It only makes sense that auto brands should figure heavily in the new Interbrand Best Global Green Brands ranking, with eight of the top 21 brands. Car makers and their petrol partners arguably contribute more to environmental stresses around the globe than any other industry — but they're also working about as assiduously as any business to offset some of that decidedly un-green footprint.
Toyota ranked No. 1 in Interbrand's new list not only among auto companies but among all companies. That's impressive but hardly surprising for a company that essentially invented the hybrid for the mass market and has taken its biggest steps over the last year, of any in the last decade, to extend the Prius franchise and make it more available and more attractive (with some creative marketing moves) to more consumers around the world.
By introducing a less expensive and smaller alternative to its regular hybrid, Prius c, and almost simultaneously a more capacious one, Prius v, Toyota has opened the possibilities of hybrid ownership to millions more people who are attracted by the sterling Prius brand.
Honda notched second place in the list among automakers and No. 3 overall, behind Johnson & Johnson. This presumably in part reflects Honda's long-standing association with green efforts — it actually introduced a hybrid to the United States before Toyota did, the original two-seater Insight — and its continued leadership in fuel economy in conventional engines.
The two leading German auto brands by global sales volumes — Volkswagen and BMW — also made Interbrand's Top 10, at No. 4 overall and No. 10 overall respectively.
Ford was the only U.S.-based auto brand, at No. 15 overall, clearly based both on its robust commitment to fuel economy in its products as well as corporate commitments to sustainability led by Executive Chairman William Ford.
Mercedes-Benz was No. 16 on Interbrand's list, Hyundai No. 17, and Nissan No. 21. (Nissan's global head of digital marketing and social media, DeLu Jackson, discusses some of Nissan's green chops here.) No doubt Nissan made the top 25 in part because of the bold leadership in EVs that it staked out with Leaf.
Notably missing from the Interbrand list of 50 companies are General Motors or any of its brands, and Chrysler or Fiat — missing as in not anywhere close to the other eight automakers, who were all in the top 21, and missing as in not on the list at all.
In terms of GM, this is curious, because the company has been in the vanguard of green products for a long time, with the EV 1 more than a decade ago, and now the Chevrolet Volt, as well as far-flung investments in green technologies in everything from ethanol power to hydrogen fuel cells.
The absence is more understandable for Chrysler. It and Fiat came to their merger a couple of years ago as bereft as any single major automaker of elements that typically make for strong corporate reputations, and so far their combination hasn't reversed that. But give Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne enough time and he may well be able to pull off a turnaround in Interbrand's green rankings as well as others where he already has accomplished the feat.