Yes, it’s been a hell of a year so far. But beneath all the anxiety, discomfort and uncertainty, there are seismic shifts occurring that are important, and positive. What is getting me through these tough times is choosing to dial into those instead of the doomsday headlines. (It’s still hard not to reach for the news in the morning but I am really trying to be my own positive curator!)
So, here’s something to tune into: Chinese attitudes appear to be pivoting towards an interest and demand for sustainable practices. This is new. The Chinese have been some of the least engaged on the planet until very recently. But just as they have caught up and passed Western consumers in so many ways in the past five years, there is something interesting happening here. And companies that choose to act on this knowledge will win on many levels.
We saw this first in our recent study of luxury shoppers in Shanghai. It’s happening partly as a result of people spending more time in nature due to the early lockdowns and generally quiet (relatively speaking) vibe of the city during Covid. Some excerpts from women, aged 18-60:
“There is still a chance to get in touch with nature, which is very healing. I have more of a desire now to travel and discover the natural beauty of the world.“
“Instead of taking classes I am now exercising with friends outdoors.“
They are also making connections between the pandemic and the importance of a healthy, balanced physical world:
“I think artificial fur should replace real fur, and some environmentally friendly materials can replace leather. This is the most important decision I made because of the epidemic. Because only in better protecting the earth, humans and other organisms will be able to live in a stable ecosystem and will there be no more unknown viruses.“
“I very much value a brand’s efforts in environmental protection. The concept is very important, especially after the epidemic.“
“I like environmentally friendly products. Maybe not all will change their minds because of the epidemic but it is starting to be a new realization.“
Shanghainese are practical and sophisticated. Most importantly, they are now looking for companies to show what they are doing, not just saying. Companies like La Mer invested in an ocean clean-up program last year which engaged close to five million consumers, and we saw awareness of this mentioned organically:
“La Mer protects the sea. In the last few months, this weighs on me as more important, as I feel government, corporations and individuals should act in ways that protect our environment from further damage.“
We also saw this come up completely unaided in a study we conducted for lululemon in China amongst men and women (on a completely unrelated subject):
“I am now changing my attitude to more sustainable and biodegradable fabrics. After Covid I was struck by animal killing leading to virus spreading. As a global citizen I want to change my way of living so I can contribute a bit to our common earth as we only have one.“
“Brand value and culture matters for me and I would say it is even more important now. If a brand demonstrates sustainable practices, it will increase my desire to buy and try.“
Signs of change. And this is only one dimension of the world that is shifting. In the coming months, we will be looking at other shifts such as the positive impact of Black Lives Matter on people’s attitudes and, more importantly, behavior.
For every action, there is always a reaction. The convulsions we’re seeing as a nation, as a world, are producing some positive undercurrents of change. I for one, choose to dial in to those right now. It allows me to “Feel Better Anyway”.
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