The Big Lemon wins national social enterprise award

The Big Lemon, a social enterprise based in Brighton has won the Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year  award at the UK Social Enterprise Awards, held on Monday night at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London [28 November 2016].

The national competition recognises excellence and outstanding achievements by social enterprises – businesses that reinvest their profits for good, benefitting people and planet. There are now more than 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £24 billion to the economy each year.

The Big Lemon was recognised for its use of recycled cooking oil in the buses and the progress made in pursuing zero-emissions electric buses powered by renewable energy.

Tom Druitt, Founder & Managing Director of The Big Lemon said the award was “the icing on the cake” of a very good year and paid tribute to the drivers who put in “120% every day to give an awesome service to passengers”.

The annual celebration of British social enterprises was hosted by two time Edinburgh Comedy Awards Finalist, Nish Kumar. The ceremony was attended by leading UK social enterprises, representatives from large corporates and the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP.

Social enterprise supply chain

The Big Lemon and the other winners were presented with bespoke trophies made by the social enterprise, Designs in Mind, which employs people with mental health problems. Social enterprises also supplied all the goods and services on the night, including the catering, rigging, drinks, flower displays and goody bags.

The Awards are organised by Social Enterprise UK, the national trade body for social enterprise.

Peter Holbrook CBE, Social Enterprise UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“Year on year the UK Social Enterprise Awards get bigger and better. This year the competition was particularly fierce, so a big congratulations to insert name of your social enterprise for taking home a trophy.

In a year that’s been dominated by political uncertainty, divisions and inequalities, hearing the stories behind the winners and all the finalists has been a breath of fresh air. Social enterprises show that another way of doing business is possible, one that puts people and the planet first. Because they’re free of shareholders they’re able to reinvest their profits for good.”

Social enterprise facts and figures*

• There are 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing 24 billion to the UK economy and employing one million people.

• Social enterprises are experiencing a start-up boom – 35% are three years old or less, three times the proportion of SME start-ups.

• Social enterprises are much more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses – 40% of social enterprises have a female leader, compared with 18% of SMEs and 5% of FTSE 100 companies.

Sponsors of the Awards are the British Council, Big Society Capital, CAN, GLL, Johnson & Johnson, Landmarc, Mutual Ventures, Natwest, PwC, P3, Santander and Wates Group. The Big Issue is media partner to the Awards.

* Leading the world in social enterprise, a report published by Social Enterprise UK, 2015 –

The Big Lemon wins funding for Solar Bus project from M&S Energy Fund

Following a marathon six week effort from hundreds of local people, The Big Lemon and Brighton Energy Coop‘s joint Solar Bus project has won funding from the M&S Community Energy Fund to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s bus depot in solar panels to power the new electric buses on clean green renewable energy.

The Big Lemon zero-emission electric bus

The 120 solar panels will generate 30,000kW of electricity – the equivalent of 1.8 million kettle boils. With no emissions, the Solar Buses will reduce noxious gases in some of Brighton and Hove’s most polluted areas and will power the 52 route between Woodingdean and Brighton on 100% renewable energy.

We’re thrilled to have won the regional M&S Energy Award for our Solar Bus project and would like to thank all those who voted, pledged funds and shared our story to help make it happen. This will enable us to cover the roof of our depot in solar panels so we can run our new electric buses on renewable energy.

As far as we know there is nothing quite like this in the country yet, so this award will help us push the boundaries of what is possible and bring a zero carbon, zero emissions bus service to our community.  We would like to pay tribute to the other wonderful projects in our region and wish them well in developing their plans in the future.

Tom Druitt, Managing Director

The Solar Bus project was one of 199 different applications to the scheme, 125 of which were shortlisted.  These were put to public vote for six weeks during September and October and the voting process also included the option to donate to the project via the Crowdfunding platform.

We have been overwhelmed by the amount of public support for this project and would like to say a special thank you to all those who have helped us get this far.

This is a journey of discovery, and we have discovered above all the value of partnerships. We started off with just two organisations and an idea and now have a whole community of people engaged in the project, a number of local businesses supporting it, and enough money to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s depot in 120 solar panels – enough to run a whole bus service on renewable energy.

Will Cottrell, Chair, Brighton Energy Coop

The Solar Bus project was one of 19 regional winners, with 1549 votes, 170 pledges, and a total of £13,325 raised through crowdfunding, almost half the total amount of£28,798 raised through the scheme nationally.  The project will benefit from £12,500 funding from M&S Energy which, together with the £13,325 crowdfunding donations will fund the solar array on the roof of the bus depot.

Congratulations! A fantastic achievement

Andrew Boag, Chair, Brighton & Hove Buswatch

The project has received support from a number of local businesses including three Founding Partners: Sussex Backup Ltd, Infinity Foods and Buddies 24 Cafe, and five Founding Sponsors: Yelo Architects, Propellernet, Acumen Business Law, Ideal Glass & Glazing, and Mooncup.

sussex-backup-ltd   infinity-foods    buddies

The solar panels will be installed in the New Year and the first solar bus will go into service in the Spring of 2017.


The Big Lemon scores a hat-trick at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards

The Big Lemon was the big winner at the 11th Brighton & Hove Business Awards, scooping the Green Business award and Best Place to Work as well as the big one itself: Business of the Year.

What a massive honour! Huge thanks go to our team for their incredible efforts every day, to the local community for supporting us, and to the people of Brighton & Hove for honouring us in this way. Thank you!

Tom Druitt, MD

At the award ceremony Tom thanked the people of Brighton & Hove for their support and urged everyone to vote for The Big Lemon’s Solar Bus project currently competing for funding from the M&S Community Energy Fund.

Winners featured in the Argus newspaper 

Other big Brighton names who took home gongs on the night included Brighton Gin which won awards for Business Beyond the City and New Kids on the Block. The gin distiller was also highly commended as the one of the best businesses in Brighton.

This year’s Outstanding Brightonian was named as Sarah Springford, Director of the Chamber of Commerce since 2008.

Presenting Sarah with her award, Mike Gilson cited Sarah’s terrific work with the Living Wage. Said Mike:“Thanks to her hard work and dedication almost 300 businesses in Brighton & Hove have signed up to the Living Wage.

“Sarah has transformed the Chamber and delivered some really amazing results on behalf of businesses in the city.”

Sponsors for 2016 included Allied Irish Bank, Brighton and Hove Buses, Cardens Accountants, City Cabs, Dental Health Spa, Gatwick Airport, Gemini Print, Graves Jenkins, Martin Searle Solicitors, RBS, Robinson Low Francis, TSS Facilities and Yelo Architects.

Title Sussex, Platinum Business and Juice 107.2FM were media sponsors.

The BAHBAs are supported by the Chamber of Commerce, Brighton & Hove City Council, Brilliant Brighton, the Brighton and Hove Food Festival, the Brighton Business Curry Club and Brighton & Hove Tourism Alliance.

They all came together to create a competition which acknowledges the diversity and uniqueness of Brighton and celebrates those companies, organisations and individuals who really build the Brighton brand.

The Big Lemon & Brighton Energy Co-op shortlisted in joint Solar Bus project bid

The Big Lemon and Brighton Energy Coop‘s joint Solar Bus project has been shortlisted in its bid for a share of the M&S Community Energy Fund, to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s bus depot in solar panels to power the new electric buses on clean green renewable energy.

The Big Lemon Solar Bus project with Brighton Energy Coop

The 120 solar panels will generate 30kWh of electricity – the equivalent of 1.8 million kettle boils. This will power the whole of the 52 route between Woodingdean and Brighton city centre on 100% renewable energy, with no emissions coming from the bus at all.

It’s great to be working with The Big Lemon on the innovative Solar Bus project. Brighton Energy Co-op has many exciting projects, but never before have we covered the roof of a bus depot in solar panels to power the buses that live there.

This is the first project of its kind in the UK – a very exciting time for us and a project that puts Brighton & Hove at the forefront of renewable energy and transport in the UK

Will Cottrell, Chair, Brighton Energy Co-op

The M&S Community Energy Fund launched in July 2015 and has already funded 26 projects around the country. The aim of the fund is to enable more communities in the UK to generate renewable energy and become environmentally and financially sustainable. This year there is £350,000 up for grabs for the best projects, as voted for by members of the public.

The Big Lemon Solar Bus project with Brighton Energy Coop

Vote for The Big Lemon Solar Bus Project!

The total cost of the 120-panel installation will be £25,000. The Solar Bus project is hoping to raise half of that through crowdfunding, and attract enough votes from members of the public to win £12,500 of funding from M&S Energy to cover the other half.

The Big Lemon Solar Bus project with Brighton Energy Coop
Will from Brighton Energy Coop and Tom from The Big Lemon in the bus depot discussing how it will all work

Crowdfunding benefits include an entry on the ‘Solar Bus Wall of Fame‘ on The Big Lemon’s website, an invite to a special Solar Bus ‘Founders Dinner’ and even naming rights on The Big Lemon’s first electric bus.

I’m hugely grateful to the M&S Community Energy Fund for giving us such a fantastic opportunity, and excited to be working with Brighton Energy Co-op on the Solar Bus project – with their expertise in solar installations we can’t go wrong.

All we have to do now is get enough votes on the M&S Community Energy Fund website and achieve our crowdfunding target… no mean feat!  We are calling on everyone who wants zero-emissions buses powered on renewable energy in Brighton & Hove to help us in any way they can!

Tom Druitt, Managing Director, The Big Lemon

Vote for The Big Lemon Solar Bus Project!

The Big Lemon is on a mission to bring zero-emissions electric buses to communities across the UK by 2030, all run by the local community and powered by renewable energy.  This pilot project will not only be great for Brighton & Hove, it will also be the first step towards making this vision a reality.

To support the Solar Bus project please

Vote for The Big Lemon Solar Bus Project!

and share the project page at

Thank you!

So… what makes The Big Lemon different? It’s all about the driver

Sometimes people ask us what it is that makes The Big Lemon different.  Many already know that we run our buses on on recycled waste cooking oil – even if they know nothing else. Some people know that we’re a social enterprise, but many are not sure exactly what that means. But there’s something else too – something even more important.

So what is it?

Happy bus driver

It’s all about the driver.

We believe that by investing in our staff and giving them an enjoyable and rewarding place to work with an emphasis on fun they will pass on the lemon love to our passengers by providing a friendly and person-centred service.  

And it seems to work.

Sue, a regular passenger on our University services, had this to say:

The customer service is fantastic which is one of the reasons why I am sure that the yellow buses are so popular. The drivers are all friendly; there is always a “Good Morning”, “Good Afternoon” when getting on the bus and a cheery “Goodbye” at the end of the journey. If the drivers see you running for the bus, they wait, and in the morning during term time when there are so many students using the buses there is always a really nice atmosphere of happy chatter.

Have you had a ride on one of our buses? What was it like?

The Big Lemon’s shares now qualify for Social Investment Tax Relief

The Big Lemon has received confirmation of eligibility for Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) from HMRC, offering investors in the company income tax relief and other benefits.  This represents a huge boost to The Big Lemon’s ability to raise money for investment in electric buses, and offers investors an incredible 30% return on their investment in the first year.

The Big Lemon zero-emission electric bus
The Big Lemon has already raised £250,000 for investment in electric buses

Anna Fisher, The Big Lemon’s Finance & Sustainability Manager said

The Big Lemon is on a mission to bring zero-emissions, zero carbon buses to Brighton & Hove. Earlier this year we raised £250,000 for investment in electric buses and we’ve spent the last few months working with suppliers to optimise the performance and battery life of the new buses.

We have also recently completed a deal with our landlord to take over the lease on our depot which will enable us to generate renewable energy on-site that we can then use to charge the buses. Watch this space!

SITR offers investors in social enterprises such as The Big Lemon tax incentives on shares and bonds held for a minimum of three years. Investors can benefit from Income Tax relief, Capital Gains Tax exemption, Loss relief and Capital Gains Tax deferral relief.  Further information on SITR is available on the Government website.

For more info and to apply for shares in The Big Lemon please see our investment page:


The Big Lemon to stand for Prime Minister

Following a week of unprecedented political and financial uncertainty The Big Lemon has today announced its decision to stand for Prime Minister.

The Big Lemon to stand for Prime Minister

Announcing the decision, The Big Lemon said

This is a very confusing time in the depot. Last week we were told we were going to take back control, the repair workshop was going to get a funding boost of £350m a week, and Project Fear was a big conspiracy.  This week it turns out that things are spinning out of control, the workshop isn’t going to get £350m a week, and Project Fear was actually Project Understatement.

Now the bus driver has left, the conductor disappeared, and the passengers are left in limbo not sure whether they’re going forwards or backwards, right or far-right.  Meanwhile the applicant who showed the most interest in the driving position changed his mind at the last minute.

It is time for us to choose a new driver.  Do we want a driver to drive back to the depot, close the gates and lock up? Or do we want a driver to drive out into the world, to serve our communities near and far, and spread happiness and kindness wherever they go?

Head to Head: The Big Lemon and the Vote Leave battle bus
Head to Head: The Big Lemon and the Vote Leave battle bus
Key manifesto pledges are:

  1. Freedom of movement for everyone
  2. A friendly and helpful driver
  3. Free hugs for all passengers