Biodiversity awareness blooming in Asia: Consumer awareness higher than UK, US or Germany, says new report

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Asian consumer awareness of biodiversity has increased over the last decade and they now expect companies to have morals in line with their own ©Getty Images
Asian consumer awareness of biodiversity has increased over the last decade and they now expect companies to have morals in line with their own ©Getty Images
A new report revealed that Asian consumer awareness of biodiversity has increased over the last decade and they now expect companies to have morals in line with their own – a development that could have profound implications for cosmetics and personal care firms.

“We see consumer awareness rising every year, including in Asia,” ​said Dr Cristiana Paşca Palmer, executive secretary of the UN convention on biological diversity.

“Businesses must embrace conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in response to consumer expectations on biodiversity, and assure a liveable future for all.”

More awareness than the West?

The findings were published in 2019 UEBT Biodiversity Barometer, an annual report by the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT).

This year’s edition focused on consumer insights from four countries in Asia: China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

The report highlighted the Asian consumers’ increasing awareness of biodiversity has now surpassed consumers in the UK, US or Germany.

Among them, those aged 16 to 24 years were ‘best-informed’ about diversity, stated the report.

These younger consumers reported that buying products that were aligned with protecting and respecting the planets made them feel good.

This was particularly true for China, where a majority of younger consumers said they experienced this ‘feel-good’ factor.

Aligning morals with consumers

Asian consumers’ desire to protect the planet’s people and biodiversity also affect their support for companies and brands.

Asian youth especially are expecting companies to take more concrete actions and would like to be informed on its efforts to respect biodiversity, for instance, when it sources for natural ingredients.

Like consumers in Western countries, Asians are not very confident about the commitment brands and companies have towards biodiversity.

While some countries like Vietnam reported high confidence in companies, confidence rates were only 45% in Japan and South Korea.

 Almost of quarter of Japanese consumers said they did not know if companies paid ‘serious’ attention to 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.

Palmer added: “[The report] continues to encourage businesses to seize the opportunities offered by growing consumer awareness of biodiversity, including increasingly in Asian markets.”

Last year, Swiss speciality chemical company Clariant, partnered​ with Indonesian cosmetics manufacturer Martina Berto last year to expand its portfolio of natural ingredients from the region.

Sergio Manzano, business development manager naturals, Clariant, told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​ that Martina Berto’s eco-responsibility was the ‘key factor’ in deciding to partner with them.

Cargill Beauty, is another company that is placing emphasis on sustainability programmes​ it believes they are becoming increasingly important and meaningful for the end-consumer.

The company’s Red Seaweed Promise is a sustainability program which addresses sustainability challenges of harvesting and cultivation of red seaweed.

In February, Cargill Beauty sponsored Personal Care and Homecare Ingredients 2019 (PCHi 2019) Sustainability Forum.

Chellan Huang, marketing manager of Cargill Beauty APAC believes that the topic of sustainability resonates well with Chinese consumers because of their strong belief in herbal treatments and natural ingredients.

Right time for Asia

The Biodiversity Barometer is an ongoing research project that has been updated annually for more than a decade.

The report has interviewed more than 68,000 consumers over 11 years, asking what they know and understand about biodiversity, and what they expect from brands.

Lojenga said the time was right to put Asian under the microscope for this year’s report.

He said: “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.”

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