NEW YORK: Ford, Toyota, Honda and Nissan occupy the top four places in a new report ranking the world's fifty leading global green brands.

While auto marques might not be immediately obvious candidates for such acclamation, Interbrand, the brand consultancy, said that demand for electric vehicles was growing and forcing car manufacturers to expand production of electric and hybrid models.

In addition, Ford's work on improving employee engagement around sustainability, developing better water/energy/emissions intensities, enhancing green build policies (through, for example, the use of soybean-based foam cushions) and increasing waste recycling had pushed it into the top spot, displacing Toyota.

Following the four auto brands, electronics brands – Panasonic, Nokia and Sony – took the next three places, with adidas (sports goods), Danone (FMCG) and Dell (technology) rounding out the top ten.

Overall, automotive, electronics and technology brands occupied almost half of the overall rankings, while financial services brands struggled to make any impact.

The Best Global Green Brands report was based on an assessment by Deloitte of the environmental or sustainability performance data of leading global brands combined with research into consumer perceptions of those brands' sustainable or green practices – more than 10,000 respondents were interviewed across the ten largest economies. The report then examined the gap that existed between a brand's environmental performance and consumers' perceptions of that performance.

"Understanding the gap that exists between a company's actual Corporate Citizenship practices and consumers' awareness of those practices is vital to building brand value," said Interbrand, adding that brands would suffer the consequences if consumers felt they had been misled.

The largest positive gaps – indicating that a brand's sustainability performance is actually higher than consumers perceive it to be – came at Nokia and Cisco ( both +19.0), while the largest negative gaps – indicating that consumers perceive a brand to be more of a sustainable leader than it actually is – were registered at McDonald's (-14.5) and Coca-Cola (-12.2).

The report also looked at the power of participation and collection action, with Interbrand concluding that a new level of cooperation across all constituencies is needed if society and businesses are to meet the demand for a more sustainable future.

Data sourced from Interbrand; additional content by Warc staff