Dame Polly Courtice, founder-director of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award at Ethical Corporation’s seventh annual Responsible Business Awards on Friday night.
The glittering event, at the Waldorf Hilton in London’s Covent Garden, also saw carpet company Interface pick up both the Best Company and CEO of the Year awards.
Courtice, who was made a Dame this summer during the Queen’s Birthday honours, was lauded by the award judges “for her tremendous contribution to global sustainability leadership and harnessing the power of education and collaboration to help leaders be more confident in the role of companies in dealing with issues such as climate change: she has truly been a major facilitator of change."
Courtice has spent most of the past 30 years working with business leaders, policy makers and academia to promote the sustainability agenda. She was asked by the Prince Charles to set up his influential Business and Sustainability Programme in 1993, bringing together for the first time the most senior leaders from business and government, and set up the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group in 2005. The Cambridge institute, which she leads, has an alumni network of almost 3,000 senior leaders from around the world.
In her speech accepting the award, Courtice said that the past three decades had been “a sheer joy. I can’t believe I am actually paid to do this.”
She said that for all the work that she and her colleagues at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership had done helping to promote the sustainability agenda, right at the forefront, driving change, “are the people and companies, such as we have been celebrating this evening, who really are going to make a difference. We know the challenges we face are not getting any easier; we know there’s an enormous amount we still need to do to respond to those challenges. But it amazes me to think what it is possible to do when you give people the licence to do it.”
Speaking to the other winners, Courtice said: “I hope you find - as I have found, being part of this sustainability community, this unstoppable force, this idea whose time has come – I hope that you continue to find the ways to take that passion and energy and momentum right into the heart of your businesses."
One company where sustainability is certainly core business is Interface, which was dually honoured on Friday night. Daniel T Hendrix, who has been at the helm of the $1bn company since 2001, picked up the award for CEO of the year. The judges said: “Daniel has been a clear leader in managing sustainability, putting environmental stewardship at the forefront of sustainable businesses with particular reference to the company’s Mission Zero goal to eliminate any negative environmental footprint by the year 2020 and a bold new mission that looks beyond 2020 at what the company can do to reverse climate change.”
Unable to travel from the US, Hendrix said by video that the award had validated the work of his team “whose shoulders I stand upon”. He said the modular carpet maker, based in Atlanta, Georgia, “has been on a journey for the last 22 years to save the world” and reinvent business, ever since its founder Ray Anderson, read Paul Hawken’s ground-breaking book The Ecology of Commerce in 1974. “Ray Anderson and the board entrusted me with more than a company to run,” Hendrix said. “They entrusted me with a legacy to uphold.” And he said gave a challenge to other companies to work with Interface on its new sustainability journey, called Climate Take Back.
“We are going to be reaching out to each of you in this audience to join us on this bold journey.”
For a full run down of all winners on the night, take a look at our announcement here.
September 2016, London
Ethical Corp’s prestigious Awards will recognise and celebrate responsible business practice from around the globe. 2015 winners included: Telefónica UK, Novelis, Jaguar Land Rover, KPMG, Timberland & AkzoNobel. Entry deadline 6th July 2016!