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Sustainability: Asian consumers increasingly aware of biodiversity

A majority of Asian consumers feel companies are morally obligated to positively impact biodiversity found the latest survey from the Union for Ethical Bio Trade (UEBT). Today, Asian consumers have higher awareness of biodiversity than consumers in UK, US or Germany.

Rik Kutsch Lojenga, UEBT's Executive Director

Rik Kutsch Lojenga, UEBT’s Executive Director

Asian consumers have a higher awareness of biodiversity than consumers in the UK, US or Germany. Actually, most Asian consumers have ‘heard of biodiversity,’ according to data published in the 2019 UEBT Biodiversity Barometer [1], an ongoing set of research that has spanned more than a decade and is updated annually.

This year’s edition focused on consumer insights from four countries in Asia: China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam. One major takeaway from the research has been that Asian consumer awareness of biodiversity has increased over the last decade.

In Asia, as in other countries, youth is the category with the highest level of awareness of biodiversity: 86% of young (16-24 year) Asian respondents are aware of biodiversity.

Strong expectations towards companies

Asian youth are also seeking concrete actions from companies, with most saying that they would like companies to inform them about “the concrete actions they take to ensure they respect biodiversity and people when they source the natural ingredients use.

More generally speaking, a majority of Asian consumers surveyed also have strong expectations towards companies. In Asia, as in the Western countries, a large majority of respondents believes that companies should have a positive impact on society, people and biodiversity. Consumer confidence that companies are having such impact is high in Vietnam (76%, up 16 points from 2014 on total agree) and China (74%). With 45% confidence rates, respondents in Japan and South Korea are more sceptical, somewhat in line with the findings in Western countries.

Actually, UEBT’s research found a gap in consumer confidence related to a company’s actions: in other words, consumers have higher awareness of biodiversity and think it’s important, but they have lower confidence that companies are protecting biodiversity. Almost a quarter of Japanese respondents (24%) said they don’t know if companies pay serious attention to biodiversity.

Transparency on ingredients

Among different kinds of information available on product packaging, respondents in Asia attach most importance to the origin of product ingredients. Additionally, they would like information on the impact on biodiversity (e.g. no deforestation, support for bees, wild flowers, replanting). As in Western countries, this is given more importance than the social impact (working conditions, health and safety of local workers), or the fair compensation of supply chain actors. In Brazil, respondents mentioned the impact on biodiversity as the most important issue.

We felt the time was right to dive deeper into consumers’ insights from Asia. In 2020, China will host the UN Summit on Biodiversity, which will define the global plan on biodiversity for the next decade. Chinese leadership in this major global event underscores the role that Asia has in protecting the world’s biodiversity. This also means there is an opportunity for business to take concrete action to position their brands in Asian markets as leaders in sourcing with respect for people and biodiversity,” said Rik Kutsch Lojenga, UEBT’s Executive Director.

V.G.

Footnotes

[1Commissioned by the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) an international non-profit organisation, the research was shared with company leaders at UEBT’s annual Beauty of Sourcing with Respect Conference held in Paris on 20th May 2019 for 300 executives from the personal care, natural pharmaceutical, specialty food sectors and ABS policymakers.

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