Sydney businesses are becoming increasingly environmentally aware, writes Brendan Gallagher.

This year’s City of Sydney Business Awards has highlighted a growing environmental awareness by local businesses and a keenness by the Council to reward it.

The emphasis on the green businesses culminated in Climate Friendly, a carbon management consulting firm, taking out the 2012 Business of The Year Award. Winners in the 22 general categories and four prestigious categories were announced on October 8.

The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, says that with an unprecedented number of businesses taking part, businesses’ environmental initiatives were an important deciding factor.

“The City of Sydney’s Annual Business Awards attracted a record 883 businesses, with 60,000 Sydneysiders casting a vote. The environmental sustainability of all businesses nominated for the Business Awards was taken into account when judging the winners,” she says.

She congratulated Climate Change, and all the other category winners, on their dedication to doing something to help the environment. Climate Friendly works with households and businesses to both reduce and offset their carbon emissions. The business was founded in Sydney 10 years ago and is based in Woolloomooloo.

Marketing Manager Sally Castle says Climate Friendly is delighted with the award and hopes the recognition will clear a path for more green businesses to win merit for performance as well as ethics.

“One of the key things is we work with businesses to make it simple and easy for them to take action on climate change,” she says. “And, as we’ve been saying for many years, this whole green sustainable business thing is going to go mainstream so winning is validation of that point of view.”

Ms Castle says the high representation of environmentally-conscious businesses in this year’s awards demonstrates Sydney being a city where green businesses can thrive.

Jacqui Arias, Chief Executive Officere of Republica Coffee, winner of the Best Food and Beverage Retail Award, agrees that Sydney’s focus on environmentally sustainable lifestyles makes it increasingly fertile ground for environmentally aware businesses.

“The City of Sydney Council has really been at the forefront of driving awareness of what it means to be a resident in a sustainable city,” she says.

She cites the Council’s focus on becoming carbon neutral and its awareness campaigns for cycling and increased public transport as ways of encouraging residents and businesses to aspire to world leading environmental standards.

Republica is the first food brand in Australia to become carbon neutral.

“We’ve gone beyond the ethics of what we were before, which was fair trade and organic, and now we have become a carbon neutral brand and the award was recognition of that achievement.”

The emphasis on environmental awareness was highlighted by businesses in sectors perhaps not naturally associated with the environment being rewarded for their green initiatives.

Kevin McKenzie Hair, which won the Retail Beauty category, has implemented a number of policies to reduce its environmental footprint.

“I think a lot of smaller businesses can make a big difference just doing the small things, like hair salons not throwing colour down the sink and stuff like that,” Mr McKenzie says. “It’s important that hair salons and restaurants and cafes get into recycling foil – we’ve got hundreds of kilos a year coming straight out of hair salons into landfill, so it’s quite an important aspect of our industry.

“We have ammonia-free colour; it’s becoming quite big in Europe. If we do as much as we can for the environment in small doses, and everybody gets on the band wagon, it’s going to make a big difference,” he says.

Alex Arnaudon, Joel Fleming and Ryan Kane, from Climate Friendly, receive the award from the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore.