In a world in which consumers take ever greater interest in the environmental track records of the companies they do business with and brands they buy, several cars brands topped Interbrand’s “Best Global Green Brands 2014” list. Since car companies are not usually considered paragons of green business practices, their presence in the first four spots on this list is surprising. In order, the leaders were Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM), Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) and Nissan.
The car brands have an advantage because the universe of those considered is from Interbrand’s “Best Global Brands,” which numbers only 100, and auto brands take up much of the list.
How these brands are viewed from the outside is as important as their real green practices and credentials, according to the Interbrand methodology:
Interbrand believes that the Best Global Green Brands lie at the point where perception and performance meet. With this in mind, the methodology of Best Global Green Brands is based on assessing both market perception and actual environmental performance.
In theory, that makes the marketing success of companies promoting green brands critical.
Several other manufacturers and a food company brand round out the Top Global Green Brands 2014 list — in order, Panasonic, Nokia, Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), Adidas, Danone and Dell. Car brands do well across the entire green list, including BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Chevy, Kia and Hyundai.
Several brands aggressively promoted as “green” by their companies fell well down the list. These include Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX). Based on the methodology, either their promotions of green branding have not been successful or their actual business practices are wanting, compared to the Interbrand list leaders.
Interbrand management says companies have powerful incentives to move toward greener brands:
If our dive into the data has shown us anything, it’s that the search for new, more sustainable models, solutions, methods and materials is accelerating. And it’s no wonder. From disappearing rainforests to melting ice sheets, from people living without electricity to food and water scarcity, it is becoming increasingly clear that “business as usual” is not the path forward.
Since perception is such an important part of the measure, whether green companies are really green is open to question.