25 years of environmental excellence. NI’s top sustainability champions revealed.

Northern Ireland’s most sustainable and environmentally conscious organisations have been revealed at an event to announce the results of responsible business network Business in the Community’s 25th annual Northern Ireland Environmental Benchmarking Survey.

The Survey is a self-disclosure exercise that offers organisations a way to be externally assessed and scored on their environmental efforts and performance. Participating organisations are provided with a Gap Analysis Report to help them to identify areas that need action and highlights where they are performing well.

In 2023, Belfast-based aerostructures manufacturer Spirit Aerosystems took the top spot and industrial drive solutions company Technidrive Ltd, Portadown, received the award for Top Performing Small Business. Manufacturer and supplier of landscape materials AG Paving & Building Products was recognised as most improved at the event, and drug development and diagnostic company Almac was the top performer of the organisations new to the Survey in 2023.

Philip Boyd, Re-instatement Supervisor at Kier, was recognised for his environmental contribution, as winner of an Award named after the late George Dawson, who started the Survey in 1998.

121 NI-based organisations from sectors including: General Manufacturing; Local Authority; Education; Utilities; Construction; ICT; and Food and Drink took part in the Survey, with 28 organisations achieving coveted top Platinum level.

Seven organisations have taken part every year of the Survey without fail since its inception 25 years ago, including: Belfast Harbour, Belfast International Airport, Henry Brothers, Moy Park, Seagate Technology, Spirit Aerosystems and Translink.

The Survey highlighted that at least 88% of companies who participated are using at least some renewable energy as part of their total energy consumption. Although 12% said they didn’t use renewable energy at all, just over a fifth source 95% plus of their energy from renewable sources.

For those organisations using products where greenhouse gas emissions cannot be avoided or fully eliminated, carbon offsetting can be considered a good way to tackle carbon footprint. 28% of respondents invest in carbon offsetting, for example tree planting or carbon or methane capture, use and storage.

46% of companies take a wider approach and work with local communities to mitigate climate impacts and build climate resilience. Initiatives such as encouraging the purchasing and use of pre-loved items, delivering education programmes in local schools, and offering employer-supported volunteering with a sustainability focus are being delivered across NI.

When asked how companies are addressing the reduction of their wastage levels, 75% reported that they are refurbishing equipment instead of buying brand new and 70% are reducing or completely eliminating single-use packaging.

However, there is room for improvement on efforts to maintain, enhance and conserve biodiversity with 21% of respondents not taking any action on this issue, and only 15% have been externally recognised for their effort to support biodiversity.

Philip McMurray, Head of Waste Legislation, Environmental Resources Policy Division of DAERA, spoke at the event and emphasised the importance of environmental and climate action, to foster prosperous businesses, bolster a more circular economy, and ensure a sustainable planet. 

Mr McMurray said, “The Department is encouraged by the wholehearted involvement of organisations throughout Northern Ireland, irrespective of their scale or sector. This underscores the universality of our collective responsibility for environmental action. Their dedication to participating in the Survey and embracing public accountability reaffirms their commitment to weaving environmental responsibility into the very fabric of their core business operations.” 

Brian Moreland, Communication & CR Manager at Moy Park, emphasized, “Moy Park’s unwavering participation in the Survey over a 25-year journey underscores our dedication to advancing our environmental initiatives. We’re delighted to once again achieve the prestigious Platinum Level, a testament to our ongoing commitment.”

At the close of the Survey results launch event, Dr Lisa McIlvenna, Deputy Managing Director of Business in the Community, emphasized the significance of the Survey as a valuable benchmarking tool. She stressed its important role over the last 25 years, in bringing attention to critical environmental issues that organisations must consider.

Dr McIlvenna said, “In an era where stakeholders, suppliers, buyers, and the public at large are actively seeking assurance of businesses’ dedication to environmental wellbeing, participation in the Survey serves as tangible evidence of their commitment to a more sustainable future.”

To find out which organisations participated in the 2023 Survey and to see how they scored, visit www.bitcni.org.uk/niebs.