IN the 26 years since the first Aisling Awards, our focus on the environment has been growing ever-stronger as the urgency of the climate challenge becomes yearly more apparent.
While the focus of COP27 in Egypt is global, the Aisling Environment Guardian Award celebrates those people who will in the end decide our fate – men and women who work daily to improve the little corner of the planet where they live their lives. 
Concentrix is a customer experience multinational with its European headquarters in Belfast and over 270,000 employees around the world. Local CEO and global board member Philip Cassidy is a native of West Belfast and a champion of sustainability for the company. That’s why Concentrix have come aboard this year as sponsors of our Environment Guardian Award – the sustainability which the company espouses is nowhere practised with more effect and benefit than in the work of the five nominees for this year’s honour. 
•The Black Mountain Wildlife and Rewilding Project works to promote biodiversity and enhancement in the fields, boreens and hedgerows of one of the peaks in the Belfast Hills that give the city of Belfast its stunning and celebrated backdrop. The mountain has taken a battering in recent decades through quarrying and landfill, but the job of restoring it to its natural state is a crucial one which is being done with passion and pride.
•Colin Glen on the outskirts of West Belfast on the back road to Lisburn is one of the green lungs that breathes life and vitality into the city of Belfast. Its breathtaking views and enchanting walkways attract massive numbers of visitors every year and recent attractions such as the Black Bull Run and forest ziplines – installed and operated with the retention of the natural habitat as an absolute priority – have added greatly to the experience.
•The Belfast Hills Partnership works with a range of statutory and non-statutory agencies to ensure the responsible management of the sweeping range which envelopes the city of Belfast in its embrace. Key to that work is protection of native wildlife, improved and sympathetic  public access and the creation and restoration of vital woodlands. The Partnership works closely with the four councils whose areas touch on the Hills, as well as farmers, businesses and recreational facilities.
•Ulster Wildlife’s Bog Meadows nature reserve is situated in the heart of the city, an oasis of natural beauty adjacent to the clamour of the M1 motorway. Birds, butterflies, insects and wildflowers are cherished and protected in the award-winning urban wetland. Alongside a team of dedicated volunteers, Ulster Wildlife works tirelessly to combat non-native species and to control invasive scrub to allow the Meadows’ magnificent flora and fauna to thrive.
•The beautiful and iconic barn owl is struggling, with numbers falling due to a range of factors – disappearing habitat being the key one. The volunteers of the Lough Neagh Barn Owl group have scored stunning breeding successes in recent years, working with landowners and stakeholders around Lough Neagh to provide bird boxes in prey-rich environments in a battle for the future of one of Ireland’s most breath-taking birds.