December 1, 2020

The Dive Awards for 2020: Leadership in a time of crisis

Collage of Dive Award winners

This year, like no other in recent memory, has been defined by crisis.

From the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic recession to a racial reckoning and sociopolitical upheaval, 2020 changed business and life as we knew it.

At Industry Dive, we recognize the best in business through our annual Dive Awards. Each year since 2016, our publications have reviewed and reported on the most impactful achievements, people and companies in the markets we cover.

But this was no ordinary year. After reporting on how companies and business leaders adapted to and navigated the new normal throughout the year, we decided the Dive Awards for 2020 would recognize those who showed leadership in a time of crisis.

As we reviewed the honorees’ and their stories, a clear pattern stood out. From acting with compassion to nimbly pivoting their operations to meet the moment, the organizations and people whose stories are told through this year’s Dive Awards demonstrated empathy, agility and resilience in the face of unprecedented adversity.

There's the story of Jill Castilla, the CEO of a small community bank in Oklahoma. While many people had to wait weeks or even months for their stimulus checks to arrive, Castilla leveraged her position and worked quickly to launch an advance payment program in partnership with billionaire entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban. As Banking Dive reports, the small bank’s program didn’t just help its customers — it became an industry model that was shared with roughly 400 other banks.

There’s the story of Turner Construction, one of the largest commercial construction contractors in the United States. During a year where the construction industry was beset by disturbing racist incidents, the company stepped up to fight hate and discrimination while others quietly shirked leadership. Turner’s moves to quickly shut down multiple high-profile megaprojects in response to racist incidents set the tone for how the industry should respond. As Construction Dive reports, experts believe their leadership on these issues will even provide a competitive advantage for future project bids.

There’s the story of H-E-B, a supermarket chain whose pandemic preparation became “the stuff of industry legend,” as Grocery Dive reports. The company started tracking the virus in January. Stores ran pandemic simulations that ultimately enabled the grocery retailer to pivot its operations far more nimbly than competitors. Stores proactively rolled out policies such as social distancing and traffic metering ahead of other grocers. The brand fostered a strong sense of community in its stores, and also did well by its employees — providing permanent wage increases and issuing one-time bonuses this fall. Despite already “having won just about every recognition and award under the sun,” the Texas-based chain “still managed to outperform expectations during one of the most challenging periods the grocery industry has ever experienced.”

These are just a few of the many powerful stories from the Dive Awards for 2020. While each story is different, they all highlight how organizations and people met the moment this year and showed leadership in a time of crisis.

Read on for all 64 Dive Awards across the 21 markets we cover.

Davide Savenije, Editor-in-Chief, Industry Dive

Press inquiries: please contact Suzanne Struglinski,


Banking Dive

  • Company of the Year: Cross River Bank
  • Executive of the Year: Jill Castilla, Citizens Bank of Edmond
  • Deal of the Year: American Express buys Kabbage

BioPharma Dive

  • Vaccine Developers of the Year: BioNTech and Moderna
  • Researchers of the Year: The RECOVERY team
  • Biotech of the Year: Seagen

CFO Dive

  • Company of the Year: Walmart
  • CFO of the Year: Kelly Steckelberg, Zoom
  • Innovator of the Year: David Lee, Impossible Foods

CIO Dive

  • Company of the Year: Zoom
  • CIO of the Year: Seemantini Godbole, Lowe's
  • CTO of the Year: Curt Garner, Chipotle

Construction Dive

  • People of the Year: Essential construction workers
  • Company of the Year: Turner Construction
  • Innovator of the Year: NEXT Coalition

Cybersecurity Dive

  • CISO of the Year: Marene Allison, Johnson & Johnson

Food Dive

  • Company of the Year: Mondelez
  • Executive of the Year: Dylan Lissette, Utz
  • Innovator of the Year: Impossible Foods

Grocery Dive

  • Company of the Year: H-E-B
  • Executive of the Year: Jack Sinclair, Sprouts
  • Disruptor of the Year: Amazon

Healthcare Dive

  • Company of the Year: Teladoc
  • People of the Year: Front-line healthcare workers
  • Finance Trend of the Year: Going public

Higher Ed Dive

  • College of the Year: The California State University system
  • President of the Year: Roslyn Clark Artis, Benedict College
  • Watchdog of the Year: The Daily Tar Heel

HR Dive

  • Company of the Year: TIAA
  • Executives of the Year: People + Work Connect's co-founders
  • Employee Benefit of the Year: Old Navy's Election Day incentive

K-12 Dive

  • Superintendent of the Year: Marlon Styles, Middletown City Schools
  • Principal of the Year: Henry Turner, Newton North High School
  • District of the Year: Highline Public Schools

Marketing Dive

  • Marketer of the Year: Unilever
  • Executive of the Year: Marisa Thalberg, Lowe's
  • Campaign of the Year: Procter & Gamble's 'The Choice'
  • Activist Brand of the Year: Ben & Jerry's
  • Mobile Marketer of the Year: Chipotle

MedTech Dive

  • Company of the Year: Abbott
  • Executive of the Year: Doug Bryant, Quidel
  • Regulatory Disruption of the Year: HHS lab developed test policy

Restaurant Dive

  • Company of the Year: Chipotle
  • Executive of the Year: Rob Lynch, Papa John's
  • Innovator of the Year: DoorDash

Retail Dive

  • Company of the Year: Target
  • Person of the Year: Aurora James
  • Resilient Retailer of the Year: Costco

Smart Cities Dive

  • City of the Year: Newark, NJ
  • Leader of the Year: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta
  • Technology of the Year: Biobot Analytics

Suply Chain Dive

  • Company of the Year: Target
  • Executive of the Year: Gene Seroka, Port of Los Angeles
  • Supplier of the Year: 3M
  • Sustainability Plan of the Year: Unilever's broadening emissions ambitions

Transport Dive

  • Company of the Year: Old Dominion Freight Line
  • Executive of the Year: Frank Hurst, Roadrunner Transportation Systems
  • Technology of the Year: Electronic bills of lading

Utility Dive

  • Utility of the Year: NextEra Energy
  • Executive of the Year: Ben Fowke, Xcel Energy
  • Regulator of the Year: Neil Chatterjee, FERC

Waste Dive

  • Organization of the Year: Sanitation Foundation
  • People of the Year: Waste and recycling workers
  • ESG Action of the Year: New Jersey's environmental justice law
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