This year marked a big change in the way the National Recycling Awards (NRA) were judged, creating a richer process that allowed shortlisted entrants to persuade the judges in person why they were worthy of being a winner.
The shortlisting element was the same. Entrants completed and submitted an online awards application form that outlined why their business, project or initiative was outstanding – ensuring that it met the judging criteria. The judges scored these applications in an online judging process against the set criteria, with the top scorers for each category forming the shortlist.
Those who made the shortlist were then invited to present their entries in face-to-face judging sessions. This allowed the judges to get answers to any questions they had about the entries, and for the entrants to persuade the judges why they were leading the way.
For the entrants, it allowed them to elaborate on their projects and show their passion while, for the judges, they could differentiate between the entries much more clearly than solely through written submissions.
Along with the new system, 2014 NRA winners were invited on to the judging panel. Paul Hayes, Cummins director, was one. Last year, Cummins facilities in the UK won two awards for its waste minimisation and recycling efforts: Corporate Recycler of the Year and the Waste Prevention award.
Hayes explains: “This year I was kindly asked back as a judge, and the first thing I noticed was the additional face-to-face session. While the submission papers and associated documents provided a good introduction to the projects, the interview was an opportunity to ask questions and to understand thoroughly the candidates and their projects.
“Many people brought in leaflets and samples which are always useful to provide us with a better picture of their project.”
But as Hayes points out, some entries had to be discounted at the initial assessment stage for failing to meet the award’s criteria, against which the judges have to assess each entry.
Marcus Gover, director at WRAP, who has been an NRA judge for a number of years, said: “The new judging process added rigour to the scheme. Judges are now able to question entrants directly. Too many award schemes are based on application forms alone, and site visits ideally or interviews are needed to make a thorough review of an entry.”
John Skidmore, another judge and director at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, added that the live judging “contributed to a better understanding and more informed scoring”.
Adrienne Robins, managing director of Green Tiger Communications, agreed: “What was most exciting was to see the passion that accompanied the facts and figures. That drive almost always wins out in the end. You can’t get that from a paper process.”
Margaret Bates, professor of wastes management at the University of Northampton, also a judge, agreed: “I loved the presentations and the interviews as it really brought the projects and initiatives to life. Sometimes it is hard to show enthusiasm when you have to write about it and, in every case, the spoken description was better than the written one.”
Top tips on winning at the NRAs
How to get noticed by the judges
- Decide which award category is a best fit for what you are doing.
- Be honest about how you fit within a category, that you meet the set criteria, and how what you are doing is outstanding or genuinely game-changing. The judges are looking for examples of real innovation.
- Get the people who are involved in the project to help put together the entry and present on the day if you are shortlisted. Let the authentic voice of the practitioners come through rather than leaving it to the PR team, who may be short on the insight that marks it out as a winner.
- Make the most of your relatively short face-to-face judging slot if shortlisted. Don’t repeat your written entry in a presentation to the judges – show them fresh insight into your winning initiative. Don’t over-do the number of slides.
- Back up your claims with evidence and facts. Use real and tangible examples and visuals to bring your entry to life.
- Remember that staff, customers and partners can embody and summarise what you do succinctly and honestly, and bring heart and soul to an entry.
- Sell yourself. Remember the goal is to convince the judges why you are better than the competition.