My Finance for the Future Journey

ICAEW Scotland member Clare Beck represented her company in last year’s inaugural Scottish heat of Finance for the Future in Edinburgh. Here she looks back at the project behind the presentation and shares her experience of taking part.

The Background

I had always been interested in sustainability, not least because it went hand in hand with profitability due to reducing energy costs. When I heard about Finance for the Future I was managing the installation of glitzy new LEDs lighting across Wilkies Womenswear retail stores. With 11 stores in old buildings throughout Scotland I had identified opportunities to reduce electricity costs by 53% and save 88 tCO2e in carbon emissions, the equivalent of 30 UK homes!

Challenges along the way…

It was a difficult project with many hiccups along the road including:

  • Contradictory information from various contractors
  • High capital investment
  • Technical challenges that meant that the new store lighting produced an effect that was reminiscent of the set of the film Trainspotting – definitely not appealing to our customers!

But finally we seemed to be on the road to success thanks to support from Resource Efficient Scotland (RES) programme, which provides free advice to businesses like ours.

Why I entered Finance for the Future

The awards looked really interesting, but were they really for us?  With such illustrious previous entrants (and winners) as Vegware and the Crown Estate, were we out of our league?

But the more I read about Finance for the Future the more I realised that sustainability is a journey not an end point, and we had already taken the first steps, so actually, it was very much for us. Finance for the Future focuses on the leadership from the finance team, whatever their background, who strive to make their business work sustainably.

So we entered. And I held my breath as we got through due diligence and then the initial assessment. Before I knew it we were at the June Scottish heat held at the prestigious Edinburgh Business School.

The Heat

There were so many interesting people at the heat, from so many different backgrounds, spanning the spectrum from students to sustainability professionals, not to mention my fellow competitors, and, of course ICAEW staff and others behind the competition. It gave the event a real buzz.

I brought my MD, area manager and finance manager along because I knew it would be stimulating, an opportunity to learn and network. They had a wonderful afternoon and began to see why I was so passionate about sustainability.

Despite it being a heat, all of the competitors openly shared their success stories with engaging and insightful presentations. This wasn’t just about competing; it was about being part of a group of people who either shared the same passion for sustainability as me, or were intrigued what sustainability means for their business.

Although we were not selected for the final, we were encouraged to enter again in 2016 and share the next stage of our sustainability journey.

We met many old friends and colleagues, and some fabulous new ones too who connected us with useful business contacts. The old cliché: “it’s not the winning but the taking part” could not have been more true!

What did I gain?

I took a lot of things away from the event and the experience, from new connections to new insights. We gained a new awareness of the strength and breadth of interest in sustainability within the Scottish business community, and in particular the finance profession.

Taking part helped increase our confidence in what we were doing and inspired us to continue along the sustainability path, because it is the way forward to a mutually assured future.

Above all, it reminded me once again how proud I am of our institute, which is looking beyond “bean counting” to really make a difference. ICAEW’s vision for sustainability is: ‘How do we build prosperous societies that are socially and economically just and yet live within our ecological limits?’ That’s precisely what I want to be part of – I’ll be back!

To read a summary of last year's Scottish Heat, please click here.

2016 Finance for the Future Awards

Entries for this year's Finance for the Future Awards will open on 1 March 2016.

Join the Finance for the Future Community to register your interest for this year's awards and keep up to date with the opening of entries as well as awards announcements.