Gem of the day

What does it say about Interbrand's 50 Best Global Green Brands 2013 that four out of the top five are car manufacturers? Not surprisingly, Interbrand has specifically highlighted that question. Even less of a surprise is that their answer is misses the point.

Congratulating auto companies for "keeping the long term in focus" is rightfully said for Toyota, a business guided by a vision to achieve sustainable mobility. For other manufacturers, the real test of whether they deserve to be on any list like this one will be their approach in emerging markets where the sales are, not in slow-moving efforts to transform or adapt some product and service offerings in Europe and North America. If those companies are truly balancing long and short term goals, it will be by influencing the mobility system in countries like China - now the biggest car market in the world - not least by helping governments avoid the car-dependency culture that has trapped the USA in a cycle of obesity, air pollution, suburban malaise and punishing oil prices. Rethinking what America might do with the estimated three parking spaces per person of empty concrete space is still in very early stages.

It goes without saying that the core of the Interbrand ranking, a score based on performance and "perception", is in and of itself a non-starter. One of several "perception" elements, for example, is "authenticity", which Interbrand describes as "the perceived credibility of the brand's environmental claims". Since authenticity can only be based on real action over the long term, "perceived credibility" is hardly a useful way of measuring it. Consider how often BP ranked in the top 10 most accountable companies in the world throughout the 2000s, only to reveal the extent of its inauthentic approach to environmental management in April 2010's Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Rankings like this one are amusing, but they don't tell us much about the core challenges ahead for the auto industry and beyond.

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