The industry titans were out in force to pat each other on the back and raise some money for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, while Gerald Ratner was on hand to entertain the crowd with his patented riches-to-rags-to-riches again life story. And a good job too, since with 18 awards up for grabs and a shortlist of ten for each one, it must be the world’s longest award ceremony.
The room was packed to the rafters with business leaders, entrepreneurs, civil servants and media types – and despite the gloomy predictions about the economy in the media recently, there was plenty of optimism in the air. Although that may have had a lot to do with the free-flowing champagne.
The awards were mostly given to companies, but there was also a clutch of individual gongs, with ARM’s Warren East winning Orange Business Leader of the Year, Steve Leach of marketing agency Bigmouthmedia taking home the Entrepreneur of the Year prize and Specsavers founder Dame Mary Perkins named as the Outstanding Woman in Business. BT chief Ben Verwaayen won the Decade of Business Excellence award (like a lifetime achievement Oscar, only shorter) – which we can’t imagine was a hugely popular choice with chief sponsors Orange.
But perhaps our favourite winner of the night – and one of the most popular, judging by the audience’s reaction – was Suffolk-based brewer Adnams, which took home The Corporate Social Responsibility Award. At a time when CSR is little more than a box-ticking exercise for many companies, Adnams is a good example of how things could be done. The brewer doesn’t make a massive play of its CSR efforts, but on a recent visit to its Southwold HQ, MT discovered that it’s so in tune with its local area that nobody seems to have a bad word to say about it.
One thing that particularly impressed the judges was the Adnams charity, which it set up in 1990 to funnel 1% of the company’s profits to local good causes. And we mean local – it only supports charities within a 25 mile radius, not including big towns like Ipswich. During our recent visit, chairman Jonathan Adnams told us: ‘When we set up the Adnams Charity we wanted to spend our money where it would do most good. Rural places like the part of Suffolk we are in have many of the same problems that you can find in large cities, but much less in the way of support.’
Look out for our profile of Adnams in the December issue of MT - or if you can't wait that long, click here to read it online.