Brandlogic

Perception vs. reality: Apple's sustainability gap

November 28, 2012: 2:45 PM ET

A survey of 100 global brands finds Apple is perceived as far more responsible than it is

Click twice to enlarge. Source: Brandlogic

FORTUNE --  Apple (AAPL) excels at promoting itself as a responsible corporate global citizen in terms of environmental, social and governance issues. The reality is somewhat different.

In fact, in Brandlogic's 2012 Sustainability Leadership Report, which places 100 global companies into one of four categories -- laggards, challengers, leaders and promoters -- Apple is the king of the promoters: A company whose perceived performance far exceeds its actual achievement. (See the blue Apple dot at the far right of their four-quadrant chart.)

Given the gap between perception and reality, how long can Apple keep it up?

That's the issue Brandlogic's Denis Riney addressed in an analysis posted Tuesday.

"On the reality side," he writes, "Apple made significant gains from 2012 to 2011, improving their SRS [sustainability reality score] from 29.3 to 45.8, a 16.5 point increase vs. a 9.3-point increase for the 100 companies overall. Its perceived ESG [environmental, social, governance] scores increased as well, from 53.5 to 55.6, in year when the average perception score dropped 2.7 points."

But the difference between the perception of Apple in different parts of the world couldn't be greater, says Riney, who offers a chart that shows Apple gaining respect in the developed world even as it loses it in newly developed countries:

Source: Brandindex

Apple's reputation also varies among different groups -- falling among investment professionals but rising among recent university graduates and supply chain professionals:

"While there is no doubt that the positive halo around the Apple brand has some influence on the perceptions of these audiences," Riney concludes, "it is hard to imagine that Apple's extreme Promoter position will last long term."

Rineys post is titled "How Sustainable is the World's Most Valuable Company?"

The full 2012 Brandindex Sustainability Leadership Report is also available as a free download.

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