Considering China’s bevy of environmental issues, one may think that marketing an environmentally friendly product in the country would not succeed, but this is beginning to change. As awareness of environmental issues grow in the country and outbreaks of high-profile food incidents arise, more and more Chinese citizens are beginning to emphasize the importance of sustainable products.
Growing environmental concerns
Many companies in China are notorious for violating many environmental standards and regulations. These unsustainable practices have created near irreparable damage to the Chinese environmental and Chinese consumers are beginning to take notice. Air pollution is becoming so bad that simply stepping outside can be dangerous for many people. Readings above 500 on the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality scale are now fairly common in Beijing. Water pollution is also a problem as more than half of China’s surface water is so polluted that it cannot be treated to be drinkable and a quarter of it is so polluted that it cannot be used for industrial purposes. The air pollution has even created “cancer villages” where pollution is so poor that simply living in these areas can cause cancer. These issues have grown so large that the public can no longer ignore them.
China has experienced numerous high-profile food incidents within the past decade. Many food suppliers in the country have been using pesticides and dangerous food additives to make food appear fresher and last longer. In 2008, six babies died and 300,000 became ill after drinking baby formula containing melamine. In 2011, consumers discovered pork that glowed blue due to a contamination phosphorescent bacteria. More recently, police in Nanning confiscated more than 20 tons of low-quality chicken feet from a meat warehouse, some of which had expired 46 years ago. With food safety concerns growing in the Chinese community, many foreign companies are beginning to market their green credentials to gain a competitive advantage over some of their native Chinese competitors.
Euromonitor International’s 2012 survey of 16,000 Chinese consumers revealed that “Green/environmentally” friendly mattered strongly to 81% of respondents. Similarly, a survey by Landor Associates shows that Chinese consumers are more concerned about green issues than consumers in the United States or Europe. Although some experts believe that there is a huge disparity between the claimed and actual sustainable behavior of Chinese consumers, it is undeniable that environmental sustainability is becoming a growing concern for Chinese consumers. China has experienced a surge in environmental NGOs and now as 3000 environmental NGOs in the country. These NGOs are raising awareness of environmental issues in China and some are even showing consumers which brands are operating sustainably. The Green Choice Consumer Action released a “polluter’s blacklist” that lists 20 companies operating in China that violate environmental standards. This list, backed by 34 NGOs, was published online where it was widely received by many Chinese consumers. As more Chinese citizens become more environmentally aware, consumers will begin choosing these green products even over the less expensive big name brands.