Sunday, June 14, 2009

Qld Sustainable Industries Awards

In 2008, Food Connect was a finalist at the then EPA Awards night. Our subscribers raised money for us to go along and we all jumped on a train and bus to get to the big event at the Gold Coast Convention Centre. It all went downhill from there. To our despair, the room was full of mining entities, development corporates, energy companies (not renewable, mind you) and so, wanting to avoid more greenwash, we chose not to enter again.

2009 came along and the folk at the EPA (it seems) were keen to recoup the credibility it lost last year, and vigorously encouraged us to enter again. "One more chance" we thought, and when word came through that we were finalists again we were pleased, but with the Gold Coast City Council and the Brisbane Convention Centre as our rivals, we were understandably sceptical. Once again, our subscribers helped us pay for some of our farmers, one of our city cousins and a few staff members to go along.

Our scepticism faded throughout the night as one by one, the awards were seemingly going to genuine winners. When the time came for the Minister's Award for ClimateSmart Leadership, we knew we could have a real chance. Bendigo Bank sponsored this award, and we waited while their representative espoused community banking as a sustainable industry. Minister Kate Jones finally announced the winner - Food Connect! We all jumped up and cheered and Robert took Elsie up to the podium and thanked our community of dedicated friends, family, staff, mums, and farmers (with interjections from Elsie, sending the whole room into fits of laughter), and he finished his speech with a warning (especially Coles, who were also in the room) that the small farmer revolution is here! It was a wonderful achievement and we headed off for a big night of celebrations.

Of course, these nights seem like tokenism in a lot of ways and when I asked Zac, one of our packers, to reflect on the night he sent me the following words:
Some of the more unpalatable moments from last night was when Ranger Tim read out some of the criteria by which the finalists are judged, "...first and foremost, must be a good business..." referring to the bottom line and the preservation thereof, as a guiding principal. Ranger Tim's introductory spiel justifying sustainability by saying it costs less to business and is better for the bottom line, seems to completely subvert the whole purpose of sustainability. When the focus is money, it's not on sustainability or the environment. This needs to shift.

Patting themselves on the back for sourcing some of the food we were served locally was also a bit on the nose, especially as they chose to ignore where the local businesses sourced their produce (Sirromet, for example). The percentage of locally sourced items was pretty pathetic anyway, probably no more than any other meal they prepare there. The selection of some of the businesses in the finals were crazy, the Brisbane Convention Centre for instance. Paying someone else to offset your emissions is lazy and is just plain unsustainable. And what was that spray on water/tar mix for BHP? Obviously a large function of sustainability is to sustain current mining practises! I could go on, but I have to say that I did agree with most of the Judges decisions in the end, but there needs to be some serious thought go into these awards and the criteria and the way it's presented and sponsored. Last but not least, these awards SHOULD NOT EXIST. It should be a legal requirement for all businesses and facilities (and not only these) to be sustainable. This would make sustainability the rule rather than the exception.

This is essential for us to keep living with this planet.


  1. WOW!! super congratulations to you all!! Gorgeous to see Elsie was part of the award giving ceremony, and was able to get her message across as well. . . i can only imagine it was equally as politically charged as Rob's warning to Coles!!

  2. Hi,

    Well done to you all. Looking forward to seeing small, localised, organic, socially and economically just food systems throughout Australia. This is just the beginning and a great step forward.