Every time I’ve been to the Richmond Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards (which is about five), I walk away inspired, having heard some remarkable stories of plucky entrepreneurs and ingenuous startups who have put their passions to work. The vibrancy and diversity of our business community is quite a marvel.
I also appreciate the theme of “I stand on the shoulders of those around me...” as the Chamber’s CEO himself said — echoing the sentiment of many of the award winners. Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever hearing a recipient get up there and lap up the glory; it’s always about the team, the clients and the community at large. Despite fierce competition in the business world, it’s working collectively that makes an organization succeed. (Granted, that sentiment isn’t always reflected in compensation, but that’s another column.)
Speaking of working collectively for a common goal, what distinguished these awards was the focus on environmental sustainability.
In 2016, the chamber introduced its first Green Business of the Year award to acknowledge organizations that are working to reduce their environmental footprints. This year, that award went to Layfield Group for creating a biodegradable plastic. But, judging by the acceptance speeches, you’d think every award recipient was the Green winner — at least that’s what they seemed to want to talk about.
Despite what they were being recognized for, the recipients would inevitably pivot to talking about their company’s initiatives. The most blatant example was the winner of Outstanding Workplace of the Year award. (BTW, any company that allows people to bring their dogs to work deserves that award in my opinion.)
The founder of Platinum Pro-claim Restoration hardly got “thank you” out of his mouth before he was challenging the organizers of this “boomer event” for not giving his company the Green award. (Gotta love his irreverence.)
As a restoration company, Platinum’s very raison d’être is the second R in the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” motto.
But he wasn’t alone in pointing to his company’s green initiatives. Clevest Solutions’ recipient talked about how his company’s software significantly reduces paper as well as energy consumption; Harbour Air’s founder told how he aims to have the world’s first all-electric commercial airline.
Point being, businesses are getting it. The environmental crisis is looming, no doubt about it. But there are solutions, a lot of them. In fact, we have all the technology we need today to stop our trajection towards climate catastrophe in its tracks.
Of course, that begs the question, why don’t we? Is it we don’t appreciate the urgency, or is it we’re trapped in a global economic system that requires exponential growth in a finite world? There’s truth in both.
But what’s also true is the fact we have the intelligence, innovation and ability to work collectively for a common goal.
It may be cold comfort, but perhaps that’s a good thing in a warming world.