The environment is, quite rightly, extremely important to most people these days. As the general public becomes much more aware of how their actions and day-to-day life affect the world around them, many consumers are now looking to give their business to brands that prioritize sustainability.
This makes brand management a bit more complicated, as marketers need to ensure that their brand projects a sustainable and eco-friendly brand image. And that can be especially difficult in industries that don’t have such a great reputation for their environmental initiatives.
Take the car industry, for instance. The environmental and sustainable efforts of the industry continually score low with consumers. But is that judging a book by its cover? Quite possibly. There are plenty of car brands that are actually making positive moves to improve the environment.
On the other hand, industries that may have positive reputations for sustainability sometimes aren't always doing the best — especially when we look at what’s happening behind the scenes.
Therefore, it’s time to pull back the curtain and see exactly wha's going on. In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 brands that are helping the environment — despite the reputation of their industries.
5 Companies Actively Working to Change Negative Brand Sustainability Perception
1. Land Rover
On the whole, car brands don’t have a great reputation when it comes to sustainability. It makes sense — cars aren’t exactly great for the environment. In 2018, vehicles emitted 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. So, it’s no wonder that auto brands face an uphill struggle with their image in this area.
But you can’t say that Land Rover isn’t trying. If you take a look at its site, it has an entire page dedicated to sustainability and its efforts toward increasing brand sustainability.
Another way the company displays its sustainability values is by publicizing its partnerships online. The brand has cleverly teamed up with big names in the environmental sector, including the Born Free Foundation and the Royal Geographic Society. By aligning itself with these reputable organizations, Land Rover is showing eco-conscious consumers that its shares the same values.
To dispel any lingering hesitance, let’s take a closer look at one of these partnerships: Land Rover x Born Free Foundation.
Since 2002, Land Rover has been sponsoring the Born Free Foundation and supplies them with vehicles for their conversation work in Kenya, South Africa, and India.
As well as helping on the ground with vital animal welfare initiatives, the brand also supports the foundation’s charitable efforts back in the UK. These efforts are usually praised in the press, such as the time Land Rover sold a one-of-a-kind vehicle to raise £400 thousand for the foundation.
That’s not all that Land Rover is doing to help the environment. It's also dedicated to offsetting the first 45,000 miles that consumers drive in their new vehicles in the UK. This unique program is one that the brand believes to be the largest customer-facing program of its kind in the world. While this may be unique — in that no other car brand appears to offer this exact program — there are other ways for customers to offset miles, such as through their car insurance.
Ford is another car brand that might not be quite as bad as people believe — as the brand is actually doing quite a bit to help the planet and improve its brand sustainability perception. So much so that in early 2019, it was recognized as a global sustainability leader in water and climate change efforts — which was all down to the brand’s water security and climate change efforts.
Ford’s efforts in helping fight climate change were spearheaded by its ten green initiatives, which were rolled out as part of its Earth Day celebration.
The initatives were set up to help guide the organization’s manufacturing, materials, and facilities management. From the use of sustainable fabrics to switching to a geothermal cooling system in manufacturing — the initiatives are widespread and help the brand maintain eco-friendly processes for all of its vehicles.
3. Goldman Sachs
These days, it’s not just car brands that have a bad rep when it comes to sustainability. Investment banking company Goldman Sachs doesn’t rate so highly with consumers due to various crises — despite the fact that, in 2019, the brand pledged $750 billion to environmental causes by 2030.
What’s more, the bank is trying to make it even easier for customers to invest their money into initiatives and investments that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. By setting up a new global markets council, the organization has put together a dedicated team of sales staff and traders to ensure that customers have access to knowledge on everything to do with sustainable investing.
Goldman Sachs has also made some significant changes to the way the business is run in order to improve sustainability. From driving inclusive growth through innovation and partnerships, as well as using market-driven solutions to mitigate climate risks, it looks like the firm is paying close attention to ways it can help the environment and improve its brand sustainability perception.
Interestingly, the public doesn’t necessarily equate fast-food brand KFC with sustainability. Sure, they may sell finger-licking good chicken, but — many consumers want to know — how is it faring when it comes to making its brand as sustainable and eco-minded as possible?
Well, for starters, the company has committed to using more sustainable packaging by 2025. That’s a great start, as it will help consumers recycle more and significantly cut down on waste. The brand is also dedicated to cutting down on food waste itself, and so far has donated over 80 million pounds of food through its global Harvest program.
As the brand is focused on building more KFC restaurants around the world, it understands that this needs to be done sustainably. That’s why the fast-food chain is working on its sustainable footprint by using green building initiatives that cover waste reduction and energy efficiency.
Zara doesn’t score highly in public brand sustainability perception. Currently, in the clothing world, consumers have a huge appetite for ditching “fast fashion” and instead move towards more sustainable and reusable brands.
If Zara isn’t able to win the public over, then there’s a chance they could face a PR problem in a world where consumers turn their backs on labels they view as problematic.
In 2019 it announced some very ambitious sustainability goals — ones that even included earning the top green certifications for buildings for all of its head offices.
The brand has also vowed that all of its clothes will be made from 100% sustainable fabric by 2025, something that the anti-fast-fashion crowd will no doubt be glad to hear. Not only that, though, but 80% of the energy consumed by the brand at its headquarters, factories, and stores will also come from sustainable sources by the same year.
5 Companies Already Winning Brand Sustainable Perception
PayPal is one of the companies that consumers believe is utilizing effective brand sustainability strategies.
At face value, it looks like it should be easy for PayPal to be an environmentally-friendly corporation, as it doesn’t produce physical products. But that doesn’t mean that the brand hasn't had to make some changes to boost its sustainability perception further.
Take it’s PayPal Missions Sustainability Challenge, an initiative introduced to try and improve staff engagement in a way that also promotes environmental efforts. Through this scheme, PayPal staff across 60 different sites have reduced the brand’s footprint by an impressive 892,000 pounds of carbon, 332,000 gallons of water, and 40,000 pounds of waste.
Furthermore, PayPal has also showcased its environmental values by partnering with major industry organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the World Resources Institute.
Another tech firm that has a great reputation for brand sustainability is Netflix. Again, a company that doesn’t manufacture anything should be able to keep waste and carbon production down thanks to a lack of factories, right?
In most cases, the answer is a yes — although there have been some reports that the streaming service might not be quite as eco-friendly as what audiences believe. However, Netflix is certainly doing its bit and has started upping its eco game.
For starters, Netflix vows to use as little electricity as possible in all offices and DVD warehouses, and any energy the brand does use is matched with regional renewable energy certificates.
But what about all the electricity that Netflix’s customers use when streaming their favorite shows and films? The brand also has this covered. Even though the brand can’t control this indirect use of energy, they still try to make it as sustainable as possible by getting suppliers to match and report on this usage. Netflix then uses carbon off-setting and renewable energy certificates to try and match it.
Unlike Netflix and PayPal, IKEA is a brand that produces a huge amount of consumer goods. Despite its output, though, it still ranks well with consumers when it comes to brand sustainability.
That could be because of the natural vibe that the Scandi brand has, but it could also be down to the fact that IKEA is serious about sustainability and the environment. In 2020, the brand completely phased out single-use packaging in all of its stores. Additionally, lighting throughout the stores will also be converted to efficient LEDs — and by 2030 all materials used will be completely renewable and recyclable.
So far, these efforts seem to be having a positive effect as 2019 was the first year IKEA’s carbon footprint reduced while its retail sales grew.
Facebook may have been involved in a few controversies over some of its more dubious policies and incidents, but it’s doing fairly well when it comes to brand sustainability perception.
The brand even disclosed its carbon footprint right back in 2012 before many big organizations were willing to do so. It also shared its energy sources — even though 27% came from coal, this was almost matched with renewable resources at 23%.
Not letting up in its sustainability efforts, Facebook has set itself some big goals for 2020. For instance, the brand promised to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint by 75% and reach 100% renewable energy.
As with many other brands mentioned already, Facebook is also keen to partner with other businesses and organizations that have sustainability at their core.
Facebook isn’t the only brand that has successfully weathered a fair share of scandals. Amazon hasn’t had an easy time with PR over the past few years either. But what about when it comes to its sustainability and environmental policies? Well, that’s one area in which Jeff Bezos actually impresses.
Bezos is known to be committed to Amazon’s environmental efforts and has committed the brand to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. To help the brand achieve that, Amazon has purchased 100,000 electric delivery vans and 80% of the energy used by the brand is expected to be from reusable resources by 2024. Bezos hopes that the brand will be completely emission-free by 2030.
These days, most global brands are doing something to help the environment and maintain sustainable operations. Even those that aren’t well-known for their sustainability policies are often making moves behind the scenes. But, if companies were honest — 100% honest, that is — they'd likely admit there's more they could be doing to help the enviroment.
As consumers wise up to the reality of the current state of the environment, it’s something that every brand needs to be aware of. Most importantly, brand managers should be looking at how their organization is helping the environment and make sure that the brand story is clear in portraying these values.
Not only will this attract a wider customer base, but it should also prevent you from earning a negative reputation despite putting in plenty of effort —just like the five unfortunate brands in the first half of this article.