I work for a software company in the Washington, DC area. We apply for a handful of awards each year, but by far the ones we put the most effort into are Best Places to Work awards. In the years that we've won, we've gotten a lot out of it: it comes with a lot of publicity in local magazines, we've gotten more high quality job applicants, and it's good for internal morale. If we want companies to see a new award as valuable, and to shift their organizational behavior in order to compete for the award, then it must offer a direct benefit. Companies will be more motivated to compete when the rewards are tangible.
To make a direct analogy, the new awards program could name the "Top 20 Socially Responsible Employers," for example, or the "Greenest Places to Work." People want to work for companies that are doing good, so this award would have a tangible recruiting benefit to the company.