Last year, I was sitting in the annually presented (in Dec 20) Medinge Award "Top Brands with a Conscience" Committée, to single out the 2006 edition, chaired by one of the Medinge Directors; Stanley Moss, an award now delivered in its third consecutive year.
First time a novelty, second time a tradition, third time an institution, is my conclusion by this history. For all Awards Announcements of the Top Brands with a Consciousness Awards 2004-2006 - go here;
This year nine brands were selected;
For Extended Descriptions and comments from Medinge Fellows, see press release PDF.
Reflections and comments:
First, I conclude that two out of nine are directly related to the SRI sector mentioned above. Socially Responsible Investment. Further, there seems to be a trend with more corporates taking steps forward in the right direction. One of those listed that really has come really forward, is Interface Inc. as a whole corporate, applying frameworks to a strong extent such as Cradle to Cradle and The Natural Step. Another one listed is Toyota at the Brand Level with the Prius car, with the first commercially available hybrid car to running on both electricity and petrol.
But there is still an essential difference to be a Big Corporation in the "Transformation Game" and the Small Sustainability Startup. The latter allows themselves both to be closer to their main stakeholders - the customers and the influenced community as a whole - and faster, with rapid responses as a consequence to the proximity to both the Cause and Issues from the beginning. This gives them the flexibility which the big corporations often are missing. At the forefront of creativity and innovation for sustainability are examples such as First Mile Solutions and Watabaran. They are worth special mentions - as they really act as role models in their respective sectors.
Related is the views on the concept "CSR", here I have created a Lens (to be developed further); http://www.squidoo.com/csr/.
First Mile Solutions
London has more online than all Sub-Saharan Africa, billions wait for Internet. First Mile Solutions twist the image to a "bottom-up" instantly with their user-centric Branding - survival economy villagers live by first mile, not last. Delivering affordable, relayed wireless Internet through motorcycles, FMS is an epitome of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship for sustainability - i. e. sustainopreneurship. The Brand Name was given by South African Poet and Communication for Development Expert Titus Moetsabi, see FAO note here.
First Mile Solutions is really my strongest role model among these BwaC's, since they are innovating and entrepreneuring in one of my most highlighted areas - disconnectivity and marginalization - and with a mission to contribute to get the whole world online in the end.
I have devoted a special "Lens" at Squidoo to this "sustainability-related problem"; http://www.squidoo.com/hotworld/.
- Watabaran is a company in Nepal, emulating values of fair trade. They recycle paper and produce hand-made Christmas cards, calendars and gifts for organisations and companies all over the world. Watabaran represents environmental sustainability and good working practices and conditions. All employees are shareholders of the company and their salaries are well above local averages. I met the founder and sustainopreneur of Watabaran, Björn Söderberg, as early as 2000, and saw the energy and drive with him. When we separated in two directions in 2001 - he to Nepal, me to Uganda - we did not keep the contact on a day-to-day basis as we did then. But I was astonished to see what he came back with, and I have had a remote and distant eye on the development since then.
At the forefront
Same goes with Watabaran as with First Mile Solutions, they are at the cutting edge of development having a conscious sustainability view, combined with a good business sense. As Björn put in a recent interview in a Swedish newspaper - ”We make long term investments, working for profit, but not profit maximization”. I will include the three years BwaC Award winners in a deeper analysis in a posting to come, where I will apply and present an analytical framework illustrating these differences in between the corporate transformatives and the innovative strong start-ups, and also highlighting the aspect of using business and innovation for targeting sustainability problems to turn them into possibilities. The framework will help to make clearer in what way they contribute to sustainability, and also to illustrate the trends of more corporate sectors movement in the right direction.
In the mean time I want to congratulate all winners of this year's award.
It was really a pleasure to be a part of the BwaC 2006 committee, and be given the chance to give recognition and attentive spotlight on these pioneers. Running at the forefront and proactively taking the choice of untapping the market opportunities that come from making this world a better place, and showing that it is possible to create value both for shareholders and the community at large. In fact, it is my claim, that it is the only way to do it in the long term to create value for all stakeholders, including the shareholders, and in the future to be viewed as something natural and self-evident to "look beyond the financial bottom line and working long-term". Taken for granted.
I end by giving you the dedicated lens I have on "sustainability branding", where Medinge takes a central role to move the positions forward; "Branding for Sustainability" - http://www.squidoo.com/sustainabilitybranding/. There you have some book titles to help you in this Quest, including the Medinge-initiated and authored anthology "Beyond Branding". (I can inform you that in the planning process is a case-based sequel book as a follow up to this first more abstract volume of collected chapters, as well.)