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Young people in China prefer brands that reduce carbon emissions

Concerns about the environment are higher in Asia than in the west.

In a study of 2,500 young adults aged between 18 and 25 across five continents, commissioned by the Carbon Trust and conducted by TNS, 83 per cent of those surveyed in China said they would be more loyal to a brand if they could see it was reducing its carbon footprint, compared to 73 per cent in South Korea, 55 per cent in the UK and 57 per cent in the US.

Sixty per cent of young adults in China who participated in the research said that they would stop buying a product if its producer refused to commit to measuring and reducing its carbon footprint. In Brazil, 57 per cent said they would do the same; in Korea, the figure was 53 per cent; it was 35 per cent in the US and 36 per cent in the UK.

Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said:

These new findings are startling. Sixty per cent of young adults questioned in China would stop buying a product if its manufacturer refused to commit to measuring and reducing its carbon footprint, compared to just 35 per cent of those in the US.

Perhaps it is the Chinese, and not the US consumer, that really holds the key to unlocking the mass demand for new low-carbon products necessary to deliver an environmentally sustainable economy. If global brands don’t build international carbon reduction strategies even faster, they risk missing out on the spending power of emerging economies.

Eighty-one per cent of those questioned in Brazil said that companies should be obliged to provide proof of their policy to reduce their carbon footprint, higher than any other nation; 68 per cent of those surveyed worldwide want to see companies’ carbon impact quantified by an independent organisation. This is highest in China at 84 per cent and lowest in the US at 55 per cent.

Across all the markets, a third of young consumers (33 per cent) on average say that they are prepared to buy a more expensive product if it has a lower carbon footprint.

When asked which products and categories could do the most to reduce their carbon footprint, 68 per cent of young consumers cited consumer electronics companies, followed by consumer health-care brands (50 per cent), clothes manufacturers and retailers (50 per cent), and food manufacturers and retailers (48 per cent).

Through its carbon-reduction and footprinting services, Carbon Trust customers around the world have put £3.7bn on their bottom line and cut their carbon emissions by 38 million tonnes.

Delay added:

Carbon footprinting makes perfect business sense. We are increasingly advising businesses overseas, and international brands, on their carbon-reduction strategies, as the financial and reputational benefits of lowering emissions go global.

The research, conducted between 24 February and 6 March 2012, found that across the six markets, 78 per cent want their favourite brands to help reduce their carbon footprint; 70 per cent would be more loyal to a brand if they could see it was reducing its carbon footprint.

Meanwhile, 46 per cent would find carbon footprinting on packaging useful and it would influence their purchasing decisions; 33 per cent would buy a more expensive product if it had a lower carbon footprint; 29 per cent want to reduce their carbon footprint but are confused about how to go about it; 28 per cent are trying to reduce their carbon footprint but feel they could do more and 21 per cent feel they are doing their bit to reduce their carbon footprint.

Young adults believe consumer electronics (68 per cent), consumer health-care brands (50 per cent), clothes manufacturers and retailers (50 per cent) and food manufacturers and retailers (48 per cent) have the greatest responsibility to reduce their carbon footprints.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.