Typically known as “Factory of the World”, low wages, unkempt working conditions, ethical brands tend to stay clear of the label “Made in China” that many sustainability conscious consumers tend to associate with unfair trade and inferior quality production. However, things are improving in the emerging markets. More and more ethical brands are breaking the stigma and choose to responsibly produce in China, seeking out skilled craftsmen to serve a global market and providing ethical jobs to factory workers.
Growing affluence in China, the power of E-commerce and the export of Chinese goods have contributed to China’s meteoric ascension to a global power house. Chinese millenials’ growing interests in green and ethical products are also driving the demand for sustainable fashion production in China, third party verification and validation, etc.
Growing affluence and purchasing power
With the rapid rise of upper-middle class, affluent households have driven the consumption growth at a skyrocketed speed. According to Boston Consulting Group, China’s consumer economy is estimated to grow to $6.5 trillion USD by 2020, almost 50% in only 5 years. Compared to older Chinese, the Chinese millenials are better educated, more conscious on brand choices and are willing to spend more. The purchasing trends of Chinese millenials tend to focus more on sophisticated choices.
* Premium products (real estate, cars)
* Lifestyle products (fashion, jewelry)
* Healthy food
A survey by National Geographic, conducted consistently for five times from 2008 to 2014, has ranked Chinese and Indian consumers at the top in their sustainability behavior.
Rising of E-commerce
According to Boston Consulting Group, online transactions have nearly tripled since 2010. The younger more brand conscious millenials are looking abroad for a better product options. The drastically rising of E-commerce in China has opened new opportunities for global suppliers to increase Chinese access to their products. On Singles Day 2018, Alibaba set new records with $30.8 billion in sales within 24 hours.
Like American and European consumers, Chinese buyers are pushing for proofs concerning the authenticity of the products regardless whether they’re local brands or imported from abroad.
The export of Chinese products
China’s still the default factory of the world and the annual export volume remains unparalleled. According to China Daily, in 2018 China’s foreign trade volume set a new record of 30.51 trillion yuan, a 9.7% increase of last year, Meanwhile, there have been lots of heaps and downs along the way. As reported by Washington Post, workers in the factory producing for Ivanka Trump’s clothing line have been severely exploited, getting paid below China’s minimum wages yet working for nearly 60 hours per week. Other factors related to product quality, product contaminants, better welfare of workers and environmental pollution have surfaced. There’s an increasing demand from both Chinese and overseas consumers for green products that are responsibly made in China.
The springing up of third-party certifications
To code with the changes, an increasing number of ethical Chinese manufacturers are improving their operations to seek for third-party validation and certification, demonstrating their conformance with selected standards. For example, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a global alliance of fashion brands supporting ethical clothes manufacturing, has invested US $1 billion annually in China for social compliance audits. Its Higg Index, consisting of a set of assessing tools, is dedicated to helping manufacturers and brands make the right decisions about supply chain, product design and overall sustainability performance.