Highlights from the British Business Awards 2022

Written by Sterling Content
November 4, 2022


Written by Sterling Content
November 4, 2022

British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) members and their guests were full of excitement and jubilation as they returned to a fully in-person British Business Awards (BBA) gala for the first time in three years on November 2. 

Following an online BBA in 2020 and a hybrid BBA in 2021, more than 220 attendees donned tuxedos and evening gowns—as well as kilts and kimono—for an evening of fabulous food, entertainment and networking at the Conrad Tokyo. All attendees were eager not only to reconnect—the theme of this year’s BBA—but also to celebrate together the very best of UK–Japan business and cultural relations in 2022.

This year saw 49 BBA nominees compete for a coveted BBA across seven award categories—Company of the Year; UK–Japan Partnership; Entrepreneur of the Year; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Champion of the Year; Digi-Tech Innovation; Responsible Business and 2022’s new category, Study UK Alumni of the Year.


Reconnecting on crystal year

Simply holding the BBA in-person after a pandemic-induced three-year hiatus created a buzz among attendees. Before entering the beautifully decorated ballroom for the main event, guests chatted with colleagues, friends and business connections while meeting new faces over aperitifs, including Champagne, Old Fashioned featuring Northern Irish whiskey Bushmills, freshly poured beers from Wimbledon Brewery, and British favourite, gin and tonic.

The mood was certainly jubilant, not the least because 2022 also marked the crystal, or 15th year, of the BBA. Established in 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of the BCCJ by celebrating the membership and encouraging its diversification, the initial BBA had four categories: Entrepreneur, CSR Initiative, Innovation and Corporate Excellence. Today, the BBA recognises and celebrates excellence in UK–Japan relations in a vast range of industries across a variety of topics, from collaboration and responsible business to diversity, equity and inclusion, reflecting 15 years of evolution. 

In a video marking the crystal anniversary, BCCJ members and friends involved in the creation and development of the event over the years shared some of its history. Highlights included performances by globally renowned entertainers, the addition of new award categories and funny, engaging speeches from former Ambassador to Japan Paul Madden CMG and former BCCJ President David Bickle OBE.


Entertaining line-up

Returning as joint master of ceremonies were Guy Perryman MBE and Madoka Kato, who guided both in-person and online attendees through the evening celebrations with pizzaz.

While guests enjoyed their five-course menu featuring some of the best of British cuisine, they were treated to a musical performance and views of a painting being created in real time (it was later auctioned for charity). The meal began with amuse-bouche followed by a hearty root vegetable soup with beans and barley. The pan-fried Scottish salmon, which was served on a bed of green pea puree alongside adorable mini potato pancakes and topped with Bearnaise sauce, was followed by a roasted beef fillet with roasted potatoes, honey-roasted parsnips and a mustard jus. The luxurious menu was concluded with another British favourite: Eton mess with fromage blanc cream and berry sauce accompanied with pistachio ice cream, providing a delightful colour palate of red and green on the plate, followed by coffee or tea.

After dinner, BCCJ President Richard Lyle took to the stage to welcome attendees to the first in-person BBA for three years, exclaiming, “We’re back!” to a cheer from the audience.

In this time of huge global challenges, including the war in Ukraine and resultant energy crisis, as well as inflation, recession and the ongoing threat of global warming, businesses face tough times, he said, but noted that such challenges also present “opportunities for businesses to step up” to help offer solutions. “Business can be responsible; business can digitalise and innovate more; and, importantly, business can embrace diversity, equity and inclusion, so everyone’s voice is heard,” he said.

Reflecting on the top-quality efforts of the nominees and how they support the deepening of UK–Japan ties, he said “each BBA nomination demonstrates the strong bond between the UK and Japan. The relationship is striving, so let us continue to cheer it on,” before asking attendees to join him in a toast: “To partnership, perseverance and collaboration. And to the continued success of nominees and the wider [BCCJ] membership.”

BCCJ Executive Director Sarah Backley said she was “beyond delighted” to connect with attendees in-person, noting that facilitating connection is one of her key priorities. “What we strive to do at the BCCJ,” she said, is to help members become more “connected to information, connected to opportunities, and—of course—connected to one another.”

Before the BBA winners were announced, guests heard messages for the nominees from the BBA’s esteemed judges and valued sponsors via a video montage. The speakers celebrated the work, commitment and inspiring stories of the nominees and offered them good luck and congratulations, before thanking the BCCJ for being part of their gala event.

Included in the video was a special message from Greg Clark MP, trade envoy to Japan, who expressed this eagerness to visit Japan now that its borders have been relaxed. As the UK and Japan emerge from the pandemic and the associated problems, “now is the time to rekindle and rejuvenate [bilateral] relationships,” he said, adding that “there’s nothing better than meeting in person to discuss business—and from that, friendships are made.”


Toasting winners and supporters

British Ambassador to Japan Julia Lonngbottom CMG, too, celebrated all nominees in her speech, which outlined the important role of the BBA in deepening the relationship between the UK and Japan. This year’s new category, Study UK Alumni of the Year, in particular, recognises the role alumni can play in supporting that relationship in the future, she said. Sponsored by the British Council, the award celebrates an alumni of the UK who is making a significant contribution to UK–Japan ties as a result of their study and experiences in the UK. The award was introduced by British Council Director for Japan, Matt Knowles.

“Alumni are really important,” Julia also added. “I think all of us would like to see more exchange between young people studying in each other countries. We need to create leaders of the future to support our relationship.”

Longbottom also reflected that 2022 has been both joyous and sad for the UK, as the year saw both celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, a remarkable 70 years on the throne, and her passing in September.

“What was so moving in Japan was to really feel the strength of the affection and attachment to the Queen and everything she stood for,” she said, noting that more than 4,000 bunches of flowers were placed in front of the British Embassy Tokyo and about 1,000 people signed condolence books. The Emperor and Empress also attended the Queen’s funeral in London, demonstrating the strength of the bilateral bond.

Just as “the Queen represented tradition as well as modernity, continuity as well as evolution,” those values are present in the business relationship between the two countries, she added. “As Japan opens back up, as we see more dynamism and energy in the relationship, it’s fantastic to celebrate the winners who have done so much to inspire those connections and the depth of the relationship between the UK and Japan.”

Before presenting the awards, Longbottom also recognised the efforts of the seven judges from the UK–Japan community who hail from business, government and sport. The panel comprised John Amari, writer and innovation consultant; Louise Dalgliesh, assistant coach of Japan Women’s XV; Yoko Ishikura, professor emeritus of Hitobashi University; Adam Marshall CBE, senior adviser to HSBC and former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce; Mika Masuyama, president of Masuyama & Company; Andrew Ramroop OBE CMTT, CEO of Maurice Sedwell (Saville Row) and principal of Saville Row Academy; and Hideo Suzuki, executive advisor of Nippon Steel.

The judges assessed each nominee carefully and confidentially over a period of several weeks, with the winners being decided based on the combined scores. They winners were:

ESR Limited, BT Group and Toshiba Group, PodLaunch with Jayne (Jayne Nakata), Kathleen Reilly, EY Japan Co., Ltd., AstraZeneca KK, and Global Perspectives KK.

For more on the winners, click here.

The BBA would not have been possible without the support of many BCCJ member companies including headline sponsor Robert Walters Japan, gold sponsor The British Council, silver sponsors Argentum Wealth and Standard Chartered, and bronze sponsors AP Advisers and Catherine O’Connell Law. There were also many in-kind, media and prize sponsors.

The BBA was followed by a nijikai (afterparty) at Conrad Tokyo’s Bar & Lounge “Twenty Eight,” on the 28th floor, which offered breathtaking views of the city’s night skyline and flowing drinks for the delighted guests.