For more than a decade, Interbrand, the global branding agency, has published their list of Best Global Brands. For the last three years they have singled out what they feel are the 50 Best Global GREEN Brands (click here to go to survey). Moving forward this is going to become an important indicator of overall brand health as companies continue to realize that sustainability isn’t just something that nice people do, but also has the ability to dramatically enhance the bottom line whether through energy savings, increased market perception, better longevity…what have you.
But this is a difficult thing to wrap your head around—Green Brands. In order to determine this list they need to do two things right off the bat—1) define what Sustainability is in the context of their survey and 2) figure out the best way to make a quantitative measure of “Green-ness.” For that, you should check out their Methodology. First, Interbrand’s definition—”…a business approach to creating long-term value by embracing opportunities and managing risks derived from economic, environmental, and social impacts. In a commercial sense, sustainability also involves creating and maintaining a product, service, or business identity that reflects special added value in terms of environmental and social benefits.”
I like that. But how do you measure something that seems so ambiguous? Well, they make a good point that the brands that benefit the most from this way of thinking are the ones that can both take measurable steps toward becoming more sustainable AND let their consumers know in a relevant and authentic way. That’s where their “Gap Score” comes in. They found that the best way to measure a Brand’s performance in this area is to compare their Actual Impact with their Perceived Impact for consumers. The more overlap there is between perception and reality with regard to a company’s sustainability, the better. This is called the “Gap Score” and the higher the number, the better the “Green Brand Performance.”
“…the words tell the story, both internally & externally, about brands driving change, innovation, goodwill, and more sustainable, cost-effective, efficient operations.”
There are many more details as far as how they measure this performance so I encourage you to read their full Methodology. Even if you don’t get into those details, it’s illuminating to take a peak at the list. For 2013, four of the top five performers are car manufacturers, an industry which, historically, has had one of the greatest impacts on the environment. This marks a potential shift from an era where car companies resisted government imposed regulations to one where they realize that taking on these challenges themselves is critical to their survival, both as a brand and as a category. This is just the tip of the iceberg as Interbrand’s Jez Frampton notes, “consumers across markets have a high level of mistrust when it comes to the information that companies provide about their environmental efforts. Actions speak louder than words, but the words (and numbers) tell the story, both internally and externally, about brands driving change, innovation, goodwill, and more sustainable, cost-effective, efficient operations.”
What does this all mean for the future of brands in general? We’ll have to wait and see, but perhaps this marks a shift where a brand cannot be seen separately from it’s community and environmental impact—it’s corporate citizenship, as it were. Maybe, in the years that come, Interbrand will need to have only one list again—”Best Global Brands”—where it is taken for granted that a company’s impact is calculated into their overall performance as a brand.