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Toyota, J&J, Honda Ranked Best Global Green Brands

Industries around the world are taking actionable and quantifiable measures to improve both their sustainability performance and their degree of external reporting, according to an annual report by brand consultancy Interbrand.

The 2012 Best Global Green Brands report ranked Toyota (#1), Johnson & Johnson (#2), and Honda (#3) at the top of the list, with Danone (#9), Ford (#15), Starbucks (#36) and UPS (#43) representing this year’s top risers.

As sustainability initiatives continue to gain relevance in the C-suite and with consumers, companies in all sectors are striving to strike a winning balance between building a green business and effectively communicating sustainable practices in the global marketplace, Interbrand says. The report examines the gap that exists between corporate environmental practices and consumer perception of those practices.

“Sustainability has proven to be a strategic and profitable aspect of business and a brand-strengthening asset,” said Jez Frampton, Global Chief Executive Officer of Interbrand. “It is crucial that consumers’ impressions of a brand are in close alignment with that brand’s actual environmental performance. Otherwise, a brand’s efforts in this area could serve as an under-utilized asset, or, conversely, suffer due to accusations of ‘greenwashing.’”

Key Themes

In this year’s report, automotive and technology brands dominate the ranking. Toyota maintains the number one spot, continuing to make environmental sustainability a core management priority. The original Prius model - the primary launchpad for Toyota’s green image - has recently been expanded to encompass an entire family of sustainable automobiles, including the company’s first plug-in model. This year, Toyota also achieved near zero-landfill status at all of its North American manufacturing plants, and continues its commitment to build LEED certified buildings and dealerships.

With long-term goals around fuel efficiency, superior energy use, and the reduction of toxic emissions, the automotive industry has been able to turn such consideration points into areas of environmental leadership. The industry as a whole has launched a competitive range of high-profile alternative fuel vehicles -- from electric models to hybrids -- and even some with internal combustible engines. Eight automotive brands appear in this year’s Best Global Green Brands ranking, with four brands ranking in the top 10: Toyota (#1), Honda (#3), Volkswagen (#4), BMW (#10), Ford (#15), Mercedes-Benz (#16), Hyundai (#17), and Nissan (#21).

As technology continues to play a prominent role in consumers’ lives, leading technology brands are spearheading efforts to reduce their environmental impact. Panasonic jumped four spots to #6 this year. To showcase its leadership and comprehensive green technologies - ranging from consumer electronics to energy management systems - the company recently announced the conversion of a former factory site in Fujisawa near Tokyo into a “Sustainable Smart Town,” scheduled to be operation in 2014. Additionally, the brand has received recognition and a number of accolades from highly recognized indexes for corporate sustainability, including that from SAM (Sustainable Asset Management) and METI (the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry).

Nissan (#21), the Japanese automaker, appeared in this year’s Best Global Green Brands report for the first time. Nissan is making ambitious moves to reduce its carbon footprint worldwide with a new six-year environmental action plan called the Nissan Green Program. From the development of a new easier-to-install EV quick charger to pilot programs aimed at making cities EV ready, Nissan has set the stage for continued success in a world that looks poised to embrace zero emission mobility – and this is reflected in a high perception score.

H&M (#46), the Swedish clothing retailer, made headlines this year and impacted consumer perception with the launch of its eco-friendly “Conscious Collection,” a branded apparel line made using sustainable materials. The brand also saw solid improvement on the performance side; carbon emissions intensity declined and the company increased engagement with key stakeholders, while also providing fuller disclosure of its activities and environmental impacts.

UBS (#50) was one of the financial industry’s strongest performers. Despite emerging as the largest financial supporter of mountaintop removal mining in the United States, the brand saw a slight increase in its performance score, particularly in its operations rating, and made the ranking for the first time.

Top Risers

Danone (#9) improved its ranking by remaining fiercely committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 30% by the end of 2012. It has already reached a level of -27.5%. Danone’s co-creation of the “Livelihoods Fund” in 2011 marks yet another milestone in its sustainability strategy. Ford (#15), too, stands out as a 2012 Best Global Green Brands success story. This year, the brand saw significant improvement in its environmental performance around both its operations (emissions, resource industry, etc), as well as its approach to transparent engagement and disclosure on its activities and its environmental impact. While the brand ranks #15 overall, Ford’s ability to maintain strong green perceptions while simultaneously improving its environmental performance serves as a great example to other global brands. Starbucks (#36) and UPS (#43) improved their overall ranking the most in this year’s report, both moving up six spots from where they ranked in the 2011 Best Global Green Brands report.

This year’s Top 50 Best Global Green Brands include 22 brands manufactured and managed in the United States. The leading American brand is Johnson & Johnson (#2), followed by Hewlett-Packard (#5), Dell (#7), Cisco (#11), and 3M (#12). Due to their technology and automotive brand dominance, Japan and Germany follow the United States. Each of these countries produced 7 of this year’s top 50 Best Global Green Brands.

Bart King is a PR/marketing communications consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications. 

Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also Associate Editor of Sponsored Content for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_king [Read more about Bart King]

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