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Eco-friendly China: Economist magazine
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Despite the recent economic jitters shaking the world, a worldwide survey has found that the environment and global warming are higher concerns among the Chinese than the economy.

The green awareness among the Chinese is somewhat stronger than British and US residents.

The results were released at the Fifth China Branding Roundtable in Beijing organized last month by the London-based Economist magazine.

The survey found 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 US and slightly higher than consumers in the UK.

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

The research is conducted by one of the world's largest global communications services companies WPP's agencies Landor Associates, Cohn & Wolfe, and Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB) annually to gauge consumer perceptions of the "green climate" globally.

"This is the first round of Green Brands research we've conducted in China and we have found the results fascinating," says 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 US, where only 38 percent of consumers expect to increase their spending on green products in 2009, and the UK where just 33 percent will spend more.

Aligned with the finding that spending increases on environmentallyfriendly products as they get closer to your body, Chinese consumers plan to spend more on cleaning supplies and white goods, as well as cosmetics and body care.

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," says 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 the "greenest" industries, while groceries 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. In order to gauge which brands are communicating their green initiatives or values most effectively, the survey asked participants to rank the greenest brands.

Haier was named as the greenest brand by the Chinese consumers. Following are Baidu, Lenovo, China Merchants Bank, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Nokia, Sina and Sohu.com.

Haier was a 2008 Olympics sponsor and is China's largest household appliance maker by sales. More than 60,000 of its products, ranging from air conditioners to washing machines, were in 37 Olympic venues in Beijing and Qingdao in Shandong province.

All Haier's products at the Olympic venues employed the latest energy efficiency methods and met the highest international standards, claims company chairman Zhang Ruimin. "Some of them are the most competitive products in the global market in the use of leading environmentally friendly technologies, such as our solar-powered air conditioners," he says.

Russ Meyer, chief strategy officer for Landor Associates says, "when you compare the results from this survey to those we've done in the US and the UK, it's remarkable how aligned consumers are on a global level.

"This provides great direction to companies planning to develop global sustainability solutions that help both their business and the environment."

(China Daily October 6, 2008)

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