My column last week produced some interesting reactions among readers, and I wanted to follow up before leaving the subject. (See: China, Emerging Markets Ready to Pay More for Green Products.)
As reported then, a DHL study of 1,002 respondents found that Asians were 30 percent more likely than North Americans to pay higher prices for environmentally shipped goods. But readers wondered — and DHL left out — why Asian consumers, and DHL, were suddenly so virtuous. Were the respondents being honest, and was DHL greenwashing?
There's more evidence surfacing to flesh out the story. As DHL was announcing its consumer study, Australia’s Reputex, a consulting firm specializing in carbon emissions risk, released similar research on the corporate side of the matter. In a look at 300 Asia/Pacific corporations, conducted along with Standard and Poor’s Australia desk, the consulting firm claimed to have found Asian companies running cleaner than competitors. “Potential for carbon 'leakage' appears much lower than in other regions,” Reputex claimed, adding that “only 5% of respondents in Asia Pacific would consider relocating production facilities to an unregulated market, versus 17% of companies in Europe.”
“The results of the survey,” concluded Standard and Poor’s, “indicate that respondents view the incremental cost of creating a solid carbon-management strategy as trivial in comparison to its potential value in acquiring competitive advantage.”
If true, the Reputex/S&P claim would reveal greening in Asian corporate spending that DHL could identify but couldn’t really demonstrate in consumer spending. The Australian study also ties the increased corporate attention directly to supply chain concerns. When corporations in Asia looked to manage costs for environmental improvement, according to Reputex, they saw that “supply chain (63%) and electricity-related cost increases (34%) together combine for 97% of all carbon liabilities.”
Keep in mind that the Reputex survey only included companies listed on the S&P. So unlike DHL’s consumer study, we can probably throw out public spiritedness as a primary motivation for respondents to swallow increased costs. DHL’s consumers might make good on their promise to researchers, and pay more for their shipping to save trees. Publicly held Asian companies, facing quarterly earnings reports, are presumably less sanguine about the millions needed to reorganize and retool for cleaner operations. The shippers also appear willing to spend more in the long term, it appears. But they'll do so, the new research suggests, to save the other kind of green.
A summary of the Reputex report is here. It identified corporate concern with carbon cost risks to be highest, among Asian countries, in Malaysia, India, and Japan.