Gigaton Awards Spotlight Companies' Success in Reducing Carbon

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Gulltaggen

Founded by the Carbon War Room, the inaugural Gigaton Awards event took place Saturday evening against the backdrop of the World Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico, where the COP 16 negotiations are taking place.

Billed as the "Oscars" of climate change events, the official mission of the Gigaton Awards is to "inspire and challenge businesses to make a difference to climate change and global sustainability." Unofficially the Gigaton Awards strived to make carbon reduction and corporate climate change initiatives a bit sexier and more glamorous -- a noble and lofty ambition. One of the better lines of the evening came from presenter Andrew Winston, who likened the Gigaton Awards to the "Stanley Cup of Carbon."

So did the Gigaton Awards give the Oscars a run for their money? The short answer is not yet, but I think they will continue to gain credibility among global businesses and ultimately will achieve their mission, both officially and unofficially.

The companies that took home a Gigaton Award as the leaders in their respective industries included; Suzlon (Energy), Vodafone Group (Telecommunications), Reckitt Benckiser Group (Consumer Staples), Nike (Consumer Discretionary), 3M (Industrials) and GDF Suez (Utilities).

As Richard Branson stated in his opening remarks, "the Gigaton Awards are about raising expectations" to deal with what he called the "the hardest challenge on the planet." 

Businesses should take the Gigaton Awards seriously for several reasons:

• They have a well-respected founder in Sir Richard Branson and the Carbon War Room

• They take place in conjunction with the World Climate Summit, which has quickly become the "must-attend" business conference at these climate negotiations

• There is a growing interest from the public in corporate climate change initiatives and strategies

• The awards have a sound methodology from the Carbon Disclosure Project that is based on actual year-over-year carbon reductions

• There is a recognition of businesses from a global perspective

As someone who is all too familiar with corporate sustainability awards and rankings, what struck me about the Gigaton Awards was the global cross-section of leading companies represented in the room at the awards.

Carbon reduction needs to be a global corporate effort led by companies that are forging ahead with their energy efficiency programs, supply chain initiatives and greater use of alternative fuels. It makes sense to recognize companies from a global industry perspective and not just rank and honor companies from a country-specific perspective as most other recognition programs do. I would venture to guess this is the first time Nike and GDF Suez were together and recognized in the same room at the same time.

Next year as the World Climate Summit moves on to South Africa, I expect we will see more interest and attention given to the Gigaton Awards from the global corporate sector.

If the recent World Cup Games hosted by South Africa are any indication, we will definitely hear and see from the audience at the Gigaton Awards an increase in vuvuzelas, the plastic horns traditionally used at South African soccer games. Get ready: The 2011 Gigaton Awards will be much louder and more visible than the inaugural event, which is likely just the way founder Richard Branson would want it to be.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Gulltaggen.