- Title: CHINA: Consumers choose greener alternatives
- Date: 31st March 2011
- Summary: BEIJING, CHINA (FILE - DECEMBER 2009) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF SMOKE STACKS BLOWING SMOKE VARIOUS OF SMOG HANGING OVER CITY
- Embargoed: 7th May 2011 15:37
- Location: China, China
- Country: China
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA6EP0OUZ1TJUP2Y6HRR5ZA44O7
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: With the population of China standing at upwards of 1.3 billion, consumers are trying to manage their increasing buying power with a stronger environmental consciousness, a study conducted by OgilvyEarth showed.
Ahead of World Earth Day on Friday (April 22), OgilvyEarth, the sustainability division of the Ogilvy & Mather's marketing firm, released a report "Get Going with Green: Closing the Sustainability Gap" focused on understanding and closing the rift between what consumers say they are doing to promote sustainability, and what their actions reflect.
The study surveyed 1,300 consumers and followed 24 families in Tianjin, Shanghai, and Wuxi in eastern Jiangsu province.
More than 90 percent of those surveyed said they thought the sustainability movement was growing, but the study also noted a large gap between the sustainable behavior Chinese consumers profess to have, and their actual consumption habits.
In 2009, the Chinese government issued a 221 billion US dollar green stimulus package, the world's largest, to promote green industries and development in the country.
However, the study highlighted that consumers largely place the responsibility to fix China's environmental woes on the government, providing an opportunity for businesses to educate Chinese consumers about sustainability and promote green consumer action.
Kunal Sinha, OgilvyEarth's team leader, said that green sustainable products currently account for a very small percentage of Chinese goods. Sinha said the products consist mainly of consumer durables like electronics and home appliances, but acknowledged potential for market growth.
He hoped companies will take advantage of the report's findings to meet the growing market demand.
"Our emphasis is to get companies to do more by realising the fact that there is 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, realise there is a consumer opportunity, which is hard to miss now," Sinha said.
Green products remain a novelty in most Chinese market spheres, but many businesses in Beijing are taking note of China's consumer interest, with a growing presence of sustainable, environmentally-friendly and organic products in stores around the city.
The Lohao City organic market was established in 2006 to serve Chinese consumers searching for healthier and greener products.
The store provides a range of locally produced fruits and vegetables, as well as organic foods that are not processed or chemically enhanced.
The Chinese food market has been hit with food quality scandals ranging from tainted milk powder to illegal additive-fed pork, with some customers increasingly drawn to environmental and organic products.
"I will buy the organic and green food. But of course there will be a trust issue. If I trust the goods, I will go for them," Yang Huiyuan said.
In addition to food markets, other environmentally conscious stores are appearing to promote green consumption.
NLGX is a small clothing shop in downtown Beijing that provides recycled and sustainable products to the capital city's trendy, environmentally conscious youth.
The store features handmade bags made from recycled and misprinted newspapers, called "huan bao", which uses the characters for the word "environment" and "bag", but also sounds similar to the Chinese word for environmental protection.
Each bag sells for from 360 RMB (55 U.S. dollars) to 1,000 RMB (153 U.S. dollars).
Co-founder Ed Hung believes that his store and sale of "green" products has experienced growth in the last few years, as environmental sustainability is a growing ideal among China's urban youth.
"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 (153 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," he said.
The report shows that sustainability and green consumption are often seen as costly, inconvenient, and therefore unrealistic and for the average Chinese consumer.
"The cheaper, the better. The price would 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," said 23-year-old Beijing resident Yang Xin.
China is now the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and other human activities that scientists say are causing global warming.
By 2020, China is expected to consume 20 percent of the world's energy and account for 25 percent of growth in oil demand internationally.
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