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Corporate citizenship Q&A with Interbrand’s Jonathan Redman

With the launch of Interbrand’s 2014 Best Global Green Brands report, Interbrand San Francisco, in partnership with Deloitte, hosted a panel discussion focusing on the advantages and challenges sustainability disruptors face.

Simon Sproule, Vice President of Communications at Tesla Motors, and Chris Librie, Global Sustainability Manager at HP, discussed their companies’ efforts and the multitude of automotive and technology brands found on this year’s Best Global Green Brands ranking. (There were 10 automotive brands and 12 brands from the electronics and tech sectors.)

The panel discussion revealed that the demand for electric vehicles is growing and forcing automakers to enter into this market and expand their product lines. More than 36 new hybrid and electric vehicles were launched in 2013, giving consumers more fuel-efficient options than ever before.

Interestingly enough, brands from within the electronics and technology sector did carry some of the largest gap scores in this year’s Best Global Green Brands ranking. (Interbrand lists the gap between a brand’s overall performance score and its overall perception score. A positive score indicates a brand is doing more than it is given credit for, while a negative score indicates that a brand is being given more credit than its sustainability actions merit.) The significant gap scores in the electronics and technology sector indicate that such brands either need to do more around sustainability or work harder to improve consumer awareness and understanding of such initiatives.

Rachel Kessman, Marketing Associate for Interbrand North America, chatted with Jonathan Redman, Senior Director of Client Services for Interbrand San Francisco, about how brands are innovating when it comes to sustainability.

Q: What takeaways from the Best Global Green Brands report apply to the West Coast marketplace?

A: As with most of the rest of the world, a commitment to sustainability and Corporate Citizenship is becoming increasingly important to West Coast-based businesses. Whether operating at scale with direct influence on an ecosystem of commerce and partnership or being a startup or more of a category disruptor, the types of organizations that are setting the agenda in this region are all leading in terms of innovation—and they are all addressing complex environmental and social issues by creating companies, products and experiences that people love, with increasingly new business models. Such companies are well-positioned to tackle complex problems such as climate change, energy and social issues.

Q: How can Interbrand help innovative technology companies create successful partnerships with other businesses, the public sector and NGOs?

A: When it comes to sustainability, the definition of partnership, or collective action, is broad. Successful collaboration can occur when companies create successful partnerships with logical and adjacent businesses, the public sector and NGOs. They can also occur with ‘frenemies’–or when supposedly competitive brands are aligning for a greater purpose. It is Interbrand’s job to examine the set up of partnership, monitor effectiveness and work with our clients to create valuable and lasting impact.

Q: How do you connect Corporate Citizenship to brand value?

A: We know from our own Interbrand studies, as well as from keeping pace with wider analysis, that Corporate Citizenship is a definite driver of preference, endorsement and choice across categories. It also drives purchase. In these ways, brand value and commercial advantage is being created through a commitment to Corporate Citizenship that is real, business-based and ongoing. It is not enough to publish an annual report and hope that your brand makes the grade. It needs to be a living business asset that connects across stakeholders and is, itself, sustainable.

Q: Where do you see collective action programs going in the next several years? What emerging trends are you seeing?

A: There is no set formula to successful and active collective action programs—and that is important to recognize. How you might construct a partnership now may very well differ to what is suitable in five years. Collective action partnerships now have become essential to both companies and NGOs as they tackle some of the most pressing environmental and social issues. The changing needs of organizations, communities, countries and the planet means that partnership needs to actively flex and improve. Your closest competitor could be your greatest ally. It is all a question of looking beyond your own agenda and looking beyond the short-term to see where the value creation is for all concerned.

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