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13 October 2022
Western sustainability messaging doesn't work in China
Western brands tend to highlight worthy environmental factors in their sustainability communications, but Chinese consumers are more likely to respond positively to exhortations to "look after your family" than to "save the planet".
Why it matters
Global brands seeking to play up their environmental credentials may need to take a more nuanced approach in China, according to a number of practitioners cited by Jing Daily. “The mistake international brands make is to focus only on the environmental pillar while forgetting about the social and economic ones,” says a source.
What it means
A sustainability-first or sustainability-only strategy is unlikely to work. Brands need to factor in issues that concern local consumers more, such as personal health and wellbeing. For example, messaging about reducing microplastics in the ocean might work well in the West; in China, however, focusing on the effects of microplastics on an individual’s health will have more impact.
Chinese manufacturing has expanded rapidly in recent years and consumers do understand the environmental degradation that has caused – but rather than think in global terms, they see what’s happening in their own country.
Gen Z, having travelled or studied abroad, often has a better understanding of green issues. Their advocacy, along with government policies, are changing the market.
Younger shoppers (18-41-year-olds) are almost twice as likely to buy sustainable goods than their older (42-57 years old) counterparts: 41% vs 24%, according to a survey by Altiant.
“When we talk about the environment, Chinese consumers mainly care about health and family. It is important to investigate local culture and values to understand the predominance of family, the preservation of the next generations, and the importance of health” – Anais Bournonville, Luxury Marketing Direction at Shanghai-based Gentleman’s Marketing Agency.