The concept of a “good brand” may be nascent, but growing. At the rate that our consumers are bombarded with information from all sources, the least we can say is the consumer does not build a brand image only from a company’s official communication- the advertisement.

I recently landed up reading this simple but interesting perception survey done by GlobeScan & SustainAbility on Sustainability Leaders in various sectors 2019. The respondents for this survey are “800 experts representing business, government, NGOs and academia across 78 countries“.

Do note: I am not completely convinced that perception of brands is the right way to evaluate brands that are genuinely making an impact. However, this methodology makes sense when we consider the fact that consumers are such emotional beings. We don’t always wait to read the Sustainability Reports, instead we make judgements. That one news headline we read ten years ago of Deaths Caused by Toxic Waste sits on top of every other rationale, etc.

Top brands seen as leaders in weaving Sustainability into their Business Strategy

Image from the GlobeScan-SustainAbility Survey 2019, page 16. Link here

Does this make sense to you? To me it largely does because again we are talking about perceptions here, and most of these companies have been showing up with regular frequency on subjects associated with sustainability. Here’s what I know:

Unilever: pops up in conversations on leading sustainability & integrated reporting. They also have the Young Entrepreneur’s Award.

Patagonia: This BCorps company has been leading the framework of that certification. It also recently made news when they refused to make co-branded vests with companies that had ecologically extractive business models.

IKEA: this is where you see how larger halos rub onto brands- You can’t be from a Nordic country and not have sustainability built into your systems!

Natura: bought The Body Shop Brand, but they also have their own portfolio of Brazilian brands that have a strong sustainability commitment.

Tesla: a bit surprised to see this here, but probably Musk’s electric car visions have fueled this rise.

As always, what about Indian brands?

Two Indian brands made it to the list and they are the usual suspects.

Tata: not surprisingly makes it to the list. Many years of good PR and other brand attributes have gone into building a perception of the brand being a gold-standard for good business. Much like Toyota in Japan I’d imagine.

Wipro: no denying the strength of Azim Premji’s personal brand aura here, and his foundation.

Top 5 reasons for why these companies were selected

The survey lists the top explanations for why the experts chose the brand they did:

  1. Integrated sustainability values
  2. Part of core business model/ strategic approach (psst- Patagonia changed their mission to “We are in business to save our home planet”)
  3. Executive leader has strong sustainable development values/ strong leadership
  4. Ambitious targets, policies, commitment to SDGs
  5. Sustainable products/services/products lifestyle

Being sustainable may not be a goal that all companies can pursue- indeed Unilever’s global CEO has warned against excessive “purpose-washing“. The danger of not having the substance behind the stated purpose is a valid concern.

Last words

The GlobeScan + SustainAbility report also highlights some of the growing challenges to sustainable development.

Asia has dropped Poverty as that is probably less visible in its stark misery nowadays. Like the rest of the world, Climate Change in Asia, is seen as a huge challenge. The rest of the list is indicative of how visible some of the environmental impacts have become in recent years: water pollution, plastic waste , biodiversity loss, and air pollution (ibid, p 25). It is the paradox of mankind- to not care until it is almost too late.

So it’s out there. Your consumers are concerned, and maybe they have not been able to draw the linkages yet…but eventually they will. Brands that will survive will have to be the ones seen as genuinely making an effort to make things better. For all of us.

Featured Image: By Prasun Goswami – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60531173

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Posted by:Dechen

Hi! I write on sustainability, books and simply lying fallow. I've worked for 14 years in various industries, but nothing will mean as much as making a real difference through the advocacy of Sustainability. This is a topic that I think is critical in developing economies like India/South Asia.