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Eco Company Wins Top Business Award

Eco Company Wins Top Business Award Living off the Sheep’s Back

Former teachers Greg and Sue Sweeney may be forgiven for feeling they are living off the sheep’s back after their wool-based building insulation company won a coveted business award and an environment trophy today.

Their ten-year-old firm, Eco Insulation, has taken out the Westpac Supreme Business Excellence Award in the 10th Anniversary Westpac Enterprise North Shore Business Excellence Awards. On the way, they also picked up the Smales Farm Excellence in Environmental Management Award.

Not bad for a business that started from their dining room and struggled for its first couple of years, forcing Greg back to the classroom until insulation sales reached a point where the company could afford to support them.

Eco Insulation is now in a strong growth phase, having recently expanded to larger premises in Albany to accommodate growing staff numbers (72 in the Auckland regions and 90 nationwide) and an increasing product range, as sales build throughout New Zealand and exports take off.

It’s a good feeling, according to Greg, especially as the company is built upon sound environmental principles right from the manufacturing of the product to delivery and support, which gives Eco Insulation a competitive advantage. With global warming putting the environment high on many business agendas, the timing of their win couldn’t be more perfect for Eco Insulation.

This fact wasn’t lost on the judges, who commented that Eco Insulation may well represent the “ultimate environmental business” since it uses a waste product (albeit very high quality) to make the rolls of natural insulation material and then cares sufficiently to put in programmes to minimise transporting orders to customers and encourages staff to cut waste and adopt low energy use.

“Eco Insulation has done an excellent job in looking after its business and they have built a profitable business at the same time as addressing the sustainability issues,” says Patricia Schnauer, Convenor of Judges for the Awards.

“Eco Insulation has taken what was a marketing advantage and applied it throughout the whole company in a way that is very professional and an example to other businesses on how to adapt to the times.”

Eco Insulation has developed a range of insulation products for use in home and commercial building. This includes products for walls, floors and ceilings using excess fibre from the manufacture of quality wool carpets to provide a competitive and very effective means of insulating buildings to retain warmth in winter, keep them cool in summer, reduce dampness and also insulate for sound. Natural virgin wool straight from the sheep’s back is also used in some insulation products.

According to Greg, wool is ideal as building insulation material because it is natural insulator, non-toxic, sustainable, recyclable, has superior insulation properties and draws moisture away from the living spaces, thus providing all season comfort.

And, according to Greg, users are not just investing into a healthier future for their family, home and office, they are “investing in a healthier financial future for all New Zealanders by supporting a home grown New Zealand industry that cares about our country and the environment”.

Greg got the idea when he and Sue purchased a small business that used a machine to blow loose wool fibre into lofts to form a bed of insulation above the ceiling. But he found that it was not suitable for using in walls, so approached a textile manufacturer with the idea of turning the loose wool fibres into thick thermal blankets and launched the product in the late 1990s. While there was a lot of interest, sales didn’t exactly take off because it was priced higher than traditional insulation. Then he was approached by a carpet company to see if he was interested in using excess wool fibre from the manufacture of pure wool carpets, which helped to make the price more competitive and Eco Insulation was on its way.

The company has invested in gaining quality appraisals with leading building industry organisations and it has forged relationships with Housing New Zealand, several Local Authorities and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority to further its business, supplying insulation for retro-fitting to thousands of homes around the country.

To date, Eco Insulation has supplied insulation to more than 12,000 homes nationwide, including 7,000 Housing New Zealand homes alone, saving many millions of kilowatt hours of energy. At the same time, any families have benefited, by having warmer, cosier homes, improved health and lower power bills.

The way Eco Insulation is set up is quite unconventional; being a manufacturer, distributor, retailer and installer, with associates based at strategic points throughout the country.

The business and management systems utilised by Eco Insulation are based around sustainability and triple line performance – the bottom lines being environmental, economic and social.

As the company has grown, management have honed the environmental message and instilled it through the company. A delivery programme has been designed to combine trips where possible and reduce unnecessary transport. A franchise sales system has been set up with idea that local sales are made by local people, which minimises travel, as well as making good business sense. Staff are working towards a paperless office, with most records and communications made electronically. The headquarters building also benefits from its own insulation and low energy lighting.

The message is even spreading overseas, with Eco Insulation having broken into the home insulation market in Ireland and, more recently, Japan. A new General Manager has been appointed to run the day-to-day business, with Sue still running the office, while Greg now focuses on new markets, with Japan high on the list.

The company is also diversifying into other energy-efficient products, such as solar heating, heat pumps and low energy lighting systems, building further on its environmental programme. And it is intensifying its commitment to the development and fostering of sustainable products and practices through such things as the Enviro-Mark programme and also active members of the Sustainable Business Network and The New Zealand Green Building Council.

Congratulating Eco Insulation and the other 11 category award winners, Westpac General Manager Business Banking Bruce McLachlan, said the class of 2007 was very special indeed.

“This marks the tenth year of these Awards and our support as joint principal sponsor and we couldn’t be more pleased with the quality and variety of entries received from the North Shore business community,” says Mr McLachlan.

“These Awards clearly illustrate that the economic future of the North Shore is in excellent hands.”

Enterprise North Shore Chief Executive Terry Hoskins paid tribute to all businesses who took part and helped to make the 2007 Awards one of the most successful in the event’s ten year history.

As the pressure on time for businesses continues to increase, Mr Hoskins acknowledged the investment in time and effort required to enter the Awards and whilst only a few can win, there are significant benefits to everyone from taking part.

“The entry process is often a rallying point for the whole organisation, bringing everyone together to focus on and celebrate their achievements and providing an opportunity to re-define the direction of the business,” he says.

“The near-record 100 entries for the 2007 Awards indicate that North Shore businesses have not lost their enthusiasm for the opportunity to boost their productivity and we look forward to their continuing success in the years to come.”

Category Winners for the 2007 Westpac Enterprise North Shore Business Excellence Awards are:

Massey University Excellence in Technology Award

• Winner - Register A Company. Founded in 2000, Register A Company provides easy-to-use online company registrations and has recently established similar websites in Australia, the UK, and Ireland which has led to 500% growth in the past 12 months

3MNZ Excellence in Innovation Award

• Winner – Inveratek. Specialises in intellectual property commercialisation, management and advisory services. The inventors of an innovative type of food packaging “Crushpak” which means that Yoghurt eaters around New Zealand are now discovering the joys of eating without the need for spoons.

Actionmail Excellence in Marketing Award

• Winner - One of New Zealand’s largest and fastest growing website design and e-business consultancy companies. Formed by three young men from Northland in 2000, and for a time based in the Massey University E-Centre, Zeald has grown to a staff of 22 operational staff with another 20 licensed e-business consultants working with its clients in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland.

North Shore Times Contribution to the Community Award

• Winner - Stanaway Real Estate. Collectively the Stanaway offices support a number of community activities and charities, from Guide Dogs for the Blind to local sports clubs. Operating under the Bayleys Real Estate banner. Stanaway Real Estate commits to purchasing and training a Guide Dog each year

Smales Farm Excellence in Environmental Management Award

• Winner - Eco Insulation. Developers of a wool-based home insulation product that has been fitted into over 12,000 homes, Eco Insulation won a Highly Commended in this category in 2006

ACC Workplace Safety Award

• Highly Commended - Age Concern North Shore Inc. Age Concern North Shore looks after the well-being of thousands of elderly people on the North Shore. Age Concern North Shore is committed to providing a range of services to the elderly in North Shore City from meals on wheels to free advocacy and advice. Safety is a significant concern when dealing with the elderly and Age Concern North Shore has a fine record.

The Spencer on Byron Hotel Excellence in Hospitality and Tourism Award

• Winner - McLaren Brown Publishing. A leading publisher of guides and information to overseas visitors to this country. Having been a finalist in this category on three previous occasions, McLaren Brown Publishing is a well-deserving winner for 2007. This committed team has seen readership grow from 20,000 when the business formed in 1985, to over 1.2 million today.

Smith & Davies Employer of Choice Award

• Winner - SOS Recruitment. A vibrant recruitment company with a difference. From its origins as a husband and wife team, SOS Recruitment has grown to a staff of seven and is looking to further expand from there. Walk in to the offices and it is clear that SOS Recruitment is not your run of the mill workplace; bright red walls to a telephone booth in the meeting room provide a unique and vibrant office environment.

Chelsea Sugar Excellence in Export Award

• Winner – Sealegs. Creators of a unique amphibious boat that can drive onto land. With well over 100 sales, the majority going to export, Sealegs recently had to move to a new factory to expand the production of its exciting craft.

BCS Group Best Emerging Business Award

• Winner - Agility Group. Founded in 2001 and a finalist in the 2006 awards, Agility Group specialise in IT search and selection services in New Zealand and Australia in the areas of permanent and contract IT recruitment, from technical helpdesk roles right through to Chief Information Officers.

BDO Spicers Excellence in Service Delivery Award

• Winner - Inter City Urgent. A courier business committed to providing the highest level of customer service. Inter City Urgent has introduced innovative technology and systems to improve service delivery and provide customers with more information.

Benefitz Best New Start-up Business Award

• Winner – Inveratek. An exciting new company formed to identify, fund, develop and commercialise intellectual property. The team at Inveratek counsel and facilitate intellectual property transactions, valuations and portfolio management


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