The survey - which is conducted with Deloitte Consulting and published by Interbrand - is designed to gauge the perceptions of customers and potential buyers around the world, and also looks at data based on numerous companies internal performance and environmental standards. To be eligible, brands must have appeared in Interbrand's Best Global Brands list, which for car makers was bested by Toyota in 2013.
The Best Global Green Brands survey is not solely based around car brands, but of all those companies assessed Ford, Toyota, Honda and Nissan sat at the top, bettering the likes of Panasonic, Nokia, Sony and Adidas.
In assessing the eco performance of brands, the survey assesses their governance, operations, transportation and logistics, stakeholder engagement, products and services, and supply chain to establish a score. A tally is also made for perception of eco-friendliness, and this is based on authenticity, relevance, differentiation against competitors, consistency across the brand, presence in the market and the level of understanding of the company's green activities.
The two are combined to give a Gap Score, with a positive Gap indicating a better eco performance, while a negative Gap indicates a good perception. It's important to note that a higher positive Gap Score does not translate to a high ranking.
Ford was praised for its communicative nature about its environmental progress, and scored a +3.2 Gap Score. The brand has embarked on its global "Go Further" marketing campaign, which aims to highlight the benefits of its new range of EcoBoost turbocharged engines - the smallest of which was crowned as the International Engine of the Year overnight for the third straight year.
According to the report, 90 per cent of Ford’s models now offer EcoBoost engines, and 2 million such engines have been built.
"Ford’s hybrid and all-electric vehicles, its manufacturing standards dedicated to cutting energy and water use, and the fuel efficiency of its EcoBoost engine[s] demonstrate that Ford is committed to delivering on its sustainability promise," the report states.
Toyota and its eco-friendly Prius line has "been the perennial leader", but according to Interbrand CEO Jez Frampton, the Japanese maker is losing ground - not because of fewer technological and environmentally-focused products, but because it wasn't as transparent this year in its business operations. Frampton told Automotive News that information from Toyota on its business travel, water use and greenhouse gas emissions was not as forthcoming as in previous years. As a result, it had a Gap Score of +0.3.
“Businesses realise that green perceptions matter to consumers,” Frampton told Automotive News. “Consumers want to do right by the planet, and there is an opportunity for companies who allow them to do so.”
Honda came in third, managing a Gap Score of +1.8. Nissan pushed from fifth in 2013 to fourth this year, scoring a Gap of +6.6, and the company's head of global marketing, Roel de Vries, told Automotive News that he expects it will keep climbing on the back of greater acceptance of electric cars like the Leaf hatchback.