BEIJING: Domestic brands are outperforming foreign rivals when it comes to connecting with Chinese consumers via corporate social responsibility activities, a survey has found.

Marketing consultancy R3 polled 1,500 people from ten cities to gain an insight into current perceptions of the best performers in this field.

Wireless giant China Mobile led the rankings, having implemented a wide range of schemes during the recent past, including helping bring telecoms access to 77,000 remote rural villages.

The organisation has committed to cutting energy use per unit of traffic by 20% in 2012 measured against 2008 levels, and runs a Charity Foundation funding education, disaster relief and poverty reduction.

Its Love Foundation event for orphans also proved popular, according to Sunny Chen, a senior researcher at R3.

"China Mobile now has a customer base of over 523m users, and they are leveraging this well to showcase some of their social and community messages," said Chen.

Dairy group Mengniu took second, and launched the "High Quality for a Green Life" platform in 2010, incorporating goals like "becoming a green enterprise, offering green products and advocating green consumption."

The "Turning Waste into Treasure" series of events, held in five major metropolitan hubs and demonstrating the possibilities presented by renewable energy, similarly made a mark.

"After the milk scare of 2008, all of the dairy companies have changed their mindset to community marketing - recognising their role with consumers as a privilege, not a right," said Chen.

Lenovo, the IT specialist, occupied third, attracting considerable attention thanks to a competition for young entrepreneurs.

It was followed by appliance manufacturer Haier, actively involved in last month's Earth Hour, encouraging people to switch off the lights for 60 minutes.

"With close to 70,000 employees worldwide, and consumers in over 160 countries, we felt that Haier's support for Earth Hour could be significant," said Zhang Tieyan, director of Haier's global branding operations.

Herbal tea expert Wang Lao Ji, sportswear group Li-Ning and Yili, another member of the dairy category, came next in R3's charts.

Beverage maker Coca-Cola, bottled water provider Nongfu and handset manufacturer Nokia completed the top ten, which was clearly biased towards Chinese firms.

"Foreign brands have made strong initiatives, but have not achieved the same degree of recognition as local players," said Chen.

"Right now, eight of the ten top companies in this area are China companies."

More broadly, the study reported shoppers now display greater interest in products carrying excellent green credentials, suggesting a holistic approach is required among advertisers.

"The best marketers in China are treating CSR campaigns with the same strategic rigor as they would a sales or brand building project," said Chen.

"We're already seeing market leaders building up impressive learning and benchmarking in this area."

Data sourced from R3; additional content by Warc staff