Earlier this month saw the announcement of this years Brands With a Conscience Awards (BWAC) by the Medinge group of which I am a member. The Medinge Group is an international think-tank on branding and business. 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.

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.
Two years ago 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 2009, the group has singled out the following organizations as Brands with a Conscience:
Chhatra Sagar—an eco-resort in Rajasthan (India)
Ekomarine—environmentally responsible paint (Sweden)
Kiva—microfinance lending (USA)
One Water—enlightened bottled water (UK)
Ragbag—Fair-Traded fashion accessories from recyclable materials (the Netherlands)
TOMS shoes—developing nations’ shoe distribution (USA)

2009 Colin Morley Award
The third Colin Morley Award for a non-governmental organization is given to the American actor and philanthropist Paul Newman in posthumous recognition for an exemplary life of truth-telling and generosity.

Early next month, on February 5th, the BWAC Awards will be given to the mentioned organisations, at a private ceremony at the Management Institute of Paris.
This years list of nominees was excellent, with nominations that represented a wider spectrum of geographic origin as well as a wider range of products and services. This made choosing and voting a bigger, but more worthwile, task than before.

As I was last year, I am very pleased to spread the word on the brands we have selected this year. Ever since I joined the Medinge initiative, now 6 years ago, I have enjoyed the discussion and energy in this world wide group of people. It thoroughly changed my outlook on the role of branding, from a mere marketing perspective, to how a brand can be the focal point of energy for everything I think is crucial in true collaboration within organisations, and stakeholder networks. For me knowledge and change management and branding overlap greatly. Acknowledging those organisations for whom their brand is the expression of how they see themselves as part of society, where the bottom-line is not the only and unique yard stick to measure success, seems therefore a logical extension of my vision on knowledge work, innovation and learning in a globally networked world.

Members of the Medinge Group at last years Paris meeting