What we learned from seven sustainability award finalists

sustainability awards

The Banksia Sustainability Awards is an awards program that recognises the best sustainable organisations and initiatives in Australia. Across eight categories, businesses, government, charities, not for profits, research institutions and others demonstrate how they are contributing to a better world through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In this year’s awards, held 24 March, the largest number of applications received was for the small business category, demonstrating the drive of entrepreneurs in addressing sustainability challenges and providing innovative solutions.

These awards provide a fantastic case study of both the variety of sustainable small businesses and also what they have in common.

What kinds of sustainable small businesses and initiatives were featured in this year’s awards?

Winner: Yume Food, a B2B online marketplace for surplus food


  • eWater Systems, a hygiene solution that replaces cleaning chemicals with electrolysed water.
  • Green Eco Technologies, providing food waste recycling using an on-site enclosed system.
  • Piping Hot, a surfwear and surf equipment brand that is dedicated to ocean health.
  • Pump Free Energy, an efficient kitchen grease trap technology and collection service.
  • Reef Ecologic, a marine consultancy focused on coral reefs.
  • Unsurpassed Australian Grown (UAG) Bio Nutrients, creating organic fertiliser from organic waste.

What do these businesses have in common, and what can others learn from them?

Seeing sustainability as an opportunity, not a burden – These businesses have clearly seen that a demand exists for more environmentally friendly products and brands. They cater to a growing segment of organisational buyers that are looking to purchase products that help achieve their own environmental commitments and consumers looking to buy products that align with their personal values.

Focus on one or two key impacts – These small businesses are not trying to do everything. They’ve each identified one or two key impacts of their business or industry and focused on how they could have the most influence in reducing that impact through the design of their product or solution, through the suppliers they work with or through the operation of their business model. We call this your sustainability superpower.

Sustainability is embedded at the core of the business – In all of the finalists, sustainability is not a side initiative or a “nice to have”. Some evolved that way and some were set up that way from the start, but they all go well beyond switching off the lights, introducing recycling bins and giving money to charity once a year. They are driving deep change by putting sustainability at the core of the business and the service or product they provide.

Partnering for growth and greater impact – The finalists spoke about how the partnerships they’ve developed with government, larger businesses and suppliers have been critical in their growth and success. They noted this is something that takes time, especially with an innovative new solution that can take a while for the market to understand and adapt to. Trust, therefore, needs to be built with patience, building relationships with small projects growing into larger and larger ones.

Multi-award winners and certifications – Many of the finalists had won numerous previous awards for business and sustainability and nearly all also had achieved third party certifications themselves or used certified inputs. This demonstrates the importance of certification and award recognition to build credibility and trust in a new solution or business, but also the importance of celebrating your achievements and recognising hard work by the team to achieve sustainable outcomes.

What can you do by applying those strategies in your business? I look forward to seeing your success in next year’s Banksia Awards!

Sara Redmond-Neal, Founder, Small Mighty CSR