Survey: More Chinese Value Environment over Economy

Survey data presented on Sept. 19 at the Economist Conferences' Fifth China Branding Roundtable in Beijing indicate that 31 percent of Chinese consumers identify the environment as a higher priority than the economy, a percentage that is significantly higher than consumers in the United States and slightly higher than consumers in the United Kingdom.

In similar research conducted earlier this year by the same team, 17 percent of U.S. consumers and 28 percent of U.K. consumers selected the environment as higher priority than the economy.

The research, conducted by WPP agencies Landor Associates, Cohn & Wolfe, and Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, was presented by Russ Meyer, Landor Associates' chief strategy officer.

"This is the first round of Green Brands research we've conducted in China, and we have found the results fascinating," said Annie Longsworth, Cohn & Wolfe's Global Sustainability Practice leader. "The results indicate that Chinese consumers are highly conscious of the state of the environment and are eager to play an active role in affecting not only their own behaviors, but also those of Chinese regulators and businesses."

Chinese consumers say that their environmental concerns influence their purchasing intent: 69 percent expect to spend more money on green products in the coming year. This contrasts markedly with the United States, where only 38 percent of consumers expect to increase their spending on green products in 2009, and the United Kingdom where just 33 percent will spend more.

The way that Chinese consumers think about environmentalism seems tied to broader concerns about corporations, rather than specific practices such as recycling or using renewable energy sources.

"Chinese consumers want to do business with green companies," said Tatt Chen, vice president of Asia-Pacific for Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates. "In general, the more green a company is perceived to be, the more they think it is honest and trustworthy, innovative, has high quality products and services, and provides safe working conditions. Chinese consumers don't expect companies to fix all the environmental problems, but they do want to hear how companies are being good green citizens."

Chinese consumers consider Technology, Electronics and Financial Services to be "greenest" industries, while Grocery and Energy are at the bottom of the list.

When asked what it means to be a "green brand," Chinese consumers prioritize trustworthiness, being environmentally conscious, and working to cut pollution and waste as the three top indicators.

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