CCRcorp Sites  

The CCRcorp Network unlocks access to a world of insights, research, guides and information in a range of specialty areas.

Our Sites


A basis for research and practical guidance focusing on federal securities laws, compliance & corporate governance.


An educational service that provides practical guidance on legal issues involving public and private mergers & acquisitions, joint ventures, private equity – and much more.


The “one stop” resource for information about responsible executive compensation practices & disclosure.

Widely recognized as the premier online research platform providing practical guidance on issues involving Section 16 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and all of its related rules.


Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

China’s economic growth created one of the top two or three largest consumer markets in the world. That isn’t really news, but Western companies selling their products in China may need to look at their ESG communications and messaging through the lens of China consumers. I ran across this interesting article pointing out that China consumers apparently take a dim view of Western ESG messaging.

The first thing that may come to mind is how some companies emphasize manufacturing outside of China either because of potential negative associations with supply chain human rights issues, or as a way to reduce product transportation carbon emissions. Those points obviously are not likely to resonate well for Chinese buyers.

But the article points out something I had not considered:

“When reaching China’s young, climate-conscious customers, luxury and fashion must not fall into the trap of ‘educating’ them from a condescending, Western-centric point of view…

Despite sustainability being one of luxury and fashion’s most-hyped marketing concepts today, brand-led engagement efforts in China have been few and superficial, with brands often translating a global marketing brief in Chinese without applying any local context. As a result, few have succeeded in creating messages that resonate with China’s sustainability audience…

On September 12, Everlane, the sustainable American label par excellence, announced its China exit by closing its Tmall flagship store. Although its reasons for exiting are complex, the brand’s sustainability communication problem played a relevant role…

Adding to the slow growth of sustainability movements in China is the state media’s increasingly open criticism of Western-centric greenwashing. Earlier this month, much official media coverage of the COP26 summit accused wealthy Western nations of having no ‘moral right’ to force developing countries to reduce pollution output, stating that these sustainability talks were an empty marketing stunt. For instance, Greta Thunberg, the poster child of global youth climate activism, has long been seen as a negative figure (a privileged ingénue) on Chinese social media. Netizens refer to her as ‘the Environmentalist Princess’ suggesting that the native of Sweden has a condescending tone regarding the topic.”

Maybe the concepts of sustainability and ESG are global, but they need to reflect local/regional sensibilities.

What This Means

The article offers ideas for Western companies to overcome potential ESG communications obstacles:

  • Resist the temptation to impress Chinese audiences with approaches, concepts and language used in Western markets. Many terms and claims from “common sustainable marketing playbooks are inherently Western-centric.”
  • Carefully consider the context of sustainability certifications. Some “contain political connotations that could irritate China’s growingly nationalistic consumer public”, such as the Better Cotton Initiative which is anti-Xinjiang-grown cotton.
  • “Amidst China’s hypercompetitive market, sustainability messaging is only a part of what will ultimately make a brand stand out… Brands need to combine sustainability messaging with quality aesthetics, competitive prices, and impeccable service to beat the cutthroat competition because sustainability won’t work alone.”

While China is the focus of this piece, the challenges apply to other countries and regions. Understanding the cultural setting of ESG – and adapting corporate programs, actions and messaging – is critical to success anywhere on the planet.

Back to all blogs

The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile