The branding agency Interbrand just released their first report on the Best Global Green Brands. It’s a wonderful study, looking at both green performance and perception and identifying the gaps. It just doesn’t go far enough. The report never connects its measurements to dollar values. By missing this opportunity, Interbrand fails its corporate subscribers by not providing numbers that would support rational investment in the environment, as I will explain later.
But before I do, I want to make clear that this is more than just another promotional gambit from a branding agency. It is tempting to make that assumption: Interbrand is the agency famous for that mastery of promotion, the Best Global Brands study that is the basis for a once-a-year cover article forBusiness Week. Clearly, Best Global Green Brands is also a bid for business: a majority of the companies studied have a deficit not in a company’s green performance but in perceptions of that company’s green. Interbrand’s core business is to help correct that imbalance, so each company report is a potential new business generator.
Nonetheless, I saw the Interbrand report as going far beyond promotion. For the first time, a branding company is not just reporting measures of perception but also performance.
That’s what I missed in the Interbrand study. Without a link to financial values, Interbrand’s numbers can’t connect brand-environment to the bottom line. Without this connection, the brand-environment connection can’t be monetized; corporations can’t establish rational budgets for environmental programs or environmental branding. Most importantly, environment remains an intangible asset, unmeasurable in contribution to profit and therefore most at risk of being cut.
It would be so easy for Interbrand to add these dollar values. Their Top 100 Green Brands data was built in part on Asset4 data. Asset4 is an SRI vendor, providing data primarily to Socially Responsible Investors. (Full disclosure: Asset4 also provides data to CSRHUB. Asset4 has already integrated stock price into their ratings, so to develop an algorithm that would distill various components to their dollar value should not be that tough. I hope that the next iteration of this valuable study will do just that.
Carol Pierson Holding is a writer and an environmentalist; her articles on CSR can be found on her website.