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  • Posted by: Lucas Piazza on Monday, January 13 2014 01:20 PM | Comments (0)
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    The new year kicked off in Las Vegas with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – an event that convenes the world’s leading technology brands for days of press conferences and product launches, providing insights into the future of the electronics industry. We watched with awe as Samsung unveiled its bendable TV, LG announced a service allowing users to text their home appliances and Pebble revealed Steel, its sleek new smartwatch.

    However, what we didn’t observe demands equal attention; that is, brands that promote truly sustainable, practical solutions for consumers and our environment, rather than just mere wonderment. Some brands continue to lead the conversation, such as auto brands, Toyota and Ford, who displayed fuel cell and solar powered vehicles, respectively, and Intel, whose CEO announced the brand’s commitment to conflict-free minerals in its processors and urged other tech giants to follow suit. But, these represented an exception rather than a rule.



    In Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2013 report, technology companies claimed six of the ten top spots, demonstrating this sector’s burgeoning importance in consumers’ everyday lives. It is time for these highly influential technology brands to capitalize on an amazing opportunity to introduce innovative products that offer consumers control and convenience, while protecting our planet, and advance the broader conversation around the environmental benefits of technology. The opportunity is too great not to.

    Machine-to-machine technology (M2M) connects appliances and infrastructure and allows them to communicate with one another in a growing connected ecosystem; the technology that took center stage at both last year’s and this year’s CES. With an estimated market potential of $19 trillion, this Internet of Things excites brands and investors alike. At the same time, this technology offers unimaginable environmental benefits, a fact that is often ignored in the current conversation.

    In a recent study, AT&T and the Carbon War Room found that global greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced 9.1 billion metric tons by 2020 through rapid deployment of M2M technologies. These innovations could touch the most energy intensive industries, including energy generation, heating and cooling systems, transportation and agriculture.

    Imagine a world where all the vehicles on the road can communicate with one another, allowing them to travel more closely together and reduce accidents. Such is the promise of automotive brand Nissan, who recently announced multiple autonomous vehicles ready for production by 2020. As this technology proliferates and safety increases, cars could travel in caravans and be made with lighter materials, both of which would improve efficiency.


    Or, in the future your fridge alerts you when your spinach is about to spoil and conveniently provides a recipe using that produce. Not only will you have a delicious meal, but you have also eliminated potential food waste.

    With these benefits so readily available, why aren’t brands touting their products’ environmental benefits? It deserves acknowledgement that CES is a tech nerd’s heaven. Attendees wish to see what is sparkly and new, not what is necessarily the most environmentally friendly. However, promoting environmental benefits is absent across all conferences and big tech reveals.

    It is a brand’s responsibility to use this global stage and their influence to educate consumers about these benefits and drive demand. In fact, a study even found that almost two thirds of consumers expect companies to lead solutions that improve the environment – an unrealized opportunity to promote technology products that already include these benefits.

    Some in industry could profess ignorance of these impacts altogether, but in the contemporary Information Age it is unimaginable that a brand wouldn’t understand the environmental benefits of their products when that same information is so readily available to consumers. Rather, it’s likely they are making a strategic decision not to promote these benefits for fear that doing so would make them more susceptible to criticisms of greenwashing – a criticism they are not prepared to defend against.

    What the world needs now are truly innovative products that offer solutions to one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century – protecting our planet in a time of unprecedented global growth.

    Companies must first embrace sustainability as a key component of their brand and challenge others to do the same. Today, brands that are rising leaders in sustainable practices, such as HP and their Living Progress platform, started with a sense of humility and admitted imperfection at the onset, which was greeted with encouragement rather than skepticism.

    These companies continue to demonstrate their commitment through transparency and clearly articulated future goals. This model can serve as a guide for technology brands as they seek to spark their own industry conversation around the environmental benefits of new technology.

    Lucas Piazza is an Associate Consultant, Strategy, at Interbrand New York.


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  • Posted by: Alex Murray on Wednesday, August 1 2012 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

     

    Sustainability is not just good business, it is smart business. Leading companies recognize this, but do they achieve the best possible results for both the planet and their brand?

    Traditionally, environmental practices have been viewed as a way to increase profitability – to reduce material usage, for example, or improve energy efficiency. Mitigating risk has also pushed sustainability up on the corporate agenda. For global enterprises this could involve anticipating regulatory changes or ensuring the long-term viability of production facilities. More recently it has become clear that green thinking is central to driving innovation and can positively impact sales.

    Brand owners, however, need to widen their horizons and look beyond straightforward business benefits. There are other potential benefits to the brand that often go ignored. Brands that do not adequately communicate their environmental achievements are failing to maximize their investment in sustainability.

    Interbrand's global Corporate Citizenship Study showed that good deeds, including green activities, play a significant role in increasing favorability, contributing between 13% and 17% to positive impressions of a brand. The benefits do not stop there. For selected audiences, the impact can be even greater. Internally, people feel more motivated working for a company that is perceived to be doing good, making it easier to attract and retain top talent. Externally, investors and business customers are placing increased emphasis on sustainability as they look for long-term security and partners to help them achieve their own environmental goals. This means that any brand engaged in green activities should be taking the time to tell the public what they are doing.

    The 2012 Best Global Green Brands study suggests that many leading companies fail to recognize the full potential of green branding. The report looked at both actual environmental actions and market perceptions of the world's best corporate brands. Among the fifty companies ranked, around thirty have a positive gap, meaning they are not being fully credited for their activities and so are missing the opportunity to build stronger relationships with stakeholders.

    Perhaps the most striking examples can be found in the electronics industry. Eleven of the twelve leading global brands from the category recorded an above-average assessment of their environmental activities. However, only Apple received public recognition in line with actual achievements.

    To address a positive perception gap, brands need to create differentiated green communications by finding original, credible territories where they can claim leadership. Given the complexity of environmental issues, it is important that this should be a tangible activity, or an easy-to-understand concept that is relevant to the audience.

    Any green communication strategy needs to take into account the complexity of differing local views of environmental issues as well as the need to cut through the clutter of green badges and conflicting claims with a simple set of global messages backed by proof points.

    A word of caution – credibility is critical with a topic as emotive as the environment. Actions should always precede words. If people believe the brand is doing more for the planet than it actually is, there is a potential risk.

    However, before condemning any brand as a “green washer,” we should pause to consider several potential factors behind a negative gap. In addition to high-profile brands that enjoy a positive halo from being well-known and well-liked, there are examples of pioneering brands that are assumed to be top performers because of their thought leadership. It would be simplistic to criticize these brands without recognizing the impact they have pushing the green agenda to the forefront as a serious business topic.

    Nevertheless, there are risks for brands that do not live up to their public pronouncements. Brands need to ensure that they are delivering on their core promises as well as managing public expectations. In the age of social media, people expect transparency even if it means admitting to weaknesses or imperfections. This should not discourage brands from engaging in dialog about complex issues.

    For meaningful change to occur in our relationship with the planet, information on sustainability has to be communicated to everyone and options for green lifestyles have to be made available to all. With their prestige and immense resources, global brands are well-positioned to realize this through their words, actions, and leadership.

    Alex Murray is a Strategy Director at Interbrand Tokyo.

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  • Posted by: Jennifer Bassett on Friday, July 1 2011 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

    Of all corporate citizenship initiatives, Interbrand has found that green efforts are currently the most visible – and often times, the most inaccurately communicated. Indeed, organizations like Greenpeace have made it part of their mission to call out the many brands that present themselves to consumers as “green,” but which are quite the opposite in practice. The reverse is true as well. Take Nokia, which has consistently ranked high in terms of green performance, and yet trails behind competitors in terms of customer’s perception of its efforts.

    It is because of this frequent misalignment between brand performance and perception that Interbrand (with performance research conducted by Deloitte) has decided to offer a thorough and accurate green ranking, which we will be launching on Interbrand’s website on July 26, 9:00 a.m. EST. Our goal is to create a score that effectively measures leading brands’ green efforts and to ensure that those brands’ excelling in this area receive credit for their initiatives.

    We invite you to head to our website on July 26 to view our table, methodology, key findings, and insights. You may be surprised by what you see...

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