more sustainable organisations and economies.
All the finalists had “demonstrated just what is possible when you set your minds to it”.
“They underline that this is not a choice between making money on the one hand and ‘doing the right thing’ on the other. It is about recognising that ‘business as usual’ is unsustainable and that those organisations which start to develop resilient business models now will be the ones that ultimately succeed”.
Despite a number of UK organisations being short-listed, the only one to win an award was the National Trust.
The charity, which took the public and not-for-profit sectors award, introduced a new financial model in 2016 to simplify finances at its properties, change the basis of resource distribution and ensure there was better long-term, sustainable planning.
The judges described the project as “transformational” and one that would “ultimately enable the Trust to better preserve its assets for the benefit of the public for many years to come”.
The winner of the start-up and growing enterprises award was German company MEP Werke and its parent Strasser Capital whose innovative finance package has enabled German house owners to lease solar power systems on terms that are more accessible that previously.
The judges praised the finance team for their “tenacity” in overcoming technical challenges to create a solar lease product that “packaged the financing together, offering complete energy as a service to the customer, with a financial return”.
Spanish company Ferrovial, which uses “innovative engineering to solve problems such as increasing populations in cities, climate change, limited public finances”, won the communicating integrated thinking award. It has an investment committee which evaluate projects and only takes them on if they involve “a total positive contribution”.
Meanwhile, Banco Pichincha, winner of the investing and financing award, impressed the judges with its SARAS project, an environmental and social risk management system which it developed as part of its commitment to sustainable development.
The Ecuadorian bank’s approach to integrating environmental and social matters into their credit risk management process was “highly innovative”, they said. “This is an emerging issue of growing importance to the financial services industry globally and it is very encouraging to see how it can be tackled in practice.”
Last but not least, winner of the large business awards was Canadian company TELUS Communications.
The judges highlighted the company’s integrated approach to its business challenges, developed over 10 years. This, they said, had led to “improved business performance with significant social and environmental benefits”.
“This approach is also being used in advising other Canadian businesses. It is an excellent example of a sustainable and transformational initiative.”
Two other businesses were highly recommended on the night: Zimbabwe’s Econet Wireless (shortlisted for the investing and financing award) and Canada’s Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (short listed for the public and not for profit sectors award).
The awards were founded six years ago by Prince Charles’s Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) project and ICAEW, and are now partnered by Deloitte.