The glittering ceremony for The Sixth International Green Awards took place in London last night in the splendid surroundings of The Natural History Museum. Now with 20 award categories and over 500 attendees on the night the Green Awards has grown into a heavy weight event on the sustainability calendar. The ceremony's high profile was reflected by the big name winners.
Gisele Bünchen was awarded the Best International Green Celebrity Award, voted for by the public. Gisele was honoured for her dedicated environmental awareness work with UNEP and the great competitive campaign she ran with Don Cheadle for World Environment Day to see how many trees people could pledge in her name.
Unsurprisingly the gorgeous Gisele won the contest and will be planting her new forest in Brazil in the spring of 2012 in honour of 2011 being the UN's International Year of the Forests. Gisele sent in a video message of thanks to the Green Awards last night, thanking everyone who voted for her and encouraging us all to feel empowered to take action on environmental issues.
Wangari Maathai honoured with posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award
The most moving moment of the evening was the Lifetime Achievement Award, which last year was given to Sir David Attenborough. This year it was awarded posthumously to the great Kenyan environmental leader Wangari Maathai who passed away earlier this year. It was both sad and joyous to honour Maathai's life and work. Happily she knew about and accepted the award before she died.
Maathai's daughter sent in a very moving video acceptance speech from Kenya. She promised that her family is working hard to continue The Green Belt Movement which her mother founded, emphasising that her memory will live on in all the people whose lives she improved through environmental education. This emotional and heartfelt speech brought a lump to every throat in the room.
Unilever wins The International Green Awards Grand Prix
It wasn't only inspiring individuals who were celebrated at The Green Awards, but also inspiring organisations. Among the 20 category winners were Marks and Spencer's who won the Best Green Energy Efficiency Initiative Award for Plan A, The Danish Transport Authority won the Best Green Advertising & PR Award for their “Drive Green” campaign and The Yalumba Wine Company from Australia won the Best Green International Business Award (Medium).
However is was the corporate giant Unilever that won big on the night for the delivery of their radical new sustainability strategy this year under the leadership of Paul Polman. Unilever were awarded the Best Green International Business Award (Large) and finally the Grand Prix. The Green Awards believe that Unilever's green agenda is a significant and important development in the global business landscape that will inspire other big business to redesigning their business models for a more sustainable future
Peter Byck, director of the documentary Carbon Nation, left us with possibly the most important message of the night. "We're not futurists," he said, "We're actualists. This stuff is going on right now. Biofuel is being used every day in passenger jets, two years ago no one imagined that. There has been more energy capacity built in the world through wind and solar in the last two years than any other energy source. More than coal, more than natural gas. The low carbon economy is happening."