Brands… with a conscience?

“Brands with a conscience” may sound like an oxymoron but bear with me.

This is the title the Medinge Group brand think-tank has given to a selection of organisations that seem to reach beyond the mediocre standards of too many brands these days. (I’m part of the group so partly responsible for this listing).

Here are the brands that have been given this accolade for 2005, with a quick bio lifted from the Medinge press release.

Dilmah Teas 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.

Flexcar Founded in 1999 as a public/private partnership supported by King County, Washington 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 program which reduces, air pollution and energy consumption, and encourages use of public transit as it contributes to sustainable communities.

GrameenPhone GrameenPhone is the largest telecommunications operator in Bangladesh with some 2.1 million subscribers (October 2004), over 90% 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 also through helping UNICEF in the development of primary education. However, it is the Village Phone Program which has been most significant, originaed 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 organisations in the same markets. The company, a major retailer in the UK, has department stores operating under the value proposition of

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