Tokyo-based Nikkei Business Publications, led by President & CEO Naoto Yoshida, has released the results of its second ESG Brand Survey. The study is an updated version of the annual eco-brand survey conducted by Nikkei ESG Management Forum since 2000. The survey continues to analyze how consumers view brand images of various companies via a questionnaire with a total of 68 questions divided into four categories: Environment (E), Social (S), Governance (G), and Integrity. The Integrity category asks respondents about the brand image of a well-known company that falls outside of the ESG fields.

The written survey - conducted between May 27 to June 30, 2021 - asked about the brand image of 560 major companies and 21,000 responses collected from 21,000 consumers across Japan were used for analysis in delivering the findings. . The survey summary and analysis of results can be read below.

■ESG Score: Overall ranking (Top 20 companies)

Rank Previous
Corporate brand Score
1 (1) Toyota Motor 110.2
2 (2) Suntory 92.6
3 (7) Starbucks Coffee Japan 90.2
4 (12) Sony 82.5
5 (38) Coca-Cola 82.2
6 (5) Kao 81.0
7 (3) Aeon 78.7
8 (4) Kirin 76.0
9 (15) Apple 75.5
10 (9) Honda 74.3
11 (30) All Nippon Airways (ANA) 73.0
12 (11) McDonald’s Japan 72.9
13 (8) Shiseido 71.1
13 (6) Panasonic 71.1
13 (29) Ryohin Keikaku 71.1
16 (13) Google 70.4
17 (28) Asahi Group Holdings 70.1
18 (10) Sapporo Breweries 69.9
18 (45) Nestle 69.9
20 (18) Kewpie 69.2

■Top 10 Companies by Category

Rank Previous
Corporate brand Score
1 (2) Toyota Motor 116.7
2 (1) Suntory 116.5
3 (3) Aeon 96.2
4 (26) Seven & i Holdings 93.4
5 (6) Starbucks Coffee Japan 93.3
6 (9) Kao 82.9
7 (5) Kirin 79.4
8 (18) Coca-Cola 79.0
8 (15) Nissan Motor 79.0
10 (29) Seven-Eleven Japan 78.8

Rank Previous
Corporate brand Score
1 (9) Starbucks Coffee Japan 100.2
2 (1) Toyota Motor 95.2
3 (4) Suntory 86.7
4 (2) Shiseido 82.1
5 (19) Sony 81.3
6 (92) Coca-Cola 80.6
7 (24) Nestle 79.4
8 (37) Apple 78.7
9 (6) McDonald’s Japan 78.3
10 (11) Google 77.3

Rank Previous
Corporate brand Score
1 (1) Toyota Motor 105.7
2 (128) Coca-Cola 81.2
3 (6) Sony 77.7
4 (14) All Nippon Airways (ANA) 74.7
5 (2) Kao 73.4
6 (69) Starbucks Coffee Japan 69.3
7 (26) Honda 68.6
8 (5) Kirin 68.2
9 (152) Orix 67.7
9 (84) Unilever 67.7

Rank Previous
Corporate brand Score
1 (1) Toyota Motor 96.0
2 (2) Suntory 83.4
3 (9) Sony 82.8
4 (9) Starbucks Coffee Japan 80.1
5 (3) Apple 79.9
6 (7) Kao 77.7
7 (7) Panasonic 74.9
8 (15) Nisshin Foods 73.7
9 (21) Kewpie 73.6
9 (32) All Nippon Airways (ANA) 73.6

Toyota Motor continued to lead, holding on to first place again for this year’s overall result marking two consecutive years in the top position. As well as staying ahead on the overall ESG list, Toyota was the only company to achieve a score exceeding 100 points. Although the world’s largest automaker came second for its corporate image in the Social category, the firm placed highest in all of the three other categories - Environment, Governance, and Integrity.

The ratings for Toyota Motor were outstanding in both Environment and Governance, claiming first place for positive corporate image in five out of the 12 items in the Environment category, which includes “making efforts to reduce energy consumption”, “making efforts to reduce harmful substances,” and “emphasizing environmental education for employees.” Making efforts to reduce energy consumption helped result in Toyota’s highest score in this field, since 62.9% of survey respondents chose this as the item they evaluate as most important for corporate activities related to environmental protection. Reduced use of energy is the issue attracting the highest degree of attention among consumers.

In the Governance category, Toyota won first place for 10 out of the 12 items, including “Top management has high awareness of governance” and “Information disclosure and accountability on corporate activities are managed properly.”

Suntory was awarded second in the overall ranking, receiving high evaluations across all categories. The food and beverage group won second place in the Environment and Integrity categories, came in third for Society, and took 17th place for Governance. Examining specific items, the company achieved the highest rating for “making efforts in biodiversity conservation” and “making efforts to protect nature,” while securing second place for “emphasizing environmental education for employees.” For the Integrity category, Suntory won against all others for “good corporate culture and I want to buy their products and services”, while taking second place for “I will continue to support the company”, “advertising and marketing campaigns are run appropriately,” and “good corporate management eyeing future generations.”

Although the companies that placed first and second remained unchanged for the overall ranking, firms whose ESG brand scores surged upward from the previous year helped add extra vitality to the list of corporate brands making significant leaps to claim all positions between third to fifth places. The third-placed Starbucks Coffee Japan received its highest evaluation overall, outdoing all results from the previous year while managing to secure first place for the brand image score in the Social category. The company also came in fourth for Integrity, fifth for Environment, and gained sixth place for Governance. Starbucks saw its ESG brand score grow at the second highest level year on year among all the companies surveyed.

In terms of specific category items, Starbucks Coffee Japan claimed first place for “no discrimination against non-regular workers and minority groups in the workplace” and “active engagement in addressing the social gap and poverty through fair trade and other initiatives” in the Society category. The coffee and cafe company also secured second place for “providing education on anti-power harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace”, “securing traceability of raw materials,” and “promoting human rights protection and compliance with labor standards across supply chains.” The company received a high level of recognition for their approach to improving workplace environments and protecting human rights.

Further details about the ESG Brand rankings are featured in the special article "Nikkei BP 2nd ESG Brand Survey" (pages 38-57) in the November 2021 issue of Nikkei ESG (published Oct. 8).