The Greening of Global Brands

There is a new and important underlying trend in marketing taking hold across the globe that marketers far and wide should pay attention to when positioning their products and services or crafting their marketing strategies: a collective and growing concern for the environment. While the concept of “green marketing” is not new, what is new is that consumers in the developing world have become increasingly more socially conscious.

According to the article “Green Global Brands: The New World Order” in the September issue of Marketing News, which reports on the findings of the 2011 ImagePower Green Brands Survey that questioned over 9,000 consumers in eight different countries, some of the recent global trends include a growing concern over energy consumption, an increased desire to buy green, and attention to packaging.  The author writes:

Worldwide consumer appetite for green products has increased in the past year. What’s more, the perceived consumer value of green products in developing countries such as Brazil, India, and China actually is higher than in Europe and the United States.

The article mentions that one explanation for this growth in preference for green products and services in developing countries is that they have experienced firsthand the negative effects of consumption. This brings to mind Thomas Freidman’s book Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America, where he explains how global warming, rapidly growing populations, and the astonishing expansion of the world’s middle class through globalization has produced a planet that is overheated, increasingly competitive, congested, and polluted. (To cite one example: at the end of 2004, the city of Shanghai reported that there had been 6,704 buildings of 11 stories or more completed since 1990 alone!)

For more information on the methodology and findings of the above-referenced survey, please see the below video:

So – what exactly constitutes a “green” brand? According to Interbrand’s annual  “Best Global Green Brands 2011,” a green brand’s status is determined by comparing and contrasting its performance with perception. Similarly, Newsweek’s annual Green Rankings Survey focuses on “assessing each company’s actual environmental footprint and management of that footprint (including policies and strategies), along with its reputation among environmental experts.”

In 2010 my own company, CB Richard Ellis, ranked 30th overall and #1 in the financial services sector on Newsweek’s annual list. As the world’s largest real estate services firm, the company recognizes that its unsurpassed ability to influence how real estate is built, sourced, occupied, and sold carries with it a certain level of social responsibility. As a result, CBRE works to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change through working directly with its clients on addressing these objectives. CBRE maintains its own sustainability page and also puts out an annual corporate responsibility report.

In order for marketers to capitalize on this trend of environmental conscienciousness, remember: brands must not only develop environmental strategies to address their environmental impact, but they must also connect with consumers in a compelling and relevant way on a market-by-market basis to achieve and sustain success.


  1. Very true – I was just in Brazil and was surprised to see recycling bins in the smaller cities of the Northeast region. They are trying to avoid polluted cities like Sao Paulo, which restricts car owners to drive on specific days of the week only!

  2. Great article! It is essential that companies trying to “green up” their operations do so in a way that embraces it throughout the value chain. You hear of so many companies jumping on the Green Train, and there is an opportunity for marketers to really improve brand image if they can show that the company is truly making an effort to make a difference.

    With this trend has also come some questionably unethical marketing tactics called “green washing,” in which a company tries to appear more environmentally conscious while only putting forth superficial, yet heavily marketed efforts. This could possibly be a topic of a future article? 🙂

    Nice work. I’m looking forward to reading more!


  3. A great topic to hit on. I really do consider the ‘work from home’ industry to be a great wave for the green movement. Is there a list that a business owner can look at that defines what a green business is? Are there specific criteria? Otherwise we do have what Michelle refers to as Green washing. (I responded to your comment on my blog – thanks so much for suggesting that. I only had an email RSS option up. I added the buttons to the top of my blog)

  4. Nicole – the only lists I know of off the top of my head are the ones I mentioned in the blog post … if you click on any of those links you will find an in-depth analysis of the methodology they used, as well as an overview of the metrics they used to judge each company by. Unfortunately, I think at this point everyone has a slightly different interpretation of what it means to be “green,” but in the case of global corporate rankings the surveyors are tending to focus on 1) customer perception of green image and 2) the company’s contribution to sustainability practices.

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