FEATURE19 August 2022

The sustainability paradox: China and the environment

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Asia Pacific Features Impact Retail Trends

Chinese consumers are environmentally conscious, but does this translate into action on climate change? Joeri Van den Bergh reports.

motion blurred picture of people in a shopping mall escalator

Since 1953, the Chinese economy has been shaped by five-year plans, with social and economic development guidelines. The latest, covering 2021 to 2025, contains ambitious sustainability goals to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. Businesses operating in China are transforming their operations and supply chains to align with the new policies. But how important is sustainability to consumers in China, and how does this translate into consumer behaviour?

Our research has shown that 94% of Chinese consumers indicate that sustainability is important, yet many are not acting upon it. What is causing this paradox? Our figures are based on a study conducted by InSites Consulting, from December 2021 to January 2022, among 802 respondents from three generations (X, Y and Z) in mainland China. The sample was representative for each generation.

An important dimension is the so-called ‘say-do gap’, where intentions are high, but actual behaviour is low. Our research identified four eco-barriers that are holding consumers back from living a more sustainable ...