The announcement that Toyota topped the 2011 Best Global Green Brands ranking has raised a few eyebrows. For many, the idea that an automotive company could be declared the “greenest brand” is unthinkable. However, Toyota beat a wide range of other leading brands, including those in non-manufacturing sectors, to claim the top spot.
In fact, with seven automotive brands in the top 20, this is about more than the success of a single product or a single company. It reflects the efforts of vehicle manufacturers to become more responsive to people’s expectations, more open in recognising the environmental impact of their business, and more proactive in taking action to mitigate it.
Whilst green performance is often viewed through the lens of improving business efficiency, as Toyota aptly demonstrates, it is also a powerful source of innovation.
The ranking itself was based on companies included in the 2010 Best Global Brands report, in light of their global presence and their demonstrated ability of delivering value to stakeholders; the ranking went beyond traditional green marketing studies to cover both green perceptions and actual environmental performance, in which both play an important role in building brand value.
Whilst green performance is often viewed through the lens of improving business efficiency, as Toyota aptly demonstrates, it is also a powerful source of innovation. This can translate into overall brand perception, helping to differentiate a company and position it as an industry-leader.
Meanwhile, great green performance that goes unrecognised represents a lost opportunity to the brand owner. To receive the maximum return from their environmental investment, brands must convey their efforts effectively to the public, and as Interbrand‘s research last year showed, corporate citizenship on the whole plays a significant role in increasing brand favorability, and contributes to actual purchase decisions.
While other brands were either not sufficiently credited for their environmental performance, or lacked actions to match their green perceptions, Toyota managed to strike a winning balance.
To receive the maximum return from their environmental investment, brands must convey their efforts effectively to the public
This success is built on dedication and hard work. Anyone that has visited a Toyota facility knows that efficiency is a core belief and one that is strived for every day, in every detail. Its origins in making environmental sustainability a core priority can be traced back to 1992, when it adopted the ‘Toyota Earth Charter’, a detailed framework outlining its goals to develop and market vehicles with the lowest possible emissions. Moving forward, there has been a strong commitment throughout the organisation to deliver on this promise. Externally, Toyota successfully read and lead the market, sensing changes and delivering a relevant ‘green’ product – its iconic Prius – at the right time.
However, the brand needs to be smart on its toes. The fact that perception scores are higher than performance means that Toyota cannot rest on its laurels. For the moment, the brand enjoys goodwill from global consumers, but competitor innovation means that the Prius or hybrid technologies are no longer front-page news. Moving beyond a technology to a more comprehensive viewpoint is critical to ensure Toyota’s green activities remain relevant to local audiences, and that the company continues to live up to the high expectations of audiences around the world.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Alexander Murray is a Senior Consultant at Interbrand Tokyo.
Founded in 1974, Interbrand is amongst the largest brand consultancies with 40 offices in 25 countries. It is recognized for being at the forefront of the dialogue on brands as business assets and is widely respected for its annual study, The Best Global Brands. For more information, visit www.interbrand.com
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