Top Global Green Brands of 2011 Revealed

This week, Interbrand released its list of the best global green brands of 2011, and it’s a great example of well-executed research. In a time when greenwashing abounds and consumers actively seek to purchase environmentally-friendly brands that walk the walk and talk the talk, Interbrand’s study provides a perfect combination of brand performance and brand perception to deliver a list of the top global green brands.

Green Brand Performance

Interbrand’s Brand Performance Score is based on 82 metrics, and brands were scored against those metrics based on company disclosures and environmental performance. In other words, this part of the brand score directly rated the brand’s actual, real-world performance and results using the following six primary performance elements:

  1. Governance
  2. Operations
  3. Transportation and logistics
  4. Stakeholder engagement
  5. Supply chain
  6. Products and services

Green Brand Perception

Brands were then put through a consumer brand perception evaluation where 10,000 consumers around the world were asked to rate each company’s green activities using the following six perception elements to assess brand strength:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Relevance
  3. Differentiation
  4. Presence
  5. Consistency
  6. Understanding

Top Global Green Brands 2011

You can follow the link to view the top 50 global green brands of 2011 as ranked through Interbrand’s study. Following are the top 10:

  1. Toyota
  2. 3M
  3. Siemens
  4. Johnson & Johnson
  5. HP
  6. Volkswagen
  7. Honda
  8. Dell
  9. Cisco
  10. Panasonic

Green Branding Insights

Some interesting findings from the ranking include:

  • Over 30% of the brands in the list of the top 50 global green brands are technology and electronics brands.
  • Over 30% of the top 20 brands on the list are automotive brands.
  • Only one energy company made it into the list of the top 50 green brands, Shell at #33.

Interbrand offers some key insights related to the 2011 Global Green Brands ranking. For example, many brands on the list show a significant gap between actual brand performance and brand perception. Interbrand offers two reasons why this might happen. First, companies might be doing great things for the environment but they’re not communicating those activities to consumers. Some companies might intentionally keep green initiatives under wraps if those initiatives give them a competitive advantage. Interbrand references Coca-Cola and Google as companies that might be discretely innovating around environmental sustainability.

On the flip side, many brands have high green perception scores by lower performance scores. Again, Interbrand offers two possible scenarios to cause this gap. First, many consumers simply expect large, well-known brands to be environmentally conscious which artificially lifts the perception scores for those brands.

Second, big brands can benefit greatly from even the smallest environmentally-conscious activities when those activities are effectively communicated to consumers. A simple recycling logo or the use of green to represent sustainability is often noticed and remembered by consumers who might give it greater value than the actual effort deserves. This isn’t necessarily greenwashing but does represent the power of consumer brand perception. Even automotive brands benefit from a consumer perception lift related to the green movement thanks to their highly promoted hybrid vehicles (even if those vehicles actually only make up a small percentage of their product line, investments, and sales).

The key takeaway for brands is this: don’t just talk about going green, do it. And once you do it, tell the world about it. Don’t assume consumers know what you’re doing or understand what you’re doing to help the environment. Take the time to educate them about both your brand and your brand’s environmental activities. Being a recognized green brand requires both performance and perception. Research your customers and make sure you’re not leaving gaps between performance and perception. Get the credit your brand deserves and the brand sentiment boost that goes along with your positive, environmentally-friendly efforts.

Image: stock.xchng

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.