The industries we tend to think of as the worst offenders turn out to be leading the way.
When it comes to caring for the environment, there are some companies that are ahead of the game. Every year, Interbrand and Deloitte creates a GreenBiz list ranking the Best Global Green Brands.
It makes for interesting reading, because the list is dominated by companies in the automobile and technology industries, demonised the world over for their negative impact on the environment.
So what have these companies done to beat the odds and to make such shining, green examples for us all?
Half of the top 10 spots on the Green Biz list are filled by automotive companies, including Toyota (1), Ford (2), Honda (3), Nissan (5) and Volkswagen (7).
Such companies have made huge investments in becoming greener. They made a particular commitment to innovation in this area when the automotive industry was going through a hard time in 2009, when the global recession began to bite. Many took great pains to cut costs and to reduce their impact on the environment, making important changes at every level of operation. Today, we’re beginning to see the fruits of their endeavours- greener cars, cleaner operations and global eco-friendly initiatives. It’s all rather impressive.
This year, Toyota sat at the top of GreenBiz’s list. Much of what this vehicle manufacturer’s policy on the environment is common sense: it aims to ‘minimize environmental impacts at all stages of the vehicle life cycle’, to scrutinise both its own operations ‘as well as those of key business partners – suppliers and dealerships’, and to strive for continuous improvement and greater efficiency.
But this Japanese company goes further, supporting a wide variety of programs and initiatives that improve the environment and strengthen communities. For example, it funds “eco-driving” educational programs, conservation projects and reforestation. It has lofty and ambitious aims to establish a global, low-carbon, recycling-based society that protects the environment and is in complete harmony with nature. In other words, Toyota is looking beyond itself at the bigger picture to make the biggest impact.
It’s good to remember that economic pressure is often a key driver to innovation- and not least when it comes to matters of the environment. Rather than shrinking back when times are tough, companies should be bold and think big, engaging as widely as possible with environmental issues.
Alongside the automotive sector, technology companies share the glory with Panasonic, Nokia, Dell, Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Apple and Philips all making the top 25 slots. Again, technology companies are not associated with eco-friendliness. No doubt this bad reputation, coupled with pressure from government, activists and investors to address significant environmental challenges, plays an important part in extinguishing complacency and driving strong environmental programs.
Panasonic sits at number 4 on the Green Biz list. It has 3 ‘eco ideas’, which relate to innovating more energy-efficient products, making the manufacturing process greener and setting up initiatives to encourage wider environmental activities throughout the world.
What stands out is Panasonic’s focus on collaborating with the consumer to help us all become more eco-friendly through developing products that reduce household energy consumptions and release fewer CO2 emissions, but also through education and media campaigns to raise awareness of electronics recycling and general environmental good practice.
Companies in industries that are demonised for being environmentally-damaging often go to great lengths to not only improve their products and operations, but also to help consumers become more environmentally aware and responsible. Such consumer engagement and collaboration is an effective business strategy.
It’s interesting that the Green Biz list also includes Coca-Cola, Nestle, Starbucks, Nike and McDonald’s, the huge corporations that aren’t traditionally associated with high ethical standards. Having big green ambitions seems to be an important strategy for such companies to demonstrate their commitment to the wider world.