Study: BP, Toyota top green energy, auto brands

Being green is increasingly popular, but most consumers still don't consider ecological impact when buying.

Consumers consider BP and Toyota Motor to be the greenest energy and automotive brands, but 58 percent of Americans still don't care how green a brand is, according to a new study by branding firm Landor Associates.

Landor surveyed 510 American adults to investigate how the market for ecologically friendly products has been gaining a foothold among mainstream consumers.

Participants were asked to rank automotive and energy brands, as well as brands in categories such as personal-care products and coffee manufacturers. Rankings ranged from "least green" to "most green." In the petroleum-and-energy category, BP was chosen as the greenest corporation, beating Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron's Texaco. Toyota was picked as the greenest auto manufacturer, ahead of Lexus, Ford, General Motors and BMW.

When it came to consumers' perceptions of the greenest brands, the companies that came out on top were those that have heavily promoted healthy, environmentally sound images. BP, for example, has diligently promoted clean-burning biofuels to combat climate change, while Toyota's Prius remains one of the most prominent and recognizable hybrid vehicles on the road.

Study participants also indicated whether they considered themselves "green motivated" consumers who consciously purchase products they perceive as green, or "green interested" consumers who dabble in the practice. While only 42 percent of those surveyed indicated that they fell into one of those categories, Landor notes that this is a growing percentage.

But the question still remains: What exactly does green mean? Even participants in the "green motivated" segment of the study weren't in agreement on that topic. Thirty-four percent of them considered a green brand to be best described by environment-friendly technology, while 33 percent focused on natural, or organic, ingredients. Only 14 percent of "green motivated" respondents considered the manufacturing of environmentally safe products to be the best indicator of a green brand.

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