Business Excellence Award Credentials

A statement issued by the Australian Organisational Excellence Foundation to correct the Herald article, A CLAYTON’S AWARD, featured in the THINKING ALLOWED column on 15 December, 2017.

A Rigorously Evaluated Award

Last Friday’s opinion article (published on 15 December 2017) titled “A Clayton’s Award” unfortunately contained many errors that reflect poorly on the untarnished reputation of the Australian Organisational Excellence Awards (the Awards). In seeking to discredit the City of Melville, this article suggests that an award of the City’s choice was obtained by simply paying a fee and following a series of administrative steps. This is an incorrect and gross misrepresentation of one of the most rigorous and highly regarded Awards processes in Australia.

Specific Points of Error in the Article

  • The Foundation is a totally independent Not-For-Profit entity and it does not provide consulting services.
  • Applicants do not “pay a fee and follow a series of steps that end with receipt of the award of their interest”.
  • The Australian Quality Council was never owned by the government – it was a membership-based Not-for-Profit.  It is thus incorrect to state that the government “flogged it off” in 2002, and it did not “become SAI Global”.
  •  There is no requirement for applicants to purchase copies of the ABEF.
  • SAI Global is not, and has never been, involved in any way in the evaluation process that is now administered by the Foundation.
  • Evaluation costs are not expensive.  As the evaluations for Business Excellence Awards are undertaken by volunteers, the cost to applicants is very modest.
  • The Awards Criteria are not a “consultant’s benchmark”, but rather are defined by a framework that is internationally recognised as one of the world’s leading Excellence Models.

A Rigorous Evaluation Process

Since the inception of the Australian Excellence Awards in 1987/88, all Award applicants have been evaluated by a panel of highly experienced, independent volunteers (referred to as evaluators) drawn from successful high-performing organisations, public, private, government and NFP. The evaluators are not “some private business gurus” as referred to in the article in question, and neither is SAI Global in any way involved in the evaluation process.

Before an Award can be made, the evaluator recommendations are vetted by an independent Panel of Review composed of organisational leaders and recognised technical specialists in the field of Business Excellence. Both the evaluation team and the Panel of Review are external to and independent from the Australian Organisational Excellence Foundation (the Foundation).

Award applicants may receive a ‘recognition’ in organisational excellence, or a bronze, silver or gold award. The Awards process is not a competition – each year only organisations that have demonstrated the relevant level of excellence in the way their organisation is run will get an award or recognition.

The Excellence Prize won by the City of Melville has an additional dimension of rigour. Organisations that have won a Gold Award within the preceding five years are eligible to apply for an Excellence Prize. Organisations awarded the Excellence Prize demonstrate not only performance against the Framework at Gold level, but also the agility and systematic learning approach to rapidly incorporate improvements and evolve to meet future needs.

An Excellence Prize is only awarded after two separate site visits by a team of carefully selected highly experienced volunteer evaluators. The team includes a senior evaluator from one of our international partner Awards (such as the Singaporean Business Excellence Awards, the EFQM Excellence Awards or the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards). We would like to note that the City of Melville is only the third organisation to be awarded an Excellence Prize in the nearly 30-year history of the Australian Excellence Awards. This is definitely not an award resulting from paying a fee and following a series of straightforward steps, as stated in the article in question.

As most of this information is readily available on the Foundation’s website, or could have been obtained by contacting the Foundation, it is disappointing that the article in question contained so may misleading and incorrect statements.

Setting the rest of the record straight

It is correct to state that there is no government oversight of the Awards, however this fact is misleadingly used as a negative. The government has never sought to control or oversee awards such as these. From the inception of the Awards in 1987/88, the Awards process has been managed by an independent organisation that is dedicated to making a contribution to the innovation, competitiveness and productivity of Australia. The Awards are very highly regarded by government and industry at all levels, and there is often government representation at the annual Awards night. Many government bodies have independently entered the Awards process to gain insights and test their agility. In this context, independence from government is actually a strength.

The Australian Quality Council was never owned by the Federal Government and as such it was never “flogged off in 2002 to become SAI Global”. Rather, the Australian Quality Council sold its IP assets, including the Australian Business Excellence Framework (ABEF), to Standards Australia in 2002. The copyright to the Framework passed to SAI Global when it separated from Standards Australia in the same year, and is still held by SAI Global today. Their only connection with the Awards since 2012 has been the permission granted for the Awards evaluators to use the Framework as the evaluation criteria.

It is also important to note that the related article “Up to Standard” incorrectly states that SAI Global is “behind the Foundation”.  The Foundation was established by an independent group of volunteers when SAI Global stopped administering the Australian Excellence Awards.  There are no formal arrangements between the Foundation and SAI Global other than the copyright permission referenced above.

Applicants to the Awards process are not required to purchase the Framework from SAI Global. Any organisation, regardless of their size, geographical location in Australia, or nature can apply for an Award at any time. The specialisation of SAI Global –referred to in the article in question – is irrelevant to the Awards process since SAI Global’s involvement is limited to owning the copyright of the ABEF.

It is important to note that the Foundation is an independent not-for-profit entity. All applicants pay a fee and the fee is used to further the broader vision of the Foundation – to “make a substantial contribution to innovation and productivity”. The Foundation seeks to achieve its vision through the promotion of long-term organisational excellence. The Foundation does not provide consulting services – as is incorrectly implied in the article in question.


Many of the statements in “A Clayton’s Award” are inaccurate and misrepresent the rigour of the Awards process. As stated previously, most of the correct information is readily available on the Foundation’s website – – or could have been obtained by making contact with the Foundation.

It is not appropriate for the Foundation to comment in any way about the other allegations made against the Council. We simply wish to address the incorrect statements about the Awards process which is held in high regard in Australia, and indeed internationally – as evidenced by the Foundation’s membership of the exclusive Global Excellence Model Council that brings together the foremost Excellence Awards administrators in the world. 

By Ravi Fernando (CEO of the Foundation –

and Colin Gare (Director of the Foundation -