Our heritage, our culture: telling the story of the Awards trophies

3 November 2015

The NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards night is when we celebrate the amazing achievements of New Zealand’s best sustainable organisations. But the untold story is how sustainability is woven into the fabric of the trophies.

With finalists including social enterprises, small businesses, corporates, councils, universities and individual champions from around the country, the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards epitomise what the Sustainable Business Network stands for – success through sustainability, wherever you are on your journey and whatever the size of your organisation. The Awards are all about stories of success, but underlying them all is the story behind the Awards trophies.

Paradigm Associates, responsible for the design of the supreme winner’s trophy, has been on the sustainability journey with us since sharing an office above ecostore in Scotland Street 13 years ago.

The supreme award – NZI Greatest Contribution to a Sustainable NZ – is a bowl full of stones and each year a new stone is added to the bowl.

John Ringer, CEO of Paradigm Associates, and designer of the trophy says that what’s become coveted in the sustainability space comes from a simple concept.  

“The whole idea came from us wanting to do something different,” says John. “The SBN is different. We wanted to get across in the most tangible way the concept of sustainability and what it actually means.”

The stones, John says, are literal while the bowl is metaphorical.

“Stones are one of the most sustainable things we have and the bowl, made out of native totora burr, represents a nest; it’s nurturing. The idea was that within the bowl each year a stone would be added for that winner and you would end up with a nest of like-minded people who are at the top of their sustainability game.”

In essence, it’s the epitome of sustainability. The bowl is made from recycled wood – the story of finding it is one John recounts fondly – and, just like the stones, will last forever if it’s looked after.

The essence of sustainability, and the trophies, is longevity. The ceramic trophies for the category awards, made in the traditional Crown Lynn slip-cast technique, are mounted onto recycled timber, a combination that – unless dropped – will last for lifetimes and carry the message that the choices we make will impact us far into the future.   

John says the concept for both the category trophies and supreme winner trophy were “very much tied into the concept of making it as pure as possible in terms of talking about sustainability. There’s no sham or greenwashing involved. Pottery will last forever.”

It’s the connection with history, the present and the future that’s so vital to these awards.

Chosen for sustainable materials but also leading a history of their own, the category trophies carry the heritage of Crown Lynn and the Ropata family.

“Paul Ropata was a mould maker at Crown Lynn,” John says. “His workshop was a little tin shed out in the back of West Auckland and it was filled with kilns and old stuff from the Crown Lynn factory. It was a treasure trove and we thought it was really appropriate in terms of SBN’s history and New Zealand’s history; it locks together quite nicely.”

Paul has since retired and his son has taken over producing and managing the moulds for the trophies. The trophies have, entirely accidentally, become part of the Crown Lynn legacy as the remaining hands that made thousands of Crown Lynn pieces are few and far between.

If anything, it speaks more loudly to the importance of sustainability in everything we do with a simple overarching message: sustainability will define our past, present and future.

Paradigm Associates helped pioneer public interest design and was amongst the earliest company of its kind in the world. Built on the philosophy of working with only like-minded organisations, Paradigm was influential in the uptake of recycled paper by commercial printers and generating demand for use of vegetable inks in New Zealand.

 The NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards night is on 24 November at Shed 10 on Auckland’s waterfront, and the final allocation of tickets is on sale now.