New Zealanders planning on visiting China can rest assured the country’s continually aiming for higher standards of ethics and sustainability. Consumer confidence in Chinese brands reached an all-time high of 54% in 2018 (it was only at 26% in 2016), China Daily reports. In recent years, China has seen great positive change in terms of enterprises embracing corporate social responsibility. Whether it’s sustainable fashion, waste recycling, or poverty alleviation, Chinese companies are realizing the necessity of adopting socially- and environmentally-conscious practices to remain competitive on the global market.
The world of sustainable fashion is growing in China. Shaway Yeh, an editorial director at Modern Weekly, an influential lifestyle magazine, recently began her own consultancy, YehYehYeh, which works to educate Chinese companies and manufacturers on how they can become more sustainable. Although Yeh understands the importance of changing the consumer mindset, she also realizes the need to work with fashion brands directly. Once people are on board with sustainable fashion, they’ll need nice, ethical pieces to buy, after all.
She’s already worked with brands like Kerig (who own luxury labels Balenciaga and Gucci), and the Chinese brand, Erdos, a cashmere supplier and clothing label.Erdos oversees its entire supply chain, from the beginning raw material through to the end product, so it’s fairly easy for them to implement necessary ethical and sustainable changes. Additionally, Chinese clothing brands are increasingly supporting children with charitable acts. For example, some fashion companies are taking steps to responsibly source ethical materials to ensure no child labor is involved. Roughly 170 million children around the world currently work as child laborers. Organizations that adhere to the Fair Wear Foundation’s code of labor practices (ensuring no child labor) are included on their regularly-audited list of ethical brands.
Chinese manufacturers of various popular goods, including, food and drink, fashion, and consumer electronics, as well as e-commerce companies, are under increasing pressure to provide recyclable packaging. This is largely down to awareness raised by environmental activists and stricter environmental laws. Moreover, the Chinese public is becoming increasingly concerned over the need to reduce, reuse, and recycle. While there’s no exact figures, Greenpeace estimates e-commerce companies generated over 250,000 tonnes of waste last year.
In October, China’s market regulator published new draft packaging standards that limits courier firms to select recyclable materials. JD.com, an online retailer, has announced their recent adoption of recyclable materials and restrictions on adhesive tape and paper used in warehouses. Alibaba, a Chinese multinational conglomerate, has also stated it’s now “greener than ever”. It’s giving customers special incentives to encourage recycling and has also created an annual cardboard recycling day (November 20th).
Poverty alleviation is another important way China is improving its corporate social responsibility. As such, a number of e-commerce companies are investing in the country’s “rural revitalization” strategy. For example, since establishing a rural strategy on its e-commerce platform, Taobao, in 2014, Alibaba has created local service centers in roughly 30,000 villages across 700 counties, enabling its delivery services in rural areas. Similarly, JD.com is providing jobs in rural areas across the country by increasing its service center workforce to over 300,000 employees. Additionally, after the devastating Sichuan earthquake of 2013, multinational companies like Samsung and Apple have donated 60 million and 50 million yuan to the victims respectively to help alleviate poverty.
Although still in its relatively early days, corporate social responsibility is an increasingly important issue in China. Visitors to China from New Zealand can therefore rest assured that they’re helping support an increasingly ethical and sustainable country.