If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you may well have spotted a bit of a recurring theme; my hope that businesses could be, well, just a bit nicer.

I’ve worked for some incredibly customer-centric and genuinely caring brands (Orange, Smart Cars, RSPB, NHS Blood Donation) and have long been of the view that it always pays dividends to really look after your customers (or donors), and to not – in any circumstance – diss the competition.

So three cheers for Unilever and their recent announcement that marketing “needs to be noble again”.  Reflecting back on the days when industrialists ploughed profits back into the local community (like Lord Lever at Port Sunlight and the Cadbury family at Bournville), rather than lining shareholder pockets, Senior VP of Marketing Marc Mathieu hopes we can get back to “the origins of the discipline… as a way to drive social progress as well as sales”.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Richard Branson’s new book, ‘Screw Business as Usual’, is the most inspiring tale of how companies can (and should) find a more moral, more ethical and more responsible way of doing business.  And as his case studies ably demonstrate, you can still be a wealth-generating capitalist without screwing your employees, your customers, your suppliers and the planet.

You could say 2011 was the year of widespread immorality (greedy bankers, phone hacking, abuse of vulnerable people in ‘care’ homes, riots), but in 2012 we have the opportunity to turn this around.

Senior politicians have been queuing up to talk about ‘Moral Capitalism’, holding up companies like John Lewis as a shining example of the right way to do business.  And whatever you think of their policies, politicians certainly recognise a good bandwagon when one comes along.

With the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics, 2012 is being billed as a ‘year of celebration and coming together’.  After the horrors of last year, I really believe that a more moral and more responsible economy will become increasingly important to consumers this year.

With the right (decent, truthful) long-term strategy in place, brands have a real opportunity to showcase a new way of doing business, and to reach new consumers who are sick of the ‘old way’.

Oh, and to make a lot of (responsible) profits at the same time.  Bit of a win-win, as they say.

Does your brand need a moral health-check?  Is your strategy preventing you from capitalising on this ‘new mood’?  If you think your business could benefit from some expert, objective help, just get in touch.