Sustainability champions across the property, construction materials and social impact sectors were among the winners in last month’s NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards.

SBN chief executive Rachel Brown said the awards recognised firms making major advances in four areas the organisation has identified as encapsulating the future direction of the NZ economy – renewables, massive resource efficiency, community and restorative business.

Winner of the Community Innovation Award, social enterprise incubator the Akina Foundation, has fostered projects across all of these four areas through its Launchpad program. The intensive accelerator program was designed to take inspired business ideas and turn them into tested, investment-ready social enterprises that could have a big impact on a social or environmental problem.

Start-up enterprises and initiatives that have been part of the program include NZ’s first online platform for rating the liveability and energy efficiency of rental dwellings; the proposed SkyPath for cyclists and pedestrians over Auckland’s harbour bridge; the Wellington Wind group; a green residential building consultant; a social-enterprise architecture firm; and an on-demand public transport service for a regional community.

“Akina are the first movers – even giving a start to some of the award entrants – and so are great influencers. The organisation is successful at courting the media and cross-sectoral partnerships. ?kina has the potential to change the New Zealand landscape and it couldn’t be a better tribute to Akina’s work than to win this award,” the judges said.

One of the current Launchpad projects is 3F – Food Farms & Freshwater, which aims to reduce the impact of NZs agricultural sector on water quality and the broader environment, while also educating consumers about making sustainable choices. One of the companies that is heavily involved in the project, Taupo Beef, won the night’s Supreme Award.

Akina Foundation chief executive Alex Hannant said winning the award was recognition of the growing momentum around social enterprise.

Mr Hannant said he was grateful to the partners and supporters of Akina’s work, including the Department of Internal Affairs and Contact Energy, who both provided funding for the accelerator program.

“We also want to acknowledge the supreme SBN award winner, our friends at Taupo Beef. They are making a real contribution to a sustainable New Zealand with their innovative work in farming and water quality, and whole-heartedly deserve this recognition.”

Taupo Beef won the Restorative Impact Award as well as the NZI Greatest Contribution to a Sustainable New Zealand (Supreme Award) through its vision to lead New Zealand beef farming while also protecting the water quality in Lake Taupo.

The beef producers have converted their farming practice to protect the waterways, reduced stocking numbers and now produce a product that demands a premium price.

The SBN said the impact of the model had the potential to permanently change New Zealand’s farming practices and consumers’ purchasing behaviour.

“Taupo Beef stood out to the judges because it has led the way in successfully farming with fewer livestock and also connecting with consumers who will pay a premium for their products. Told that it wouldn’t work, they are instead receiving outstanding reviews for their beef and are demonstrating how New Zealand farmers can change to produce a high value product while also farming environmentally and sustainably,” Ms Brown said.

Other major winners included Abodo Wood, a timber building materials manufacturer that has obtained Declare certification for its products. The company took home the Renewables Impact Award.

The commendation in this category went to property investment company Kiwi Property Group, for integrating sustainable design in its shopping centres. The NZ Green Building Council member made environmentally sustainable design a guiding principle for the development of Sylvia Park Shopping Centre.

The centre features what the NZGBC said is the country’s largest photovoltaic solar panel array. Customers are also offered free chargers for electric vehicles.

Kiwi Property Group are also the only NZ-based REIT to score an “A” in this year’s CDP rankings.

Another company that has undertaken Declare certification, and is also a member of the Green Building Council of NZ, Laminex New Zealand, won the Energy Management Award. The award was given in recognition of the company’s manufacturing waste reduction at its Taupo site, recycling 88 per cent of the 2.5 million kilos of waste generated by the plant in the 12 months to 31 July 2015.

Alex Cutler, NZGBC’s chief executive, says the awards recognise innovative initiatives that are providing tangible benefits for businesses and the community.

“We’re thrilled to congratulate Laminex New Zealand and Kiwi Property Group, and all other NZGBC finalists, on their achievements,” Ms Cutler said.

“These awards prove that economic success and a dedication to sustainability aren’t mutually exclusive – in fact, focusing on sustainability makes for a more efficient, profitable business.”

See all winners.

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