The consulting firm Bain & Company has released the outcome of a new study conducted among 16,000 consumers in eleven countries across seven product categories. The interesting results: Most fast-growing Asia-Pacific markets have larger environmentally and socially conscious and health-conscious segments than mature markets like North America or Europe. The survey showed that 14 percent of consumers are environmentally and socially conscious in both Asia-Pacific and Europe, and more than the 8 percent in the U.S. The Bain experts explain the results with the concrete threat and impact of environmental issues like pollution, plastic waste or natural disasters like floods are a powerful personal trigger for sustainable purchases in countries like China, Thailand, India or Indonesia. The average pollution level (measured in fine particle matter) is significantly higher in India and China than in Australia, for example, and seven of the 15 countries with the highest mismanaged plastic pollution are fast-growing Asian markets.

However, Bain sees a big “say-do” gap, especially in the Asian markets, between the will and the action to buy more sustainable: When asked if they are willing to pay a premium for products that had a positive environmental impact or that were healthier, 90 percent responded in the affirmative. This gap is more of a challenge in fast-growth Asia-Pacific markets than in mature markets. For example, among consumers in China, 54 percent rank sustainability as a top-five key purchasing criterion, yet sustainable products comprise only 12 percent of the market share in packaged foods. In Vietnam, the gap is 41 percent to 3 percent. Consumer products executives even face this situation in mature markets such as Singapore, where the gap is 23 percent to 14 percent.