Winners of the Make A Difference Awards 2021


It’s official! After weeks of anticipation, the winners of the inaugural Make A Difference Awards, in association with Royal Mail Group and Optima Health, have been announced.

There were 136 nominations for the awards and judges announced a shortlist of 14 in May.  The Make A Difference community and nominees’ networks’ were then invited to vote a winner in each of the five categories. Almost 5000 votes were cast and the winners were announced at the Make A Difference Insights & Awards webinar on 15th June – International Make A Difference Day.

Dr Shaun Davis, Royal Mail’s Global Director of Compliance & Sustainability, said: “Entries for the awards showed that companies big and small have really taken on board the importance of mental health and wellbeing in a year that has been unlike any other. The judges were particularly impressed to see so many organisations nominated that they haven’t seen embracing this agenda before – demonstrating that workplace mental health and wellbeing are fast moving mainstream.”

Simon Arnold, CEO of Optima Health added: “Mental health and wellbeing jumped straight to the top of the business agenda when the pandemic first hit and it was great to see so many organisations embracing new employee-centred initiatives.”

The winners

Employer: SME – less than 250 employees

The two nominees that the judges shortlisted for the SME category were Infinity and Circus Street. They recognised that both have taken innovative approaches to supporting wellbeing throughout the pandemic. Both are moving the dial within their organisations to create psychologically safe work cultures. After a close fought battle the winner with 59.9% of the votes is Infinity.


Employer: Corporate – more than 250 employees

The three nominees that the judges shortlisted for this category are Aldi Stores UK, Awin and Emcor UK. The judges were particularly impressed by Awin’s flexibility and their innovative shift to a 4.5 day week, as well as the fact that they are measuring the impact of their initiatives. Aldi’s success, engaging colleagues right across the business, as well as their holistic approach and commitment to strategic partnerships was recognised. As was, Emcor’s proactive and progressive approach to putting mental health and wellbeing at the heart of organisational strategic objectives and sustainable development goals. The winner with 66.6% of votes is Aldi Stores UK.

Employer: Public Sector / Charity

The three nominees that the judges shortlisted for this category are: British Red Cross, Highways England and Sandwell College.

The judges liked British Red Cross’ entry which focused on the organisation’s specific response to the pandemic.  They also recognise the exceptional job that Highways England is doing in very difficult circumstances, supporting colleagues all over the country. They were impressed by the inclusive impact Sandwell College is having, supporting colleagues, learners and the wider community and making mental health and wellbeing the essence of decision making and actions. The winner however, with 51.7% of the votes is British Red Cross.

Individual: Unsung Hero

We received so many nominations for this category that it was hard to select a shortlist. But in the end the judges felt that all three nominees shortlisted are going above and beyond their normal jobs, have stepped out of the shadows and have clearly said to themselves “I’m going to be a change agent here”. The three shortlisted nominees were Christine Howarth, Client Services & Mental Health Ally, Allen & Overy, Laura DeCook, Wellbeing Specialist, Expedia Group and Rachel Pears, Inclusion & Diversity Lead, Internal Employment Council, RPC Law Firm. The winner with 48.5% of the votes is Christine Haworth.

Individual: True Leader

For the shortlist of nominees for this category, the judges were looking for leaders who were nominated because they are proactively prioritising mental health and wellbeing in an authentic way – not necessarily as their core job. Next year we’d like to see women in senior leadership roles in this shortlist, although having male leaders championing this agenda and being recognised as role models is also positive. The three shortlisted nominees were Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media, David Henderson, Managing Director, Tobermore Concrete and Jonny Jacobs, Finance Director EMEA with Starbucks. The winner with an astounding 63.7% of the votes is David Henderson.


Joining Dr Shaun Davis, Simon Arnold and me on the judging panel were Dr Kamel Hothi OBE, non-executive Director of TLC Lions, Stacy Thomson, Founder of The Performance Club and Louise Aston, Wellbeing Campaign Director, Business in the Community.

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You can read more about the judges and the full shortlist of nominees here.

Maintaining momentum

We launched the Make A Difference Awards as an opportunity to stop, think and thank the individuals and employers who have really made a difference to workplace mental health and wellbeing during what has been an incredibly tough year. The winners are organisations and individuals that are leading the way and inspiring others to follow their example.

We’ve been bowled over by the response to these inaugural Make A Difference Awards. The enthusiasm with which they’ve been embraced demonstrates the importance of wellbeing for everyone in the workplace after a year dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The key now is to keep this momentum going and to embed proactive cultures of care that prioritise mental health and wellbeing.

About the author

Claire Farrow is the Global Director of Content and Programming for and the MAD World Summit. She’s on a mission to help every employer – large, medium and small – get the insight, inspiration and contacts they need to make real impact on workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing in their organisation. She has been freelance for more than 15 years. During that time, she has had the honour of working with many leading publishers, including the New York Times.


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