At a recent ceremony at Mansion House in the City of London, minent chef Raymond Blanc announced the winners of the Sustainable City Awards, which aim to champion the businesses and organisations that are flying the flag for sustainability.

With 130 more entries to the eleventh annual Sustainable City Awards, organised by the City of London Corporation, it is apparent that sustainable business practice is now a critical ingredient to commercial success as organisations of all sizes seek national recognition for their efforts in greater numbers.

The award winners also divulged that sustainability is key to business efficiency and provides a unique selling point in a challenging economic climate. SME contractors the Alumet Group, who took home the Overall Winner Award, have reduced their costs and become a more attractive business to their clients through their ‘Sustainability Drive’.

Simon Mills, head of sustainability at the City of London Corporation, said, “With the spread of winners of this year’s Sustainable City Awards including an art project, small businesses, big businesses and a hospital, it is the clear the UK is now far savvier about sustainability. It is clear that the current hostile economic climate is stimulating sustainability amongst UK businesses and organisations as they are driven to innovate, standout from their competitors and maximise their efficiency in order to survive.”

Raymond Blanc, host of the awards, added, “Initiatives like the prestigious Sustainable City Awards are vital in bringing issues of sustainability to the forefront of the agenda which is why I was so keen to get involved in this year’s awards. It is clear from the spread of winners that businesses and organisations of all sizes with a range of resources are leading from the front and positively transforming their environmental impact.

Having judged the Sustainable Fish category myself, this trend is certainly apparent within the restaurant issue. For Feng Sushi (winner of the ‘green gong’ in the Sustainable Food category), a restaurant group, to win shows that the world is changing. In the past restaurant groups have been driven by profit margins but Feng Sushi’s success demonstrates that both businesses and consumers are willing to change their habits to support sustainability.”

Winners of awards on the night included: Winners Included:

Air Quality award: Invisible Dust encourages awareness of air pollution by facilitating a dialogue between visual artists and leading world scientists to create large scale art and science projects.

Air pollution is mostly invisible but artists can make things visible through sound, video or installation which can enable people to understand complex scientific ideas. Last summer, artist Faisal Andu’Allah (pictured with Raymond Blanc) explored the effects on Olympic athletes of air pollution in east London and worked with local young people to produce their own film.

Sustainable Buildings and Sustainable Procurement awards: The Castle Climbing Centre in Hackney (pictured left) is housed in a Grade II Victorian building and has worked hard to make the centre as energy efficient as possible with numerous environmental refurbishments. The one acre waste ground at the back of the centre has been transformed into a market garden which provides fresh, organic produce for the centre and local community.

Sustainable Finance award: Social Finance has pioneered the Social Impact Bond in the UK, which utilises the power of private investment to benefit the public space, both financially and socially. Social Finance is currently running a pilot project with ex-offenders from Peterborough Prison in light of 73% of offenders going on to re-offend multiple times. £5m has been raised from 17 private investors to fund community support initiatives, with a potential 30% return if government set targets for reduced re-offending rates are achieved.

Leadership in Sustainability award: Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust has been recognised for their success in encouraging the public sector to work collectively in purchasing local, seasonal and organic food.

This has not only resulted in the quality and taste of food improving but also lower costs, lower food wastage and customer satisfaction is now 20% higher than in comparable hospitals nationwide. The hospital hopes to take the collaboration of local food procurement and sustainable attitude to all London hospitals and purchase collectively with schools, prisons, care homes and universities.

Sustainable Travel and Transport award: Sustrans has been operating the Bike It project in London since 2006. Bike It works directly with schools, getting thousands of children on their bikes and cycling to school every day.

On average the project trebles the number of children cycling to school in one year. Over the past five years the Bike It project in London has operated in 20 London boroughs and over 120 schools.

Overall Winner: The Alumet Group aims to reduce carbon emissions across every department in order to benefit the environment, reduce costs and become a more attractive business to their clients. They have achieved this via a spectrum of different initiatives including the appointment of specialist staff, reduced water consumption, low vehicles emissions commitment, lighting reduction, cycle to work scheme, use of sustainable materials, reducing waste and encourage biodiversity including transforming an area of disused wasteland into a wildlife garden which was officially opened by TV botanist Dr David Bellamy OBE.