The Medinge Group, an international think-tank on branding and business, today releases its ﬁfth annual Brands with a Conscience list. In the Group’s opinion, these eight diverse organizations show that it is possible for brands to succeed as they contribute to the betterment of the society by sustainable, socially responsible and humanistic behaviour.
The international collective of brand practitioners meets annually in August at a secluded location outside Stockholm, Sweden, and collaborate on the list, judging nominees on principles of humanity and ethics, rather than ﬁnancial worth. The Brands with a Conscience list is shaped around criteria including evidence of the human implications of the brand and considering the question of whether the brand takes risks in line with its beliefs. Evaluations are made based on reputation, self-representation, history, direct experience, contacts with individuals within the organizations, media and analysts and an assessment of the expressed values of sustainability.
Last year, the group added a unique category commendation, the Colin Morley Award, recognizing exceptional achievement by an NGO. Mr Morley, a member of the Medinge Group, died in the London Underground bombings on July 7, 2005. The award commemorates his visionary work in humanistic branding.
For 2008, the group has singled out the following organizations:
Hennes & Mauritz
International Watch Co.
Pret a Manger
Dame Anita Roddick
and the 2008 Colin Morley Award for a non-governmental organization is given to Star School.
Announcing the 2008 Brands with a Conscience, Stanley Moss, CEO of the Medinge Group and chairman of the initiative, called them ‘solid indications of the trend towards humanistic branding—this year’s list shows a renewed interest in ethical conduct, accountability and outcome. The 2008 winners remind us that at their essence, brands are for people.’
‘Branding has a huge role to play in creating a better and more sustainable world,’ remarked Thomas Gad, Chairman of the Medinge Group. ‘There already exist alternative technologies and products with less damaging impact on the environment, climate and people’s lives. But new green products and alternatives need to become attractive in the minds of people, in spite of their sometimes being more expensive and different. That is why the Medinge Group’s annual Brands with a Conscience Award is more relevant and important than ever. Branding can become a true-ﬂag bearer for a better world.’
‘For the last four years, the Medinge Group has named Brands with a Conscience, forerunners to the social responsibility curve, long before the mass media came to champion their causes. This year’s mixture of companies again represents those leading the way, including some who pushed the humanist agenda for years without recognition.
‘In particular, we posthumously award a BWAC to Dame Anita Roddick for her lifelong contribution to ﬁghting injustices. This is a recognition that Dame Anita had successfully developed her name into a brand with a reputation, one which had an immediate resonance to many. Star School’s recognition as our Colin Morley Award winner for 2008 is ﬁtting: this is the sort of organization we think Colin himself would have endorsed for its work in combating HIV and Aids in Zululand, by targeting 40,000 high school students,’ said Jack Yan, a founder and director of the Medinge Group.
Ian Ryder, a founding member and director of the Medinge Group, commented, ‘Each year since we began these awards, the whole world has become increasingly concerned about planetary sustainability. World leaders are meeting in Bali as we issue this year’s winners list. Some of our featured brands have been concerned for years about issues like these. They have actually demonstrated their commitment and not just talked about it. The standard just keeps getting better.’
Patrick Harris, a director of the Medinge Group, added, ‘Medinge’s Brands with a Conscience winners are not peripheral, fad-based organizations. They are thriving, successful, humanity-centric entities. They are market-forming and world-changing. Together, they are a glimpse of the future of brands. Today’s Brands with a Conscience are embracing an era of generational thinking. They perform the ultimate recycling effort, that of discarding the current disposable, short-sighted generation of thought and replacing it with one of longevity and humanity at its core.’
‘The continued shift away from “branding-as-persuasion-to-buy” to “branding-as-how-we-improve-the-world”—with authentic, human considerations at the core of the organization—really gathers pace,’ observed Tony Quinlan, a Medinge member. ‘This year’s award winners effectively counter the ridiculousness of the proﬁt-above-all approach which too many organizations take. Congratulations to such a diverse group, working in diverse sectors—all deserving of our praise and gratitude.’
The winners in detail
An impressive sustainability-committed body and hair care brand. Its mission positions Aveda as a catalyst for awareness and change at all levels. The company gave its original endorsement to the Valdez Principles (later the CERES Principles) in 1989. Individual responsibility is core to Aveda’s culture. The company regards its employees as change agents with the power to change the course of human civilization.
Tony Chocolonely produces 100 per cent slave-free chocolate. Most chocolate is harvested under slave conditions (often by children) in west Africa. Dutch journalist Teun van der Keuken set out to make chocolate products that are certified slave-free. As he has shown in his TV programmes, that is not easy. He even went so far as to start a court case against himself (which he lost), as a consumer of slave chocolate, to shame chocolate producers.
Hennes & Mauritz
Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) has taken a leading position in crucial issues and earned acclaim for it internationally. The company operates in 28 countries and has more than 60,000 employees all working to the same philosophy. Alongside commercial success, this company demonstrates solid principles of entrepreneurship and a strong sustainability credentials, all the more difficult in a business where unnecessary over-consumption, cost-shaving, and issues of ethical production will be the inevitable accusations. H&M has grown into one of the most demanding fashion producers in the world, and today stands as a benchmark of standards for the industry.
Happy is a training company, that makes learning about IT an enjoyable and helps companies create great workplaces. Ethics are at the core of the business, with every new employee introduced to this through the company’s Corporate Scruples game at their induction. Happy has sent trainers to Uganda, Nigeria and Cambodia to, pro bono, to support the creation of local sustainable training centres. In London they provide support to a range of local charities, employ a deaf trainer to deliver IT training in British Sign Language and have been carbon-offsetting since 1991 (long before the term was in use).
Although only employing 50 people, Happy has previously been rated the best company in the UK for customer service (Management Today, 2003), the best small business in terms of positive impact on society (Business in the Community, 2006) and the second-best place to work for (Financial Times, 2007).
International Watch Company
Since 1868, a brand of the utmost integrity, dedicated to the manufacture of quality timepieces. A beacon for the watchmaking craft, which offers three- to four-year apprenticeships in the discipline. Creates limited quantities. Number of employees in 1869: 196; number of employees in 2006: 390. Pursues a strong social and ecological policy as part of its CSR initiatives, and in partnership with adventurer and environmentalist David de Rothschild (Adventure Ecology). With structural measures and alternative energies, IWC is cutting its carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50 per cent. Certified as climate-neutral business, at the same time a driving force behind the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, a global organization whose aim is to open up new prospects in life for underprivileged children.
Pret a Manger
Good food with organic (where possible), non-GM ingredients. Leftovers to homeless. First coffee for free each day—in every shop—to remind of the importance of the customer. Several charities supported, also a foundation, a great working environment to all staff. The company is not too bothered about profits. On its website, it states that someday, it hopes to earn 9 per cent profit, but hasn’t yet.
Dame Anita Roddick
Dame Anita Roddick showed admirable leadership not only in the Body Shop but as an advocate for Fair Trade, the environment, corporate social responsibility, free speech and other causes through her personal work. Much of this can be found at anitaroddick.com, which was updated personally until her passing. All of this reflects a personal brand that is consistent and honed, supported by causes, many of which are compatible with the Medinge Group’s own aims. Anita Roddick believed in living her own personal brand as much as for her audiences, including the media, and had few detractors, something which cannot be said for many other high-profile types.
The Colin Morley Award for excellence by an NGO: Star School
Star School works with 40,000 high school students in HIV–Aids-stricken Zululand, South Africa. This schools-based intervention encourages learners to build their future through informed decision-making. The group works within existing structures—in this case, the school system. The NGO is financed by the Swedish entrepreneur Dan Olofsson, endorsed by the South African government. Star Schools are now spreading out on the African continent. The project was launched in 2005, and has since been rolled out to 40 schools in the Umkhanyakude district of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
2007 BWAC Committee
Sicco van Gelder
Stanley Moss (chairman)