China’s consumers appear to be trying to balance their increasing buying power with a growing environmental consciousness.
An OgilvyEarth report shows rising awareness of environmental sustainability, but also notes a gap between this consciousness and actual consumption behavior.
Most feel it’s the government’s job to fix China’s environmental problems, and above all want cheap products.
Twenty-three year-old Beijing resident, Yang Xin explains:
“The cheaper, the better. The price would be better to be lower. The environment belongs to all of us. Everyone wants our environment to be better. So if the price is lower, I will choose the environment-friendly stuff.”
The Chinese government issued the world’s largest green stimulus package two years ago to promote green industries, but green sustainable products currently account for a very small percentage of Chinese goods.
Ogilvy’s team leader, Kunal Sinha says firms should tap this growing green awareness among China’s consumers.
“There is a consumer opportunity. Because the government is doing certain things which it believes is right in terms of making investments and creating a regulatory framework, but it is time for companies to step up to the plate. Take advantage of what the government is offering but at the same time, realize there is a consumer opportunity, which is hard to miss now.”
Some businesses in the more cosmopolitan Beijing are taking notice, with a growing presence of sustainable, environmentally-friendly and organic products around the city.
NLGX is a small trendy clothing shop in downtown Beijing that offers recycled and sustainable products, including bags made from old newspapers.
Called its “huan bao” line, the name resembles the Chinese word for environmental protection.
Owner Ed Hung says green is the new in-thing for younger urban Chinese.
“Green is still quite new, in China, and even in the urban centers like Beijing. But I think from the success of these lines of bags that sell upwards of 1,000 renminbi (150 U.S. dollars) for a bag, people are starting to accept this and think of ‘green’ or ‘huanbao’ as a more like a cool type thing. More like a cool image to portray.”
A series of food scandals, from tainted milk powder to illegal additive-fed pork, has also boosted business at the Lohao City organic market.
The store boasts a range of locally produced fruits and vegetables, as well as organic foods that are not processed or chemically enhanced.
But Bejing’s thriving vegetable markets far outstrip stores like these, only reinforcing still widespread perception that green consumption is inconvenient, costly, and therefore unrealistic for the average Chinese consumer.
Bottom line: China’s consumers increasingly aware of the need for environmental sustainability, but lag in actual green buying-behavior.