The Switch to Ethical Sustainability in China



Bethanie Ashton


Earlier this year during a climate change summit between leaders in Germany, France and China, the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China formalized its latest 14th Five-Year Plan in which the country has been vigorously promoting Green consumption. Governor Yi Gang of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) noted that China already owns the largest green finance market worldwide, based on a report by Forbes. In only 24 months, the Chinese millennial consumer has increased their attention to luxury and sustainability, which were for a long while, separate considerations.

Eco-friendly apps have been created for luxury clothing rental and while their pursuit is due largely to cost saving, there is an increasing popularity in extending product lifecycle. “MSParis has become the most popular Chinese platform for renting premium fashion,” explains Marie Tulloch, Senior Client Services Manager at Chinese marketing consultancy Emerging Communications. “While the use of such services is not driven by ethical concerns, some consumers do opt to use them for a combination of factors, including sustainability.”

Consumer research from Chinese fashion media found that 21 percent of shoppers don’t know where to find sustainable fashion, and another 19 percent “do not understand what

sustainability means.” While these results were gathered in 2019, this surely presents a ripe opportunity to educate and present eco-products in a Chinese-centered marketing foray.

Globally, the ethical fashion market was valued at $6.345.3m in 2019, estimated to grow 6.8% by 2023 to $8,246.1m. Due to a growing interest in the intersection of sustainability and ethics, this segment is expected to reach $15,173.7 billion by 2030, close to 250% growth pre-Coronavirus. Coincidently, Asia Pacific yielded the highest interest in the global ethical fashion market in 2019, accounting for 32.7% of its total.

Annachiara Biondi reported for Vogue Business, that while “sustainable issues are rising up the agenda for Chinese consumers, they have different priorities. They also don’t want to listen to lectures.” Jonathan Siboni of data intelligence Luxurynsight says broadly of Chinese consumers across all age groups, “Post-crisis, there is a reconsideration of the human relationship with nature and a push for a better model of coexistence with the environment where consumers want brands to take responsibility and real action.”

Transparency and human-connection are more effective in communicating brand sustainability values and authenticity. Christina Dean of Redress highlights the example of Kleeklee, a domestic brand that has opened the doors of its factories to consumers, inviting them to witness their denim dyeing processes, reportedly more energy-efficient than regular indigo dyeing. predicts of the latter part 2021, “revenge spending” as shopping-starved Chinese consumers did once quarantine lifted last spring. “From consumers to corporations, luxury industry players across the value chain will attach greater importance to sustainability. October’s Shanghai Fashion Week highlighted this trend via sustainable designs and the Green Carpet Fashion Awards (hosted by Eco Age), as well as sustainability-themed forums and reports.

Brands such as Prada and Gucci “have taken social responsibility of communicating this discourse to their customers, respectively introducing the Re-Nylon collection and new sustainable packaging in a shade of green — both resonating greatly with local consumers.”

Now, young people are experiencing a high level of anxiety and stress and will desire brands that represent a more laid-back message.” Faced with a highly competitive environment and a post-pandemic recession, Chinese millennials have joined in the conversation of millennial burnout (焦虑疲惫的千禧一代) and the search for a more minimalist and purposeful life.

While few ethical sustainable brands have ironed their Chinese strategy for an explosive late-2021 spending, there is a sea of opportunity for brands to transform their eco-footprint and eco-targeting methods over the next few years to capture a portion of the consistent, steady segment growth in China.

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-P1 China’s green financial market – 

-P3 and P4 –

-P5 Lack of sustainability knowledge –

-P5 Research stats – ResearchandMarkets published by BusinessWire –

-P6 VogueBusiness Quotes –

-P5 Jonathan Siboni – data intelligence stats – Luxurynsight

-P6 Christina Dean – Redress insights on Kleeklee activation – Redress

-P7 Market Expectations –


Faced with a highly competitive environment and a post-pandemic recession, Chinese millennials have joined in the conversation of millennial burnout (焦虑疲惫的千禧一代) and the search for a more minimalist and purposeful life.