Stockholm, Portland, Or. and Wellington, New Zealand, December 27 – LAWFUEL – Best for law news – The Medinge Group, an international think-tank on branding and business, today releases its second annual ‘Top Brands with a Conscience’ list. In the Group’s opinion, these brands show that it is possible for brands to contribute to the betterment of the society.
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 Top Brands with a Conscience list is evaluated on 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.
This year, the group singled out the following for recognition:
John Lewis Partnership
Tim Kitchin, a spokesman for the group, said last year’s list was intended to be a catalyst for other companies to become more human and more humane. ‘Brands are the rallying-point for the positive empowerment of all connected with the organization,’ Kitchin said. ‘We are trying to influence businesses from inside—and outside—to accelerate positive change. We believe this kind of conduct can only add value, both for the companies and their stakeholders.’
Announcing the 2005 list, Stanley Moss, a member of the Medinge Group, remarked that the list is intended to demonstrate compassionate branding is a winning strategy for business today. ‘Every year we learn of successful experiments in transparent, sustainable, humanistic branding. The best companies, and those which thrive, demonstrate their conscience by their actions. This year’s list spans the globe in scale and location, but are universal in their positive commitment to humanity and its needs.’
Jack Yan, one of the group’s founders based in New Zealand commented, ‘The future of mankind depends on how successful businesses are, but commerce will cease to work if businesses become too profit-focused. Business is in danger of becoming cyclical and in a few years, we’ll have forgotten the push for social responsibility that we made at the beginning of the decade.
‘By selecting companies annually, we aim to remind the world that the best brands are those that connect with people on a deeper, more profound and human level—and do more than generate wealth while harming others.’
Johnnie Moore, another founding member said, ‘Far too often, the idea of brands has become associated with wishful thinking, exploitation and deception. We’ve set up Brands with a Conscience to highlight the point that is possible for brands to be of genuine value. We hope this process will provide a higher standard against which to judge organisations in the future.’
In 2002, the Medinge Group published a brand manifesto of eight statements encapsulating their vision of healthy brands for the future. In 2003 the group authored a collection of essays entitled Beyond Branding (Kogan Page, London, 2003) which explored the ways in which brands could add value within alternative business and social models.
In January 2005, the Medinge Group will launch a speakers and experts bureau accessible through its web site at www.medinge.org.
Headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka. A genuine charitable model has founder Merrill J. Fernando leaving all his money to a foundation governed by a group of trustees and dedicated to serving those most in need. A culture of helping community and workers is a cornerstone of the business philosophy.
Founded in 1999 as a public–private partnership supported by King County, Wa. and the City of Seattle, Flexcar provides members with access to a fleet of more than 300 vehicles located throughout major metropolitan areas. It is now the nation’s oldest and largest car-sharing company, operating in over 20 cities. A nationwide membership of 20,000 subscribe to the programme which reduces, air pollution and energy consumption, and encourages use of public transit as it contributes to sustainable communities.
GrameenPhone is the largest telecommunications operator in Bangladesh with some 2·1 million subscribers (October 2004), over 90 per cent of subscribers using mobile to mobile services. The company has worked to improve the infrastructure of Bangladesh both in terms of social construction projects and through helping UNICEF in the development of primary education. However, it is the Village Phone Programme which has been most significant, originated in 1997 by Grameen Telecom and Grameen Bank, which is a micro-credit lending institution. The success of Village Phone has served as a template for developing countries in Africa.
John Lewis Partnership
The John Lewis Partnership is not a limited company. It is a partnership among 60,000 employees who are far more involved in decision-making and benefit sharing than other organizations in the same markets. The company, a major retailer in the UK, has department stores operating under the value proposition of ‘Never Knowlingly Undersold’ as well as a second sub-brand named the Waitrose grocery retail chain. The partnership’s constitution says that they ‘must take all reasonable steps to minimize any detrimental effect our operations may have on the environment, and to promote good environmental practice.’
Arcosanti is a prototype community in Arizona, just north of Phoenix, founded in 1970 by Paolo Soleri. It posits a broadly based solution to environmentally appropriate living, encompassing frugality, miniaturization, population growth, efficiency, urban evolution, pollution, conservation, transportation, net energy utilization, social interchange, privacy, food production, preservation of natural habitats, æsthetics, affordable housing, global warming, ultimate recycling, education and world awareness. The community is supported by Soleri’s consulting, a bakery, manufacture and sale of unique metal bells and ceramics, and a performing arts centre.
ROMP is a growing UK fashion label laying bare its entire value chain, sharing ethical responsibility with its customers. ‘We actively seek to make elegant clothes beautifully and thereby to enhance and then protect the values of good animal husbandry, environmental respect, and civilized labour law. We wish to reward at source … to open up our systems of production to full traceability so that no practice is hidden from our customers’. By deconstructing every business process, ROMP achieved the first Soil Association certification for Organic Leather, at the same time redefining ‘organic’ as being about selfless enactment of change in the world.
Semco is really the story of Ricardo Semler, who inherited control of his family’s Brazil-based business, and set about changing every element of the operation to incorporate worker participation. His recent book, Maverick, describes how he shared all information, including all salaries, enabled employees to choose their own wages and bosses, set their own hours, even choose their own IT. He eliminated the role of CEO, and made other innovations. For nearly 25 years, Sr Semler’s leadership has generated increased productivity, long-term loyalty and phenomenal growth.
Working Assets was established in 1985 to help people make a difference through everyday activities like talking on the phone. When customers use one of Working Assets’ donation-linked services (Long Distance, Wireless, Credit Card or Online), the company donates a portion of the customer’s bill to non-profit groups. The objective is to build a world that is more just, humane, and environmentally sustainable. In 2003 over $3 million was donated after evaluating hundreds of nominees.
Images for this release may be downloaded from .
About the Medinge Group
The Medinge Group is a top-level think tank of brand professionals who meet annually to exchange ideas about theory, strategy and trends in international branding. The group meets in August at Medinge, Sweden and in January at an alternative European location.
The Medinge Group strives to influence businesses from inside—and outside—to become more human, and more humane. The group believes it possible to accelerate change across enterprises and societies by acting on principles of compassionate branding.
The Group’s web site can be found at www.medinge.org.
Top Brands with a Conscience 2005 committee members
Sicco van Gelder
About Beyond Branding
Edited by branding consultant and leading author Nicholas Ind, Beyond Branding: How the New Values of Transparency and Integrity Are Changing the World of Brands is a collective viewpoint of the brand managers, consultants, writers and thinkers who assemble each summer in Medinge, Sweden to discuss the future of branding.
The anti-globalization movement has developed into the scourge of governments and bodies such as the WTO. Naomi Klein´s No Logo book has garnered interest around the world. And most profoundly the succession of financial scandals has led many to question the standards of corporations. This has led to the perception among many that brands are manipulative and demeaning.
The authors’ position amidst all this questioning is that branding is neither inherently good or evil. This book aims to show that branding can benefit employees and customers and investors, but only if managers re-think their fundamental assumptions about brands and marketing. This is an humanistic approach that stresses the need to develop new standards for the way businesses are managed wherever they operate in the world.
The book was published by Kogan Page of London in late October 2003. The web site is at .