Why are Toyota, Ford and Honda the ‘best green global brands’?

The latest annual ranking of the 50 global brands with the most environmental appeal is just out, with automotive and tech companies leading the pack, despite the inherent environmental challenges faced by companies in those two sectors.

The 2013 Best Green Global Brands is produced by Interbrand and “powered by” Deloitte, according to the study’s — well, branding. The study measures the environmental perception of 100 global brands and compares it to those companies’ actual environmental performance.

This year’s ranking shows Toyota maintaining the No. 1 spot, with Ford, Honda, Panasonic, Nissan, Johnson & Johnson, Volkswagen, Danone, Nokia and Dell rounding out the top 10. (Click here to read the top 50 companies, including their rank and “gap” scores.)

The gap in question is the difference between the companies’ perception and performance scores. The perception survey is conducted by Interbrand, a global branding and brand management firm, which queries consumers in the 10 largest global economies (based on GDP), interviewing more than 10,000 consumers in total. For each brand, more than 100 people aware of that brand in each country are asked to assess it in terms of six “pillars”: authenticity, relevance, consistency, presence, differentiation and their understanding of environmental claims.

The performance-side assessments are conducted by Deloitte, which also has six pillars: governance, stakeholder engagement, operations, supply chain, transportation and logistics, and products and services.

Each of the top 100 global brands is scored on a 1-100 scale on both performance and perception. The two scores, along with the gap between them, comprise the rankings. A negative gap score indicates that public perception is greater than the company's actual environmental performance; a positive score says that environmental performance is greater than the public's perception. Obviously, having a smaller score means the two are closer to alignment. The top 50 companies are included in the report. (You can read the full methodology here.)

I asked Will Sarni, a director at Deloitte, who led that firm’s portion of the study, what it means to be one of the “best global green brands.” “It means essentially achieving not just a balance between perception and performance, but actually performing on both. It means that what you’re doing in the way of performing is successful in some measure, and there is acknowledgment by stakeholders in the marketplace that you are achieving positive results.”

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