Marketing and Comms
How To Use an Awards Scheme To Engage Your Stakeholders

At 2degrees, we’re all about engagement.

For the past five years we’ve been helping companies large and small solve their sustainability challenges by facilitating peer-to-peer conversations via our online platform. Today, we’re the world’s largest community for sustainable business professionals, with more than 30,000 members.

And many members use the community to engage and influence their stakeholders — whether through the plethora of forum threads and blog posts, or via webinars and feature articles. And when we launched our inaugural awards and recognition scheme, we wanted to keep this core 2degrees reason-for-being center of mind, to create a sustainability awards scheme like no other — one that our members could use as a key component of their stakeholder engagement efforts.

And that’s exactly what we did.

Last Christmas, the very first 2degrees Sustainability Champions Awards scheme was born, designed to find the greatest examples of best practice from across the sectors. The 12 award categories gave our members the chance to put forward a project they are particularly proud of in a range of topic areas — from energy management (for both short- and long-term paybacks) and waste management, to buildings and properties, water strategy and supply chain.

Entrants ranged from PepsiCo, keen to shout about its LED installation projects and SC Johnson waxing lyrical about its wind turbine efforts, to Unilever now delivering stock to customers via a redesigned distribution network and Molson Coors, leaner and greener as a result of its water stewardship work.

Elsewhere, there’s a category to reward the solutions our members deemed to be the most deserving of attention, and for a bit of fun, the ‘Personality of the Year’ trophy has seen London Mayor Boris Johnson battling it out with the likes of Matt Damon, Yoko Ono and a handful of well-known British TV chefs for the title.

But we wanted the categories to reflect the need to address stakeholder engagement a place for companies to feel proud of both their internal and external communication and engagement programs. Here, the likes of Bupa, Telefonica O2 and Costain stepped forward with impressive stories as to how they had devised creative campaigns to get their colleagues on board and stress the importance of their activity.

And two key personal trophies were introduced to reward the personalities and characters that are getting the job done in offices, factories and plants the world over.

The ‘Sustainability Champion of the Year’ rewards leadership — not just those sitting within leadership positions, but those driving activity and making things happen; they might be sitting in the boardroom or on the shop floor.

Meanwhile, the ‘Supporting Player of the Year’ award is designed to engage those that sit outside of the traditional sustainability function. This year, a range of human resources managers and CFOs are in with a chance of winning a 2degrees award because, showing great appreciation for their efforts in supporting their programs, many sustainability professionals have rightly nominated them.

Take Barry Williams, for example. As Asda-Walmart’s passionate chief merchandising officer for food, he was nominated by the company’s head of corporate sustainability, Julian Walker-Palin, to say thank you for the drive and enthusiasm he has shown for helping to build a more sustainable supply chain.

Similarly, Attivo Group’s CFO Stephen Bareham has been central to a number of environmental engagement projects within the business. His peers want to see him recognised for that.

The library of entries, all posted as case study articles across the 2degrees platform, present some incredible stories; whatever anybody says about the pace of change in corporate sustainability (and the need to hit the accelerator), there’s no doubt that some impressive developments continue across the board.

But the most impressive story has been written by the awards process itself, because the winners of these awards will not be chosen by a behind-closed-doors judging panel. They will be chosen by the 2degrees community which, after reading the entries online, were given the chance to cast a vote in favour of each company or person. After voting closed on Friday, 17 May, the ballots are now being counted and the trophies will be handed out at a celebratory awards dinner being held at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on 10th July.

And it is in this unique voting process that the most creative stakeholder engagement has been encouraged and realized.

With their destiny in the competition in their own hands (up to a point, as only impartial votes could be counted in the second phase of voting), entrants decided to take the initiative. To be in with a shout of winning, they would need to tell their colleagues, suppliers and customers what they were up to — and to get them to hit the ‘vote’ button.

As voting went live, the intranet systems, mailshot alerts, Twitter feeds, newsletters and LinkedIn groups of the competing businesses suddenly took off — as did traffic to the 2degrees website.

Using the inflatable ‘champions trophies’ that we sent through the post, each entrant got creative, taking photos of themselves with the trophies in the most bizarre places (as instructed by the 2degrees’ marketing team), and posting them across their own social media channels to drum up interest in their projects and to — ultimately — get votes.

It’s been a fascinating process. Entrants have been given a perfect platform upon which to build a good slice of their engagement activity around sustainability. Some have really taken the bull by the horns and maximized the opportunity to the fullest.

For others, the opportunity may be realized further down the line, should they win or become runner-up.

But even the awards evening itself presents a further opportunity for companies to use the program as a way of generating interest in their sustainability story. Those buying a table or tickets can, of course, bring the whole team along for a night out of team-building and socializing (and what better way to engage people than with free booze).

But those companies will also have the opportunity to develop and host a special live webinar using the 2degrees platform — a one-off chance to ‘sell’ their activity to either their colleagues, suppliers or customers via an interactive and heavily promoted engagement vehicle. And 2degrees will host, administrate and chair the session on their behalf.

The 2degrees Sustainability Champions Awards 2013 truly is an awards scheme like no other in that, from a stakeholder engagement stance, at least, it has already created many winners before a vote has even been counted.

For examples of how the competing companies are using the awards to engage their stakeholders, check out the Twitter stream at #2degreesawards.

To see the shortlisted companies, and to read the case study entries, visit http://www.2degreesnetwork.com/awards.

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