Enough with the gold stars: 5 arguments against CSR awards

It’s nearly impossible to work in CSR/sustainability communications and not be aware of the countless number of awards out there. According to one estimate, there are more than 150 third-party organizations ranking and evaluating CSR efforts! So perhaps it’s in part the reality of being inundated with requests to purchase apply for award after award, plus the recent work we did to pull them all together into a spreadsheet, that makes me skeptical (even though my colleague appears to disagree).

Here are a few thoughts about why it’s better to put down the award application and walk away:

1) Another gold star? Really?

We give awards for everything these days – and there are so many CSR-related awards that nearly every company that applies could probably win one. It makes them a little less meaningful – more an award for participating than for doing the work.

2) Speaking of doing the work…

Companies run the risk of putting a bigger focus on winning an award than doing the real work of CSR and sustainability; more precisely, awards could be treated as a shortcut to communicating about all the important activities happening inside the company. That’s simply not going to be enough.

3) Peer pressure used for the wrong goal.

It’s true that if you’re not communicating about your CSR/sustainability efforts, but your peers are, they are probably winning awards. But the answer is not to start winning awards – it’s to start communicating proactively.

4) There are other ways to show your value.

I understand there is something about awards that make it easier to prove the value of you and your role, but there are other ways to do so – employee surveys, annual CSR reports, a monthly or quarterly newsletter update to your senior management team, robust external stakeholder relationships, documenting customer requests for information, etc.

5) Pay-to-play leaves a bad taste.

I have to include this one. Organizations need to make money, obviously. But it is uncomfortable that most of the time companies have to pay the award-givers for the right to be considered. It may not be a lot of money, but it does tip the balance in favor of companies with more money to spend.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in. Do you see awards as valuable or do you think they are overdone? Tweet us your thoughts! 

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