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Technology Brands: Uniquely Poised to Leverage the Culture of Innovation to Lead the Sustainability Movement in Business

By Nirm Shanbhag

Technology Sector

"No longer tethered to an "at any cost" race to dominate and capture market share, technology organizations have found new ways to innovate, address consumer needs and grow – both in terms of size and brand value. "

As Interbrand’s Federica Judica noted in the 2011 Best Global Brands report, “The technology choices we make today predict the nature of our society tomorrow”. This holds true for sustainability choices within the sector as well.

After years of focusing on growth – growth in performance, storage and lines of code – the technology sector is shifting gears. Today, the sector is not only focusing on what it can achieve in terms of technological developments, but it is also focusing on how it goes about making such advances. This is one reason why, for the second year in a row, the technology sector is the most heavily represented sector in the 2012 Best Global Green Brands report. Technology brands such as Panasonic (#6) and Dell (#7) once again earned places in the top 10.

No longer tethered to an "at any cost" race to dominate and capture market share, technology organizations have found new ways to innovate, address consumer needs and grow – both in terms of size and brand value. Ultimately, this shift is impacting technology brands on three levels: what they create, how they operate, and what they stand for.

What they create

Changing consumer demands and behaviors are significant drivers of what technology brands create. Consumers’ increasing interest in always being connected to ideas, content and each other has spurred the development of more efficient – not just more powerful – computers, smartphones and tablets.

How they operate

The shift in how technology organizations operate indicates that a balance is being struck – a balance between the desire to do good and the desire to drive economic revenue. Activism at the macro and micro levels has pushed technology brands to reconsider how they power their data centers, opting increasingly for renewables and increased efficiency. Such actions not only decrease costs, but also prompt consumers to view these progressive technology brands in a more favorable light.

In response to consumer wishes, many technology companies are looking at building recyclability into their products, offering to take back and break down old and outdated devices when customers are done with them. While this is certainly an important development within the technology sector, there is no denying that much more can be done in this area.

What they stand for

Today, leading technology brands are working hard to connect with a generation of consumers that is acutely aware of the impact that they -- and the brands they buy -- have on the environment.

IBM's (#19) shift towards its "smarter planet" mantra can be viewed as a prime example of a technology brand aligning a socially responsible and beneficial approach with its overarching business model.

Interbrand’s Global CEO, Jez Frampton, regularly points out the importance of employee brand engagement, which is just as important to the overall health of a brand as consumer engagement. Employee brand engagement ensures that technology brands retain the best and brightest and can acquire up and coming talent. Ultimately, the rise of social responsibility in the technology sector has as much to do with the desires of a brand’s employees as it does with the desires of that brand’s consumer base.

Given that technology brands are deeply rooted in innovation, there is no better sector to lead the business world in terms of driving sustainability efforts. The business leaders who oversee and manage these technology brands have the unique opportunity to show other sectors that strategic sustainability efforts not only embolden a brand’s employee base, but also help the bottom line and the planet.

Nirm Shanbhag is the Managing Director of Interbrand’s San Francisco office