A reporter (left) tries a zero carbon coffee sample at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022 in Boao, Hainan province, on April 21. Environmentally friendly and low-carbon products are becoming increasingly popular among Chinese consumers. (YUAN CHEN/FOR CHINA DAILY)
MNCs in China sew up plans to invest big-time on low-carbon innovations
Given a choice between buying a laptop complete with attractive packaging and purchasing one that comes in simple packaging made of recycled materials, most consumers might wonder a bit. But not those at the China International Consumer Products Expo held in July in Haikou, Hainan province, where US tech company Dell Technologies displayed a laptop encased in 100 percent environmentally friendly packaging materials.
Expo visitors threw curious glances at the novelty, with some even making inquiries. Besides the green laptop, a large number of green and low-carbon consumer goods were displayed at the expo. These included Miners' Tears, the world's first necklace based on environmentally friendly synthetic materials, beer made using energy-saving process that also cut its carbon footprint, coffee cups made with carbon capture technology, pure plant-based cosmetics and biodegradable pens.
Visitors and the people behind these innovations said the dazzling array of green products bears testimony to China's green transformation of products, services and industrial chains. Umpteen businesses from both home and abroad drew a lesson on how to launch environmentally friendly products and services that meet the aspirations of local consumers.
According to a survey by market consultancy Ernst &Young, despite the downtrend in global consumer confidence, 62 percent of Chinese consumers believe their lives will be better in three years. The figure is much higher than that of the United States (46 percent), Australia (43 percent) and the United Kingdom (35 percent).
Notably, 38 percent of Chinese consumers surveyed put "sustainability" at the top of their consumption decisions. In contrast, only 10 percent of the consumers surveyed gave value cost-effectiveness a top weighting. Globally, cost-effectiveness surpassed caring for the planet and emerged as the factor with the biggest consumer consideration.
"While inflation and the rising cost of living discourage consumers from paying a premium for sustainable products, we are delighted to see consumers opting for more frugal alternative brands and alternatives to achieve sustainable behaviors, or looking for a more efficient and sustainable lifestyle," said Zheng Mingju, managing partner of retail and consumer products at EY Greater China.
Agreed Yu Huanhuan, marketing director of Tmall Global, the global e-commerce arm of Alibaba Group, noting that an interesting phenomenon is that a brand with an environmentally friendly concept is likely to impress the new generation of consumers. More young people, Yu said, would like to support eco-friendly products.
In cosmetics particularly, 70.5 percent of Chinese consumers are willing to buy nature-based beauty products, while as high as 81.1 percent would like to buy skincare products that emphasize natural environment, Yu said.
"Notably, young consumers on our platform are willing to pay an extra 10 percent to 20 percent for brands that pursue environmentally friendly and sustainable development," she said.
"The reason is, young consumers particularly have a special view on the future. From caring about themselves to caring about the community with a shared future, from witnessing change to participating in change, to promoting solutions and changing the status quo, young consumers require a sense of participation."
With such demand, more multinational businesses are sewing up plans to make huge investments to promote environmentally friendly infrastructure and technology projects in China.
Dell from the US has committed to recycling an equivalent product for every product purchased by customers. More than half of the products are made of recycled or renewable materials and by 2030, all product packaging will be 100 percent recycled materials or renewable materials, it said.
Livestreamers sell utensils made of bamboo in Congjiang county, Guizhou province, on May 21. Bamboo products are expected to promote sustainable consumption. [LONG MENGQIAN/FOR CHINA DAILY]
"Dell will insist on its 'in China, for China' development strategy and actively promote China's economic development, digital transformation as well as the realization of the carbon neutrality goals, so as to better serve Chinese customers and the Chinese market," said Wang Lijun, global senior vice-president of Dell.
Bruno Chevot, president of French beverage company Danone Greater China and Oceania, said, "The company will continuously bring green, high-quality and healthy products from all over the world to Chinese consumers in order to meet the increasingly diversified consumer demands, and a high-quality and beautiful life."
The company has confirmed that a half-gallon carton of its whole milk has a carbon footprint of 5.58 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent.
China aims to peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. From announcing "dual carbon" goals to advancing its national carbon market, the country has been striving to help energize green development in several sectors, including consumption, automobile and finance.
"The 'dual carbon' goals set by the Chinese government have taken China's green economy to a whole new level, and the realization of this target also requires Fila's full participation," said Brian Yiu, CEO of Fila China, in an earlier interview with China Daily. "For us, 'sustainable fashion' is not a slogan, but a concrete action."
For instance, compared with traditional dyeing, waterless dyeing has the advantages of using no water and saving steam, fuel and auxiliary agents, which can reduce 50 percent of energy consumption and 50 percent of chemical emissions.
At the beginning of this year, Chinese authorities unveiled a master plan to boost the green transformation of consumption in key areas ranging from food, clothing and housing to transport, tourism and electricity.
"China's green consumption is yet to be stimulated," said Chang Tiewei, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission, at an earlier news conference.
He noted the importance of green consumption in spurring the low-carbon transition on the supply side, improving the attractiveness of China as a super large market, and shoring up high-quality development.
In late July, a guideline to promote the consumption of green and smart home appliances, jointly proposed by the Ministry of Commerce and other government departments such as the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the State Administration for Market Regulation, was approved by the State Council, China's Cabinet.
More efforts will be made to push for the recycling and reuse of aging home appliances, underpin the construction of home appliance recycling networks and distribution facilities, and improve delivery, installation and maintenance service standards, the guideline said.
As home appliances involve a large variety of manufactured components like wires, sensors, integrated circuits, plastics, motors and electronics, the recycling of these components would mark a major step in driving environmentally friendly industrial chain, industry experts said.
Hu Baolin, former member of the leading Party members group of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, however, said that to drive green consumption, many challenges still remain ahead.
"Carbon neutrality is relevant for everyone and requires the mobilization of hundreds of millions of people and stakeholders to work together to change laggard behaviors," Hu said.
"More innovative methods are still needed to stimulate the enthusiasm of the whole society, advocate green consumption and establish a green consumption concept, so as to boost green consumption awareness and a simple and low-carbon consumption culture."
Potential buyers check eco-friendly wheat straws made by a Chinese company specializing in plastic straws at an e-commerce expo in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, on April 11, 2021. [LYU BIN/FOR CHINA DAILY]
He suggested establishing personal carbon accounts through big data, where individual consumers can record their carbon footprints and even open carbon bank accounts.
"With more incentive policies for consumers to do green consumption, it will not be far that a low-carbon, green life will become the next fashion."
China is still the world's largest energy consumer and carbon emitter. Although per capita emissions are low, the total amount is still the world's largest.
Hu said technology improvement is also a key to driving the country's green development.
"More efforts must be made to actively drive the research and development of carbon replacement, carbon emission reduction, carbon cycle, carbon recovery, and carbon sequestration technologies, and furthermore put them into applications," he said.