82% of consumers in China feel brands should look after the planet 

Conscious COnsumption China

In September 2020, President Xi Jinping announced that the People’s Republic of China will “aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060”. These ambitious sustainability goals and resulting new policies urge many businesses operating in China to take action. But how important is sustainability to consumers in China, and how does this translate into (sustainable) consumer behavior?


94% of Chinese consumers indicate sustainability is important. This number is based on proprietary research by InSites Consulting with 802 Chinese consumers . Yet, we also found many are not acting upon this sentiment, leading to a so-called ‘say-do gap’ where intentions are high, however actual behavior is low. In our research, we identified four ‘eco-barriers’ that are holding consumers back from living a more sustainable life:

  • Affordability: sustainable means more expensive
  • Accessibility: lack of sustainable alternatives and of information as to which products are sustainable
  • Performance: consumers feel forced to make a trade-off between sustainability and performance
  • Convenience: perception that living more sustainably requires too much time and effort


What this means for brands

With over 79% of Chinese consumers indicating they wish to change their habits, brands can play an important role by reducing these ‘eco-barriers’. In fact, consumers also expect brands to act with 82% stating brands should look after the planet.

  • Affordability: As 48% of consumers say they would live more sustainably if products were cheaper, affordability is a key factor to consider. An affordable yet sustainable solution that is gaining ground is refillable packaging marketed at a lower price.
  • Accessibility: 38% of consumers in our research state they would live more sustainable if products were widely and easily available. Ensuring sustainable solutions are available online and offline is a quick win.
  • Performance: Research has shown that when a brand highlights a product’s sustainable attributes, consumers implicitly think that the product will perform worse than its less sustainable counterpart. Providing reassurance around the performance of sustainable solutions is thus key for brands.
  • Convenience: 56% of Chinese consumers say they would adopt a more sustainable lifestyle if it required less time or effort. For brands it’s thus about marrying convenience with sustainability. Like BIOfarm, one of China’s pioneers in organic farming, that delivers farm-fresh organic food to consumers’ doorsteps via a subscription formula.


Once its sustainability mission and strategy are clear, it’s vital for a brand to communicate about them. In fact, 84% of Chinese consumers feel brands/ companies should be more transparent and provide additional information about their sustainability ambitions and progress. In Conscious Consumption: the China edition, we’ve identified four sustainability ‘golden communication rules’ in sustainability.

  1. Dare to talk about the long term
  2. Celebrate achievements
  3. Be transparent
  4. Stick with your brand’s tone of voice
  5. Use a China-specific narrative


Curious for more? This blogpost is based on an article for Impact magazine. You can read the full article here (page 11).


All facts & figures are based on a study conducted by InSites Consulting in December 2021 – January 2022, among 802 respondents from three generations (Generations X, Y and Z) in mainland China (Tier 1, 2, 3 and 4 cities). The sample was representative for each generation.

Conscious Consumption

Conscious Consumption

Sustainability is a key concern amongst consumers, and this has only increased with the COVID-19 pandemic. This bookzine highlights some of the key barriers amongst consumers as well as their expectations towards brands, through proprietary research, expert interviews with sustainability executives from several industries, and brand illustrations.

Request your download

You might also be interested in

$-sign tree THUMB

How to be sustainable in an unaffordable world

Written by Josh Barazetti-Scott / Lewis Barker

Sustainability has an increasing importance in our daily lives that brands can no longer ignore. Find out how we can help you better understand your consumer.

Conscious Consumption South-Africa

8 out of 10 South African consumers want brands to drive change for sustainability

Written by Joeri Van den Bergh

Today, 92% of the citizens in South Africa say that the topic of sustainability is important to them, yet only 58% claim to be living sustainably. These figures come from proprietary research by InSites Consulting in March 2022, aimed at assessing the consumer sentiment and behaviour towards sustainability in South Africa.

Extending life

Sustainability Trends 2022: Extending Life

Written by Joeri Van den Bergh

Discover how brands are successfully acting upon the Extending Life trend from our 2022 Consumer Trend report, helping consumers extend the life of the products they buy rather than replacing them.