Surveys from America’s greenest brands suggest that redemption is possible

Posted on | april 19, 2011 | No Comments

Companies can renew consumer’s perception of their brands by adopting sustainable practices. Two surveys polling consumer attitudes reveal that consumer identification of America’s greenest brands can evolve alongside businesses practices.

For five years WPP agencies Cohn & Wolfe, Landor Associates, and Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), as well as independent strategy consulting firm Esty Environmental Partners have been conducting global surveys known as ImagePower® Green Brands. These surveys ask consumers in eight countries to respond to questions about green products, companies and brands.
According to the 2009 survey, here is a list of America’s ten greenest brands:

1. Clorox Green Works
2. Burt’s Bees
3. Tom’s of Maine
4. SC Johnson
5. Toyota
6. P&G
7. Wal-Mart
8. Ikea
9. Disney
10. Dove

Although Clorox is on the top of the list, they allegedly spent $30 million promoting the GreenWorks brand. Although SC Johnson made the list, they also make environmentally harmful products like Windex, Raid and Saran Wrap.

One of the 2009 surveys more interesting results is the fact that 38 percent of consumers in Brazil indicated they are are willing to spend 30 percent or more for green products.

According to the 2010 Green Brands Survey, here is a list of the top 10 American brands perceived to be the greenest:

1. Burt’s Bees
2. Whole Foods
3. Tom’s of Maine
4. Trader Joe’s
5. Google
6. Aveeno
7. SC Johnson
8. Publix
9. Microsoft
10. Ikea

“One of the interesting trends we’re seeing this year is the consumer recognition of what we’re calling ‘helper brands,” which provide useful information to consumers,” says Annie Longsworth, global sustainability practice leader at Cohn & Wolfe. “While preference for brands that are ‘in me, on me, around me’ is still prevalent, consumers also value brands that make going green easier for them through online tools, tips, and other forms of engagement through communication.”

The survey also revealed that 75 percent of Americans want to buy from environmentally responsible companies but the cost of green products continues to be an obstacle. To see the top-10 lists from the other seven countries click here.

Most of those that made it onto the 2010 list were not on the list last year. Despite the differences between the 2009 and 2010 lists, they do share an interesting commonality. Dove (2009) and Trader Joe’s (2010) were targeted by Greenpeace for being unsustainable, but both companies have have managed to transform environmental-ire into eco-adulation.

Dove’s parent company, Unilever got into trouble because the companies they used to source palm oil were clearing rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands. After some pressure, Unilever addressed the problem by flexing its supply chain muscles and dropping Sinar Mas Agro Resources and SMART. Unilever went on to announce that it will double sales by 2020 while halving its environmental impact. The company is also working towards other big sustainable goals.

Like Dove, Trader Joe’s sustainable evolution accelerated after they were singled out as an environmental pariah. However, after making consorted efforts to source more sustainable seafood they ending up being the proud recipients of green recognition.

In the cases of both Dove and Trader Joe’s a PR nightmare was transformed into a marketing bonanza. The experience of these two companies suggest that redemption is possible for businesses that are serious about adopting more sustainable practices.

AUTHOR: Richard Matthews
E-MAIL: smallbusinessconsultants [at]


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