By Bruce Klafter, Sr. Director, Flextronics
With so many demands on a sustainability professional’s time, some may question the value of preparing applications for awards programs. Preparing an application for an award certainly takes a back seat to your boss’s latest call, but the process of applying for a sustainability award can be an important stimulus to a program and the time is well spent.
The just released 2013 BSR/Globescan State of Sustainable Business Survey found that integration of sustainability into the core business is still a formidable challenge. More to the point, the survey also found that sustainability professionals are still struggling to engage with many key functions within their companies, such as finance and strategy. While an award is no substitute for consistent, deep engagement with colleagues, it brings visibility to a program and helps generate momentum.
A Google search for “sustainability awards for businesses” turns up 87.5 million results. While many of those results are surely for places to purchase handsome plaques, there are literally hundreds of international, national, state and local programs that aim to recognize the achievements of businesses in advancing responsible business practices.
One example that I am very familiar with is Acterra’s Business Environmental Awards (BEA). Acterra is a Silicon Valley-based environmental organization that primarily creates volunteering opportunities for individuals, e.g. creek restoration projects. Acterra’s BEA annually recognizes local businesses in four categories: Sustainability, Environmental Projects, Environmental Innovation and the Sustainable Built Environment. In other words, this is an opportunity to showcase a company’s entire sustainability program or something more discrete (and manageable in terms of time) like a project or building. Having prepared applications in the past for the BEA and then later serving as an awards judge for several years, I can attest to the value of not only the award, but also the process itself.
Here are some of the benefits from the awards process in terms of building a sustainability program:
- The application requires you to take stock of your program, to concisely describe it and articulate its achievements, to collect key metrics and other evidence of impact.
- The process is an opportunity to reach out to your internal partners and get them involved in preparing the application, in hosting a site visit or interview, in participating in an awards ceremony (win or lose since the awards recipients typically are inspiring).
- In some cases, such as Acterra’s BEA, the finalists receive valuable feedback from the judging committee and that often carries more weight than any number of internal critiques.
- If you are fortunate enough to win an award, there are many opportunities to leverage that outcome, e.g. intranet articles celebrating the award, messages to senior executives, participation by the executives at the ceremony, etc. The old adage often applies, “Nothing succeeds like success.”
In sum, sustainability awards are not just for the winners. The process of applying for one can be a very valuable compliment to an internal engagement effort.
Bruce Klafter is currently Sr. Director of Environmental, Health & Safety at Flextronics Intl. a leading electronics manufacturing services company in San Jose, California. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Acterra. Acterra’s Business Environmental Awards program is now accepting applications for its 2014 awards; the program culminates with a celebration in May, 2014.