Ashden Awards
2021

Uncovering and spotlighting the
world's next climate champions.

Entries close 3 March 2021

What are the Ashden Awards?

The Ashden Awards boost outstanding climate solutions. For more than 20 years our awards have backed radical ideas delivering lower emissions and a fairer world, with grants and development support on offer to winners and finalists.

Now, in a pivotal year for the future of our planet, we want to hear about your bold and brilliant work. Entry to the awards is free, and applications close on Wednesday 3 March. Winners receive a prize of up to £20,000 and a package of support.

This year’s award categories include greener communities, energy access, green skills, natural climate solutions, sustainable cooling and more. Some categories focus on the UK, and others cover work in low- and middle-income countries. Businesses, public bodies and charities can all apply.

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Ashden Award categories

Award prize: £20,000

Refugees and displaced people face a desperate battle to access clean energy, and the safety and dignity it brings. About 80% of people living in refugee camps are thought to have minimal access to energy for cooking and heating,and about 90% have no access to electricity. Even limited access to energy comes at an enormous cost – in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, households spend an estimated 24% of their income on energy – compared to a UK household spend of just 4%. 

This award will uncover innovation bringing clean, affordable energy to refugees and displaced people around the world. In particular, it will focus on innovative finance and delivery models for bringing clean energy to humanitarian settings. Initiatives should also give displaced people – and host communities – the chance to planrun and benefit from clean energy programmes. 

Award prize: £20,000 

Forest ecosystems are a vital defence against climate catastrophe. But the communities that call them home are under threat – often lacking rights and economic power, and now vulnerable to coronavirus. When the careful stewardship of forests by indigenous people and their neighbours is threatened, we are all at risk. 

The Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions will highlight initiatives in the Amazon, Congo Basin and South East Asian rainforest making forest communities more resilient through improved livelihoods, inclusive business models or improved governance and land rights. It will also spotlight innovation in grassroots resistance, cultural preservation and support for young leaders. 

Award prize: £20,000

Global efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 – universal energy access by 2030 – hang in the balance. 770 million people still go without access to electricity, and in sub-Saharan Africa the number of people with access to electricity is set to fall in 2020. 

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the vital community role that locally led energy access enterprises play, but also the enormous structural challenges they face in accessing finance and support. This award seeks innovation at all levels of the energy access ecosystem that is helping innovators survive, thrive and build resilience in local communities.Innovation could be in the realm of inclusive finance, delivery models, community development and partnerships or broader systemic change. It could be led by enterprises, communities organisation, national or regional governments or NGOs.  

Award prize: £20,000

Millions of people in low-income neighbourhoods face dangerous heat inside and outside their homes. This brings the risk of mental and physical health problems – and makes it hard or impossible to studyearn a living or even sleep well. In the most extreme cases, night-time temperatures can be up to 8 degrees celsius higher indoors than out. Solutions can be hard to implement – these homes are rarely subject to planning regulations, while conventional air conditioning is too expensive for residents (and further drives the climate crisis).  

But affordable non-mechanised cooling solutions exist, such as temperature-lowering roof and wall adaptations, natural ventilation systems, evaporative cooling and the use of plantstrees and structures to provide cooling shade. This award will spotlight the best initiatives alleviating heat stress, and help make solutions accessible and affordable to those in greatest need.  

 

Award prize: £10,000

The UK Government’s aim to reach net-zero-carbon by 2050 is dangerously weak – but even this unambitious target demands huge growth in high-impact climate solutions. 

This award will target key areas with the potential to unlock significant carbon savings across the UK – advances in energy systems (particularly heating), the built environment, and industrial innovation supporting a circular economy. 

Examples include businesses driving advances in heat pump installation or low-carbon district heating, organisations making progress in affordable retrofit or low-carbon construction, and those reusing materials and equipment or embracing bio-based alternatives. Businesses, charities and public sector organisations are all eligible. 

Award prize: £10,000

Reaching net zero by 2050 demands the upgrading of over a million buildings a year, from schools and hospitals to homes and offices. But there is a serious shortage of the skills needed. 

This award will highlight organisations developing green skills in the areas of retrofit and low carbon heat. Applicants could be upskilling existing contractors, retraining workers new to the low carbon sector, or providing initial training for those new to the job market. There will be a particular focus on organisations inspiring people from a variety of backgrounds to join the sector, as well as organisations working to build demand for their trainees so they have jobs to go to. Businesses, charities, community groups and public sector organisations are all eligible. 

Award prize: £10,000

The low carbon transition will demand changes to how we heat our homes, the way we travel and what we eat. Grassroots organisations are well-placed to excite and inspire people to get involved in environmental issues and move to more sustainable ways of living. Community groups also have a unique role to play in shaping and driving local and national climate action.  

The award will recognise an initiative that makes climate action relevant to the everyday lives of citizens and the things they care about, with particular attention on engaging beyond typical ‘green audiences’It will seek to reward work that demonstrates how climate action can cut carbon and tackle social issues (such as poor mental or physical health) at the same time. The issues tackled and approaches used could range from highlighting underrepresented voices within the climate sector to art projects inspiring communities into action. 

Watch our video on how to apply for the award here.

Winning an Ashden Award brings a prize of up to £20,000 as well as ongoing development support, from professional mentoring to pro-bono legal help.  

We put winners in front of funders, investors, policymakers, journalists and others who know the unique value of an Ashden Award and the strength of our rigorous assessment process.  

We’ll create a promotional film about your work and tell your story in mainstream and specialist media, and through our growing digital channels. We’ve helped previous winners gain coverage in The Telegraph, Al Jazeera, New Scientist and other leading international publications. 

As an award winner, your views, needs and insights will be at the heart of our influential reports, toolkits and events – which shape the views of key climate decision makers. 

All winners join the Ashden network – giving them the chance to connect with new partners through masterclasses, investor pitching events and introductions to influential policy makers. 

Businesses, NGOs, government organisations, social enterprises and community groups are all eligible. Work must be currently available to clients, customers or beneficiaries. 

The Ashden Awards for green skills and green communities are open to work in the UK.  

The Ashden Award for climate innovation in the UK is open to work in Britain and Europe – but European applicants must spend the prize money bringing their work to the UK. 

The five remaining awards are only open to work in low- and middle-income countries, as defined by the World Bank – find a full list here.

Our natural climate solutions award focuses on solutions in the Amazon basin, Congo Basin and South East Asian rainforest.  

For more detail on our eligibility criteria, visit our FAQs below.

Work should be innovative. It might feature new technology, new approaches to marketing and distribution, or a new way of sharing training and skills. It might involve improved financing mechanisms or an innovative business model. 

Work should also have the potential to create significant impact. This impact might be a large drop in greenhouse gas emissions, raised incomes, better health, reduced inequality, or a combination of positive outcomes. Impact might be achieved by the growth of the organisation applying, or by the spread of their ideas to other organisations. 

Initiatives should boost resilience and be as participatory and democratic as possible – designed and run with input from the people they support, particularly marginalised groups. Applicants should also show good governance and management. 

For a full list of our judging criteria, visit our FAQs below.

The deadline for applications is 3 March 2021, and winners will be announced in Autumn 2021 (date tbc).

Apply in English using our online application portal here.

To apply in French, Spanish or Portuguese, email apply@ashden.org and request a form in the relevant language.

For more detail around the full application and judging process, please visit out FAQs below.

Build up Nepal - 2020 Ashden Award winner

"The Ashden win was a big source of hope and positivity in the middle of the COVID pandemic. The award immediately helped us, as we could utilise the prize money to solve urgent gaps, support our entrepreneurs and to lift our heads up and focus towards the future. The Ashden Awards has also created a sense of proudness among our team, and also very important, added credibility with government stakeholders."
- Andreas Kölling, Deputy Managing Director

Read about previous winners in the news

Yemen’s ‘microgrid girls’ power community amid war and COVID-19

UNDP Yemen, 2020 winner of Humanitarian Energy award,  featured in Aljazeera.

Bangladeshi solar-sharing start-up aims to cut power waste

SOLShare, 2020 winner of Financial Innovation for Energy Access award, featured in Reuters.

Sustainable energy champions awarded

All 2020 winners featured in Smart Cities World.

FAQs

Eligibility for applying for an award

Businesses, NGOs, government organisations, and social enterprises (both for-profit and not-for-profit, including community groups) are all eligible. Each award is limited to work in certain parts of the world. See below for a list of countries eligible for each award. 

Ashden Award for Climate Innovation in the UK  

This award is primarily for work in the UK. However, we will also consider work that is being carried out in Europe, if the applicant aims to bring it to the UK marke. In these cases, the purpose of the award would be to help the applicant raise their profile in the UK and bring their work here, and the prize would need to be spent in support of this goal.   

Ashden Award for Green Skills and Ashden Award for Green Communities 

Work submitted must be carried out in the UK. 

International awards 

See here for a list of eligible countries.Note that the natural Climate Solutions award focuses on the Amazon Basin, Congo Basin and South East Asian rainforest.   

To be shortlisted and win an Award, all applicants must satisfy these eligibility criteria:  

  1. The work submitted for an award must be currently available for customers, clients or beneficiaries.  
  2. The applicant must show an innovative approach in their work
  3. The applicant’s work must have the potential to create significant impact. This might be achieved by their growth as an organisation, or the replication of their innovation around the world. Applicants must be willing to work with Ashden and others to achieve this goal. ‘Significant’ impact could be a large reduction in emissions, a mitigation action that addresses a serious threat to people’s wellbeing, or a transformation in people’s quality of life – particularly the most marginalised.  
  4. The applicant must show good governance and management. We are looking for efficient use of funds and a strong plan to generate further income, whether from sales, grants or any other source. Organisations can be forprofit or not-for-profit. Winners must have sustainability embedded in their values and practices. 
Applying for an award

All applications must be completed and submitted via our online application portal here.

If you would like a preview of the application form, there is a  copy of the form here. Note that not all of questions you see in this copy will appear when you complete the actual form online, as some are shown or hidden based on your answers to earlier questions.The copy of the form is for reference only – the form must becompleted online for your application to be considered.  

If you decide not to complete your application for any reason then you may withdraw by contacting us at apply@ashden.org.  

If you would like to discuss whether your work is relevant to the Ashden Awards, or have questions about the application process, please contact us on +44 (0) 207410 7023 orapply@ashden.org  

Applications for the 2021 Ashden Awards will close on 3 March 2021, 23:59 GMT. 

  • 3 March 2021: Deadline for receipt of applications 
  • March 2021: About 3040applicants chosen to send additional information, financial accounts and references. All other applicants told they have not been successful. 
  • April 2021: Deadline for receipt of additional information, audited accounts and references.  
  • May 2021: Judging panels meet to shortlist15-20 applicants. All other applicants told they have not been successful. 
  • May and June 2021: Assessors visit the shortlisted applicants.  
  • July 2021: Judging panels meet to select up to 8award winners. All other shortlisted applicants told of the outcome.  
  • July – September 2021: Preparation of publicity material about all shortlisted applicants. Detailed case studies written about winners’ work. Film crew visit award winners.  
  • Autumn 2021Awards week: Award ceremony is will take place in Autumn 2021. Date tbc and more details to follow.  

To see a full list of out our awards, click here [JUMP LINK to awards section on page above.] 

In 2021, we will be awarding work that fits into the themes listed here [JUMP LINK to section above on page listing awards] and meets the criteria listed in our FAQS below. Please refer to these themes and criteria when considering your application as eligibility for the different awards is based on the type of work you are engaged in and the country where that work is carried out. 

When completing your application, please indicate the specific theme/themes you feel are most relevant to your work. We will consider your application in themes other than the ones you have indicated if we feel they fit your work more closely.If you are unsure whether your work fits any of the categories listed below, please contact apply@ashden.org to discuss your eligibility.     

Yes – you can make more than one application, providing they are for different programmes or businesses, if you are involved with more than one. Please do not submit two applications for the same work. 

No – for all our Awards, the work submitted for the Award must be currently available to customers, clients or beneficiaries. The more evidence that you can present for the impact of your work, the better your chance of meeting the award criteria. 

There is no fee to apply for an award. All you will need to do is make time to complete the form, and then answer any questions we might ask you after you have submitted your form. 

If you are shortlisted, you will also need to set aside time for preparing and hosting a judging visit from Ashden assessors. If you win, you will need to set aside up to one week in October 2021 to take part in our Awards Week events in London, UK. 

We carry out an initial review of applications to check eligibility and select a longlist (March 2021) 

We carry out a detailed assessment of long-listed applications, including requesting further information from applicants (early April 2021) 

Judging panels meet to select shortlist (May 2021). 

Assessment visits to shortlisted applicants (May and June 2021). 

Judging panels meet to select winners (July 2021). 

All information submitted may be seen by the Ashden team (including judges and assessors). All our judges and assessors are required to sign a confidentiality agreement before viewing any application materials. 

For applicants that do not win, we generally retain their application materials for up to three years. This is to enable ‘fast-track’ re-applications by those applicants during this period. However, this is optional – there is a question in the form which asks for permission to do this. If permission is not given and you wish to reapply within the next three years, you will need to fill the application form in again. 

It is a condition of your entry to the 2021 Ashden Awards that Ashden has the right to publicise your involvement through its communications channels (including but not limited to its website, social media platforms and Ceremony programme). All shortlisted applicants, and particularly winners, may be required by Ashden to participate in publicity opportunities such as media interviews.  

It is a condition of your entry to the 2021 Ashden Awards that Ashden has the right to publicise your involvement through its communications channels (including but not limited to its website, social media platforms and ceremony programme).  All shortlisted applicants and particularly winners may be required by Ashden to participate in publicity opportunities such as media interviews. 

To maximise the impact of our Awards, we announce our longlist, shortlist and winners on specific dates. If you reach the longlisting/shortlisting stage, or win an Ashden Award, we ask you not to publicise this fact until the date set by us. Our communications team will work closely with you on this. 

Judging criteria and process 

Eligible applications will be judged against the following general criteria, and against how well they fit with the theme of the award applied for: 

  1. Radical decarbonisation: The applicant is contributing or has the potential to contribute to radically reducing carbon emissions before 2030, while recognising people’s right to a good quality of life.  
  2. Reducing inequality: The applicant is reducing inequality , particularly in the context of making the transition to a fair and sustainable low-carbon society. This could impact both the end-users of the work, those involved in delivering it, and those benefiting indirectly 
  3. Participation and democratisation: The applicant’s work encourages participation and democratisation, for example by involving or consulting with the community, customers or beneficiaries, or by shared ownership.
  4. Resilience: The applicant’s work builds resilience to climate change impacts and economic and other shocks, and is appropriate for the context in which it operates. We are especially interested in how the work has responded to the coronavirus pandemic this year. 
  5. Additional benefits: The applicant’s work brings other benefits alongside decarbonisation, such as positive health and wellbeing outcomes, improved air quality, community cohesion or new and better jobs.

Details of the judging panels will be released here [LINK] once confirmed. The assessment teams include Ashden staff, representatives from funders and knowledge partners, and freelance specialists in specific sectors

You will hear in April 2021 if you have made it through to the longlist. The first judging meetings are then held in May, after which you will hear if you have made it through to the shortlist. You will find out if you will be a winner or a runner up in July, but winners are not publicly announced until shortly before the Awards Ceremony in October. 

If your organisation is longlisted, we will get in touch by April to ask for the following, to better understand your work and assure ourselves of your financial viability:   

  1. Answers to some additional questions about your work. 
  2. A copy of your published accounts for the past two years. 
  3. A copy of your draft accounts for the current financial year. 
  4. A 2-minute informal video summarising the work you do, why it deserves an Ashden Award, and how the award would benefit you.  
  5. Contact details for two referees, who will be followed up if you are shortlisted.

If you are shortlisted, we will get in touch to arrange a visit to assess your work. For applicants based in the UK or Europe, the judging visit usually takes a whole day, and involves one or two people from Ashden and sometimes a representative from the funder of the award.   

For applicants with work based in other countries, the visit usually lasts one to three days, and involves one Ashden assessor.Due to the travel restrictions that have occurred because of the coronavirus pandemic, the assessor is likely to be someone more local to your work who is a member of the Ashden network rather than our core London team. In this case, we would also carry out interviews via Zoom with our team in London.   

The visit will include meetings with key staff such as your chief executive, financial officer, the person in charge of the work submitted for an Award, and other employees. It will also include seeing the work submitted in operation, usually through site visits, and meeting customers or clients. Applicants that are chosen to be visited will be credited as runners-up if they do not become winners. We may ask you not to share news of your longlisting, shortlisting or award win until a certain date.   

Winning an award
  • In 2021, we expect to make at least 8 awards, five with an international focus and three focused on the UK. The winners will receive prize funds of £10,000 or£20,000 each, depending on which Award they win.  
  • Prestige of winning one of the world’s top sustainability awards. The rigour of our assessment process is well known to investors, policymakers, academics and other experts in the sustainable energy and climate change sector around the world.  
  • Membership of an alumni network of Ashden Award winners, which facilitates learning and opportunities to create productive partnerships.  
  • Opportunities to present your work to large and influential audiences at the Ashden Awards Ceremony and other Ashden events.  
  • The chance to have your work profiled in regional, national, international and specialist media. Ashden’s communication team works to get winners exposure in newspapers and magazines, on television and radio, and on a wide range on online platforms. This continues long after the award ceremony – Ashden regularly secures coverage for winners months and even years after they win their award.   
  • Promotional material including photographs, print material and broadcast quality video for winners to use in their own marketing efforts.   
  • Where it can have a significant impact, tailored support from our programme team to grow or replicate your work: this can include professional mentoring, training, help raising finance and investment, and media and communications support.  
  • Where it can have significant impact, introductions to influential policy and decision makers, and an opportunity to make your voice heard.  
  • We also seek to integrate UK based winners into our Liveable Citiesprogramme of work, where we embed our winners’ approaches into policy and practice. We have recently published a climate action co-benefits toolkit for local authorities, featuring great case studies from our alumni which has been downloaded over 3,000 times. We run a network of city region sustainability lead officers, with regular meetings where we showcase our winners’ solutions.  
  • Additionally, there is opportunity for our winners to participate in a programme of free masterclasses which help them to get to grips with a wide range of practical issues. This can be anything from customer experience, developing a communications strategy or getting investment ready.  

As an Ashden Award winner, you will:  

  1. Take part in the awards week events which will take place in Autumn 2021 (date tbc. Due to coronavirus travel restrictions, this may take place remotely, however we will keep you updated about watch-parties /in-country events. Winning an Ashden Award is contingent on taking part in the awards week activities. 
  2. Receive a visit from our video producer and in some cases a photographer.  
  3. Be expected to participate in media interviews that we may be able to arrange.  
  4. Agree with Ashden what you will spend the prize fund on and any business support you may receive. 
  5. Provide monitoring data about the progress of your work after one, two and three years. 
  6. Join our global alumni network of over 200 winners, a unique opportunity for learning and collaboration.  

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