Made Green In The Middle Kingdom: Eco-conscious products can be well-made and well-received in China

There aren’t many constants in China; society is in a state of  perpetual motion and the wheels of change churn intently. China’s pace of progress can be hard to put a finger on, let alone attempt to put a prediction to. From the outset, we at {eco&more} found a constant in two questions: “Can you actually make eco-friendly products in China? And, even if you can, will Chinese people actually buy them?” While the latter reads more as an accusation rather than a question, it nonetheless points to a looming question over the head of every environmentalist: How do I get people to care? From the perspective of a brand having made that difficult initial leap from a local niche company to a nationwide name, let’s unpack this a little more.

Many entrepreneurs in China set forth with an innovative environmental concept but find themselves in the eco-friendly funk of not quite striking that right chord with consumers. From a marketing, branding and PR standpoint, this ever-present question posed a challenge – but just that, a challenge, not an obstacle. Making an environmentally friendly product is a multi-faceted process, and facilitating a working understanding of this process’s value is where cultural understanding comes in. For us, the key was to look beyond first-glance assumptions, and start dissecting consumer concerns a bit closer to home.

People are worried. The modern consumer in China, both local and foreign, is inundated with tales of tainted milk and toxic toothpaste on a daily basis. Naturally, everybody wants to ensure the health and safety of their families, so we set out to see which harmful chemicals Chinese customers would have a difficult time avoiding in market products. From here, we stressed the existence of safer alternatives. Thus, allowing customers and followers to educate themselves, via our resources, on the options they have to reduce exposure to toxins.

Transparency is invaluable. Customers in China are skeptics, and for good reason, so boasting a product’s ecological prowess may fall short if a direct line of credibility is not established. At {eco&more}, a significant selling point has been our commitment to being transparent in listing and explaining product composition.

Market research has shown that many Chinese customers are willing to buy environmentally friendly products under the premise that they are better for their health. Many will even purchase something that is good for the environment despite not actively seeking it out.

Create a community. Building a closer community is especially important in a society like China, where word of mouth reigns supreme in information dissemination. Working with like-minded partners and creating events will give people an opportunity to engage with your concept in a more personal way. For example, two years ago {eco&more} began an in-store discount program that allowed customers to save money by refilling and returning old bottles. This idea gave people a way to reduce their impact on the environment whilst gaining something for themselves.

 So to answer a more specific, but equally common question: Yes. Chinese people do want to consume in a more environmentally friendly way. The challenge for sustainability entrepreneurs, is doing things on their customers’ terms.

In case you haven’t heard, China is big, and chances are there’s somebody out there with the same mind set as you, maybe even a few million.