The Medinge Group (www.medinge.org), an international think-tank on branding and business, today releases its seventh annual Brands with a Conscience list. In the Group’s opinion, these diverse organizations show that it is possible for brands to succeed as they contribute to the betterment of society by sustainable, socially responsible and humanistic behaviour.
In announcing the winners, Stanley Moss, CEO of the Medinge Group said, ‘This year’s awards indicate that principles of compassionate branding are being applied globally, by businesses large and small, across categories from ﬁnance to retail to energy, in established and emerging economies, in new markets. Today, brands with conscience can work to build bridges of understanding between nations and societies.’
Ian Ryder, a founding director of the Medinge Group commented, ‘Winning a BWAC award is more than public recognition—it is a clear statement of your organization’s values, one of the most powerful competitive differentiators in existence!’
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 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.
Three years ago the group added a unique category commendation, the Colin Morley Award, recognizing exceptional achievement by an individual or 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 2010, the group has singled out the following organizations as Brands with a Conscience:
Marks & Spencer/UK
Pictet et Cie./Switzerland
Selco Solar Pvt. Ltd./India
The Colin Morley Award is given to:
Muna Abu Sulayman/Saudi Arabia
Detailed descriptions and web links follow:
A young Asian brand built on the idea that it must exist as an experience to elevate their own or other people’s level of happiness. Jack Ma founded Alibaba in his cramped apartment with 17 colleagues. A decade later, Alibaba Group is the largest ecommerce company in China, with 15,000 employees and more than 100 million users. It also has a B2B unit with a community of more than 42 million registered users from more than 240 countries and regions. This year Alibaba will unveil partnership plans for Grameen China, a project to signiﬁcantly increase access to micro-credit for poverty alleviation in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia. (Medinge named Grameen Telecom a Brand with a Conscience in 2005, and its parent Grameen Bank was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2008.) Employing the Grameen Bank microcredit model, the group hopes to impact more than 72,000 lives in its ﬁrst ﬁve years.
Ava Hakim, IBM exec and member of the Medinge Group, remarked that Alibaba is a business ‘built on trust, one which respects intellectual property rights and will remove sites which infringe upon the rights of others.’ She also was impressed by the six core values named, which they have successfully applied to their business.
The Co-op, founded in 1872, from its origins has focused on serving local communities. Today the Co-op is the only UK clearing bank to publish an ethical statement. Medinge director Patrick Harris lauded the brand, noting that ‘since 1992 Co-op has been building its ethical stance by asking its membership to vote on issues such as animal welfare, human rights and ecological impact.’ It claims to have turned away over £900 million in loans to businesses not in keeping with the Co-op Ethical Policy. The commitment to improve their food business’ ethical and environmental performance is in line with expectations arrived at in consultation with 100,000 members. Co-Op was double-nominated this year, for both its banking and food businesses.
Marks & Spencer
In her nomination, Medinge director Erika Ufﬁndell emphasized the focused approach to climate change, waste and sustainability that Marks & Spencer have adopted. With their Plan A campaign, the company established 100 commitments to achieve in ﬁve years, clear targets for their business, actionable by people across the group. Ufﬁndell ﬁnds the brand very accessible and involving: they have engaged 17,231 customers in making pledges to support climate change and a commitment to sustainability.
Merci is a 1500 m² shop for fashion and home furniture based in Paris, France. All sales proﬁts are destined for women and children in Madagascar. The store sells new or artist-reworked donated goods and has had a huge impact. Some goods are sent directly to Madagascar. Merci’s website is especially minimal and modest, yet effectively states the store’s mission. In his nomination, Medinge’s Philippe Mihailovich expressed the hope that Merci’s actions inﬂuence others to follow.
Pictet et Cie.
This Swiss-based private bank started in 1805. Medinge director Nicholas Ind cited two signiﬁcant aspects of the brand.
First, its focus on sustainable development and the redirection of funds in this direction by encouraging the maximum investment in sustainable areas for a given risk: the bank’s management of a water fund, launched in 2000, which has become the world’s largest of its kind, with over €4 billion in assets; and a Clean Energy fund. The second aspect is the Prix Pictet—the world’s ﬁrst international prize dedicated to photography and sustainability—mandated to encourage the use and power of photography to communicate vital messages to a global audience. This year’s theme is Earth.
Today, many B2Bs are silently doing a fantastic job to adapt to our global challenges. Medinge’s chairman Thomas Gad nominated Germany’s SAP, a software company whom he admires because ‘they actually help other companies to create usable metrics in their CSR and sustainability.’ Over the past 10 years, SAP has been recognized by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for upholding ethical, environmental, social, and governance values in products and services.
Selco Solar Pvt. Ltd.
Medinge CEO Stanley Moss described Selco as an interesting small business, 14 years old, who supply solar power solutions, mostly in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. They rely on microﬁnance loans, employ 140 people, and have done around 100,000 installations of small to large size. They are partially funded by Grameen. Moss was impressed by their cradle-to-grave attitude about product, longevity in the marketplace after a tough start-up, good work on the individual level, private ownership, and the understanding of need for innovation.
The 2010 Colin Morley Award to Muna Abusulayman
Simon Nicholls, a member of Medinge, nominated Muna Abu Sulayman, who receives 2010’s Colin Morley Award, for excellence by an individual or NGO, acknowledging their contribution to the betterment of society through sustainable, socially responsible and humanistic behaviour. In giving this award, the Medinge Group recognizes Muna’s outstanding work in educational development, poverty alleviation and strategic philanthropy; as Executive Director of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation, developing and implementing operations for humanitarian assistance across the globe; her role as the ﬁrst woman in Saudi Arabia to be appointed by the United Nations Development Programme as a Goodwill Ambassador; and for exceptional reporting as co-host on popular MBC-TV social programme Kalam Nawaem, in particular her advocacy of rights for women. As a public and media personality, she speaks about issues relating to Arab society, media, building bridges of understanding between east and west. Since 1997, Ms Abu Sulayman has served as lecturer on American literature at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. She frequently appears as a panelist at the Davos World Economic Forum, Jewish Economic Forum, C-100 of the World Economic Forum, Brookings Institute Conferences and other venues.
Patrick Harris, a Medinge director, added, ‘In the list of 2010 Brands with a Conscience winners, we can see a clear focus on commerce and ﬁnance. This is no accident. Instead, this is a sign of the world’s markets responding to the need for responsible and inter-generational business activities.’
Regarding his nomination of Co-op Bank, Harris said, ‘The UK’s Co-operative Bank is a prime example of a highly principled business within a traditional competitive landscape. The Co-op are being recognized by Medinge for their values-led business focus and for the impact that they bring to a beleaguered sector.’
Jack Yan, a director of Medinge said, ‘Again, the Medinge Group’s international inﬂuence has resulted in a global list of winners, all of which practise our ideals of humanistic branding. I’m thrilled we’ve recognized our ﬁrst Chinese and Saudi Arabian winners this year.
‘In particular, Selco Solar of India shows a commitment to green energy that is very poignant in the 2010s. Just because fuel prices have dropped from their 2008 highs does not mean that the energy crisis is over, a fact the Medinge Group recognizes.’
Medinge Group member Ava Maria Hakim commented, ‘The message to the world—and Alibaba’s 100 million users—is that China’s Alibaba Group has set a global brand and business benchmark that goes beyond corporate social responsibility to building an integrity-based business driven by long-term vision. Alibaba Group is a Brand with a Conscience of the future.
Erika Ufﬁndell, a director of Medinge, commented, ‘Marks & Spencer is a great example of an organization living by its beliefs. M&S has been recognized by Medinge for creating the innovative Plan A—an initiative that involves customers and partners in their ambition to help combat climate change and reduce waste. Plan A focuses on ﬁve key areas: climate change, waste, sustainable raw materials, health and being a ﬂair partner. Marks & Spencer’s ability to involve their stakeholders in such a simple and accessible way has been reﬂected in their signiﬁcant achievements to date.’
Nicholas Ind, a founding director of Medinge stated, ‘This year, the Medinge Group’s Brands with a Conscience awards shows impressive diversity and reﬂects the commitment that brand owners are demonstrating around the globe to building organizations that meet the needs of all parts of society. The 2010 winners come from the UK, China, India, Switzerland, Germany, France and Saudi Arabia.’
Special thanks to Medinge’s 2010 BWAC nominating committee
Stanley Moss, chairman