One of my favourite aspects of what I do is meeting, supporting and featuring brilliant, purpose driven people whose businesses and organisations make an impact. One such organisation is Crest. It is the only sustainability-focused awards programme uniquely aimed at recognising and celebrating business sustainability by enterprises and organisations.

A few weeks ago, my good friend Wendy Varcoe introduced me to Carol Miller and Terry Tidbury, the inspirational co-founders of the CREST Business Awards.

I am really happy to share their story with you here. I hope you’ll be inspired to connect, apply, give and participate. Would you like to be featured on DigiKind? We do this for free, for any organisation or business that makes an impact in their community that focuses on art, philanthropy, upcycling/sustainability, digital transformation, empowerment, and handmade.

CREST Business Awards – Our Story

By Carol Miller, Co-Director

A life working in news and communications has given me a deep understanding of the impact of the media on people, for good and bad.

For most people, there are few media messages more effective than when they are delivered by their children. From a very early age children come home from school demanding to know what their parents are doing to save the planet.

News and TV documentaries show creatures in seas and rivers, animals and plant life maimed and killed by the impact of pollution, whether its plastic straws and bags, or industry and farms making and growing things they see in their homes. It makes no sense, least of all to our children, and it’s only natural that they turn to their parents to fix it.

While many people will be look to their domestic actions to recycle, reuse and make ethically sound choices, others will also want to know that the companies, with far larger carbon footprints, are making a difference.

With that thought I approached one of my clients, a local family-owned newspaper, the Woking News & Mail, where I felt its grassroots connection with the community was an ideal opportunity to create a positive narrative. To make people aware of businesses who are taking action to protect the environment.

More importantly by celebrating these actions, it seemed a viable way of helping to overturn the concept of eco measures as a marketing exercise and make them valued as keystones to showcase and motivate others.

I started building a case for the newspaper to launch a green business awards programme. However, I knew that I needed authoritative support to give the awards kudos and my hopes were set on the University of Surrey.

By chance the University’s Centre for Environment & Sustainability was hosting its Roland Clift annual lecture at this time and its guest speaker was Joanna Yarrow, then Head of Global Sustainability for IKEA.

I tentatively put my idea to the CES Director Prof. Richard Murphy and he was keen to follow up on the initiative, while Joanna also was interested to know more.

I was fortunate that Terry Tidbury the Director of the Woking News & Mail also liked the idea, though he never expected the enthusiastic support from our subsequent meeting with the CES. It only remained for me to give the baby a name and in May 2019 CREST Business Awards were born!

We took our idea to the then Surrey County Councillor with the Environment Portfolio and Council’s Greener Futures Manager, who were equally excited with the concept as an idea that would provide an ideal showcase for green businesses in the county. The Council immediately stepped up as Headline Sponsors and suddenly our idea had wings!

The COVID pandemic meant that our first event was postponed until 2021 when we had to rethink it as a hybrid event that was live streamed, with Joanna stepping up to the plate as host and keynote presenter from her kitchen table!

Since then it has grown and the commitment Terry and I share for the ethos of the awards programme has led to our taking them over as a not for profit business as Co-Directors.

The awards remain free-to-enter with entries from across Surrey and winners that have varied from the bluechip corporate McLaren Applied to start-up SolarCycle and community enterprises such as Zero Carbon Guildford.

Our sponsors have included the WWF, Keir Highways and Mayer Brown Ltd as well as Surrey Chambers of Commerce and Surrey Wildlife Trust.

In 2022 we were able to organise our first in-person event and launched a Green Business Exhibition, which returned for CREST23.

By 2023 we also realised that our unique network of supporters was also a chance to provide a year-round opportunity for businesses to increase corporate sustainability and in partnership with the newly created Institute for Sustainability at the University of Surrey, as well as our stalwart friend within the CES, we launched a think tank, CREST Consortium.

We set out to create a green template for businesses across the UK, in recognition of the fact that Surrey represents one of the biggest contributors to the UK economy outside of London.

It inspired us to extend the Awards programme to include a Green Business seminar in addition to the Green Business Exhibition, which was led by our longstanding supporter Joanna Yarrow, now Chief Sustainability Officer at M&C Saatchi Group, and Prof. Lorenzo Fioramonti, Founding Director of the Institute for Sustainability.

Currently the awards focus on businesses who are based in Surrey or work within the county but having featured in the COP26 website as an example of green initiatives within the UK, we know that our message goes beyond any boundaries.