Mark Tanner
15 October 2014 0 Comments

WeChat’s global ambassador, Lionel Messi, was in Beijing last week for the all star football clash between Argentina and Brazil. What should have been a celebration of the beautiful game, turned out to be a demonstration of China’s abominable pollution. 

As PM2.5 levels soared as high as 499 on Thursday – 20 times the WHO recommended safe levels – during practice Messi frequently covered his nose and mouth, had to stop for plenty of rests and ended up leaving early.  Brazil’s team left the sanctuary of their hotel for just 2-hours to train over a 24-hour period.   The toxic air also filled the lungs of some of the world’s top riders in town for Tour of Beijing, and pop diva Mariah Carey at her outdoor concert at Worker’s Stadium.

It is yet another China pollution story, coming soon after National Geographic published their 2014 global Greendex.  The index compares impacts of consumer behaviour on the environment across different countries.  China came in just behind India in second place – a great result.  But digging a little deeper, many of the categories China scored highly on such as high public transport and scooter use, and consumption of locally grown food, are characteristics of a developing economy and generally aren’t decisions made for environmental reasons. 

Some concerning findings from the survey were that Chinese are the least likely consumers to want second-hand goods, placed little faith in environmentally friendly products, and had the largest portion of people dreaming of owning a big house.  Other statistics not covered in the Greendex such as SUVs being the fastest growing auto segment in China, are equally worrying.  This indicates that a lot of consumers aren’t taking individual responsibility for the environment, even though they see the effects all around them.  Many Chinese believe that it is the Government’s responsibility to solve the pollution problem.

Whilst on one hand affluent Chinese consumers are turning their nose up at things such as fuel efficient cars, the environment is a key factor for purchases related to their health, that they can influence on an individual level. 59% of Chinese consumers consider environmental quality as important when buying food and beverages. Tourism, construction and real estate in many unpolluted Western cities are also reaping many benefits.

Although consumer behaviour is just one piece of China’s pollution problem, it’s an ever-growing part.  Let’s hope behaviour becomes a little more sustainable as consumers grow even more affluent. 

China Skinny looks forward to seeing our Australasian readers next week in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, where we’re moderating the China Digital Conference. There’s an excellent line up of speakers and topics in what will be an insightful and enjoyable event. New to the table this year, Chinny Skinny will be providing ‘Speed Consulting’ for a few lucky attendees, to run though their marketing plan, positioning, target market and channels to market, to ensure they’re on the right track to take advantage of the incredible opportunities here in China. Find out more here. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.

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