Oscar-winning actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio brought a splash of Hollywood glamour to the 2016 Scottish Business Awards, while the nation’s entrepreneurs shone as the stars of the show.
Climate change took centre stage at the 2016 Scottish Businesses Awards as film star and environmental campaigner Leonardo DiCaprio challenged members of the audience to play their role in protecting the planet. DiCaprio was the keynote guest at the ceremony, which was attended by more than 2,000 business leaders, making it the largest dinner of its kind in the UK for the third year running.
DiCaprio was joined on stage by Terry Tamminen, chief executive of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) and a former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and chief policy advisor to the state’s then governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The men were interviewed by BBC Radio 2 breakfast show host Chris Evans, who fired off a broad range of questions, ranging from what is was like to have director Martin Scorsese as a boss through to the filming of Before the Flood, an online documentary about climate change made by DiCaprio that’s been watched by more than 62 million people.
Tamminen said that he and DiCaprio had met with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and he praised the political will of her Scottish Government in tackling climate change. He also praised Scotland’s fledgling tidal power industry; just days before the dinner, Atlantis Resources announced it had connected the first of its turbines at its MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth, a mere matter of weeks after Nova Innovation said its Bluemull Sound project off Shetland had become the first offshore tidal array to deliver electricity to the grid.
Earlier in the day, DiCaprio had visited Home, a restaurant in Edinburgh set up by Scottish Business Awards co-founder Josh Littlejohn and Dean Gassabi, the chef behind the city’s Maison Bleue eatery. Diners can buy meals that are served to homeless people at the restaurant, which also provides training for some of society’s most disadvantaged people.
DiCaprio’s lunch of macaroni cheese was prepared by members of staff Colin Childs, Joe Hart, Biffy Mackay and Sonny Murray, all of whom come from homeless backgrounds. The restaurant echoes the ethos of Social Bite, the sandwich shop chain co-founded by Littlejohn.
All the profits from the Scottish Business Awards – for which BQ was one of the partner organisations – will be shared among three charities: the LDF; Scottish Edge, a competition that provides grants and loans to start-up businesses; and Social Bite. Just under £1m had been raised by the start of the evening, bringing the total secured over the past five years to more than £4m.
Littlejohn told the audience that Social Bite would be holding a “CEO sleep out” at Charlotte Square in Edinburgh on 15 December to raise money, with Sturgeon agreeing to serve bacon rolls to participants on the following morning. He also explained about his plan to build homes for homeless people using £5,000 modular units at Granton in Edinburgh.
Alan Mahon, Littlejohn’s co-organiser of the Scottish Business Awards, introduced the audience to Brewgooder, the beer brand that the pair created in partnership with Ellon-based brewery Brewdog. The profits from the sale of its lager are donated to charities that provide clean drinking water in developing countries.
DiCaprio wasn’t the only star on the bill though – Sir Tom Hunter, the chairman of the Scottish Business Awards, presented rock band Simple Minds with the inaugural ‘Andrew Carnegie award for inspirational Scots’. Simple Minds then gave a surprise rendition of their hits ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ and ‘Alive and Kicking’, with singer Andreya Triana delivering a follow-up performance.
Hunter also introduced the audience to Founders4Schools, a charity led by entrepreneur Sherry Coutu that uses technology to connect teachers to role models, such as entrepreneurs, who can come and speak to their classes to inspire their pupils. “It’s working in England and we’re going to launch it in Scotland early in the new year,” he said.
“The World Economic Forum says that if your child is at primary school today then by the time they get into the world of work 65% of the jobs available to them have not even been invented yet. Over the next few years, 100% of the net jobs created in the UK economy will be created by companies that are less than five years old.
“We’re living in the world of disruption, so how do we in Scotland make sure we are the disrupters and not the disrupted? We need to make sure we support scale-up businesses.”
The real stars of the show were the entrepreneurs whose achievements were rewarded with prizes during the ceremony, which was presented by Welsh comedian Rob Brydon, who serenaded the First Minister, eliciting much mirth from the crowd.
The winners included Gareth Williams, chief executive and co-founder of Skyscanner, Scotland’s first ‘unicorn’, a digital technology company valued at more than US$1 billion, who received the Chivas Brothers entrepreneur of the year award. Marie Macklin, executive chairwoman of Macklin Enterprise Partnerships, was named as the BQ female business leader of the year, while Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive at Virgin Money, took the title of KPMG CEO of the year.