Consumers beware. Google, Apple and dozens of other leading businesses with reputations for sustainability may not in fact walk the walk.
According to a report released Tuesday, perception outweighs reality for 66 of 100 top global companies when it comes to responsible environmental, social and corporate governance.
The study, conducted by Brandlogic and CRD Analytics, surveyed 2,400 people in six developed or developing economies (United States, UK, Germany, Japan, India and China) and ranked their opinions of the brands relative to hard performance data from the same companies.
“Consumers are attributing a great deal of goodwill to companies that communicate well,” said James Cerruti, Brandlogic’s managing director of strategy & research, during a webcast to the press.
But that free ride poses a problem, he explained.
“If you’re overextended on the perception side you need to start to close the gap… Companies getting too much credit may be at risk of losing value.”
The study also revealed that some industry segments aren’t getting the recognition they deserve.
Oil and gas companies – namely BP, ExxonMobil and Shell – demonstrated commitment to factors such as resource management, business ethics and community impact, but are largely perceived as unsustainable.
Also overlooked: drug companies.
“Pharmaceutical companies have been on top of true compliance for a really long time,” explained Michael Muyot, president of CRD Analytics, during the webcast. “They like to say they ‘sell trust in a bottle.’”
For business leaders, the message is clear, continued Muyot: mind the gap. Sustainability is increasingly key part of a company’s corporate reputation.
“A light has been shone on the different sectors and industries and… What we’re seeing is that companies want to quickly protect their brand.”