13 Oct 2021
By Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
Last week the Glasgow Business Awards returned after a year missed in the depths of the pandemic. We weren’t sure what the demand would be for a live event and we knew we would be among the first to revive the regular annual business calendar.
It was no easy decision to make but our members were advising us to go ahead providing that we kept well within the current coronavirus guidance and both our headline sponsor Royal Bank of Scotland, and our media sponsor The Herald agreed.
Royal Bank of Scotland gave the top award for Most Outstanding Business to JW Filshill, the Glasgow headquartered wholesaler with 140 years trading behind it. Also winning the Family Business of the Year and Health and Wellbeing, the firm whose KeyStore brand is amongst the best-known convenience store chains in Scotland showed what can be achieved with five generations of strong family values.
COP26 is just around the corner and with a growing emphasis on sustainable business practices we increased the share of the Awards going to companies responding to climate change. Star Refrigeration, Scottish Leather Group, Dear Green Coffee Roasters and electrical equipment recycling and repair company WEEE Scotland were all winners.
Another long-established company, Cullen Eco-Friendly Packaging, picked up both Best Performing Large Business and International Trade. Celebrating 100 years of manufacturing in Glasgow this year, Cullen is Europe’s only supplier of moulded pulp and corrugated packaging as a replacement for single use plastics.
Arnold Clark CEO Eddie Hawthorne became the latest recipient of the Chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award after a 21 year career with the company, ultimately taking over the reins from Sir Arnold and overseeing the car firm’s national expansion and selling over 300,000 cars a year in sites from Elgin to Southampton.
Members join Chambers of Commerce to make business connections and events like the Business Awards are the backbone of a Chamber’s activities. However much online platforms have helped us to keep contact going, nothing matches the experience of face to face communication.
This year though we had an extra reason to bring the Awards back. Our city centre is still struggling to recover and we have been arguing for the Scottish Government to give us some indication when their preference for home working will come to an end. Life is returning faster in cities elsewhere in the UK and the home working default is the main reason. Many of our biggest companies are respecting the government’s guidance but as a result we are witnessing the collapse of small businesses that serve our city centre. Running the Business Awards is our own statement that it is time to return closer to normality.
It was also an opportunity for the Chamber to thank so many of our members in-person who have stepped up to help tackle the consequences of the crisis. I was especially pleased to recognise those members who have contributed to the Chamber’s Glasgow Business Resilience Council. Set up to steer the Chamber’s response to the pandemic and involving over 70 members, the Resilience Council has, quite remarkably, met almost every week since the crisis began and continues to guide the Chamber’s work on the city’s economic recovery.
But above all, after eighteen months of pain, we decided that the time has come to celebrate again.
With masks, lateral flow tests, a cap on the attendance, track and trace details and ubiquitous hand sanitisers we went ahead. And given the room’s unusually animated atmosphere we are very glad that we did.
This article was first published in The Herald on Wednesday 13 October 2021