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Emerging-market shoppers more willing to pay for ‘green’

ShoppingWhen it comes to caring about the environment, neither the UK nor many of its developed-nation counterparts can claim to be number one.

In fact, residents in emerging markets appear to be much more willing than those in developed countries to pay a 10-per cent premium for environmentally friendly products or services, according to a report from global insurer RSA.

RSA’s “Green Appetites” report surveyed people across nine global markets about their concerns and habits, finding that citizens in places like Chile, China and United Arab Emirates were more willing to dole out extra green for things that are green.

According to the RSA report, people in the UK said they were prepared to pay a 1- to 5-per cent “eco-premium,” a level of support also found in Western countries like Canada, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. In contrast, 45 per cent of Chinese respondents said they were willing to pay a 5- to 10-per cent  premium, with another 15 per cent ready to pay a premium of more than 10 per cent (30 per cent said they would be prepared to pay a premium of just 1 to 5 per cent.)

RSA found that China, followed by France and Canada, had the highest portion of consumers who believed that buying reusable shopping bags was the most important environmental issue by sector. In contrast, respondents in Chile, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates agreed that the white or brown goods sector was the most important sector. Sixty-five per cent of Swedish residents identified the food retail sector as their main concern.

The majority of European respondents said ethical or green clothing retail was the least important sector for the environment (France: 39 per cent, Germany: 37 per cent; UK: 36 per cent, Sweden: 27 per cent). Other markets identified the tourism sector as the least important sector (UAE: 71 per cent, Chile: 63 per cent, China: 61 per cent, Canada: 38 per cent, Denmark: 34 per cent).

Across all nine countries, respondents indicated they were most likely to buy energy-efficient electronic goods to minimise their impact on the environment (China: 84 per cent, Denmark: 77 per cent, Canada: 76 per cent, Germany: 75 per cent, UK: 74 per cent, UAE: 74 per cent, France: 72 per cent, Sweden: 68 per cent, Chile: 60 per cent).

Across most countries (Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Sweden, UAE and UK), respondents said they were least likely to choose eco-holidays — including not flying or carbon-offsetting travel — to minimise their impact on the environment. However, German respondents indicated that choosing financial services which reward ethical or green behaviour was their least likely action when trying to minimise their environmental impact. While there was a diverse response by global consumers to the role of financial services and improving environmental impact, emerging market countries responded more positively towards the sector’s efforts.

“RSA’s ‘Green Appetites’ report highlights consumers enduring interest in the environment despite the current downturn,” said Paul Pritchard, UK head of corporate responsibility at RSA. “It demonstrates very clearly that, while there subtle differences, these concerns are important to consumers across many countries.”

Pritchard added, “It was also fascinating to see the issue of reusables feature so prominently. While some commentators might want to focus attention on ‘big’ issues such as energy or transport, it’s clear that campaigns with clear well explained goals, allowing consumers to get  involved, can be engaging and successful. The challenge for forward-looking business such as RSA is to try and help customers meet these aspirations in ways that can maintain or even improve product quality and service standards.”

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