I have to admit that when I found out I would be teaching a one-day course on Natural and Organic Cosmetics in Shanghai I wondered whether any of the attendees would see the point. Find out more by listening to my podcast here:
On discussing natural.
The reality that the market towards all-natural products is growing globally was easy to digest – digest being the optimal word. Like many countries I travel to China loves its food – fresh, clean and (often squeamishly so for the western traveller) as lifelike a possible and as such the idea of having a relationship with your cosmetic ingredients list seemed logical. But while equating natural to wholesome, recognisable food made sense, first and foremost was the concern that products had to perform and be safe.
On discussing organic.
This proved a little more difficult to communicate in terms of benefit as while organic food and produce is available in China it is very much a niche and expensive option and not necessarily one that is producing the quality the Chinese consumer wants. However, it was clear that it would be foolish to write off the appreciation for organic here. Indeed there were clients present working in this field and many more that appreciated and valued the sentiment behind this philosophy. However, that the prospect of local sacrifice for global gain is quite possibly too far-fetched and in-direct for the average Chinese cosmetics purchaser to comprehend at this time. Especially without the pull of uncensored social media…….
I only got to spend one working week in China but I can safely say I am hooked. This is a country full of energy, passion, intelligence and ideas and we would be crazy not to engage with that. I wish my entrepreneurial friends the very best with their business ventures and look forwards to their continued success in working towards a clean, healthy and sustainable future.
PS: Since writing this I have been reading more about the history of China and more specifically the conditions and circumstances that have contributed to make China what it is today. An important starting point for me was Julia Lovell’s book ‘The Opium War’ and on from that ‘China into the Future’ by W John Hoffman and Michael Enright and ‘What does China Think’ by Mark Leonard. I realised pretty early on that I too had fallen for the old ‘China only cares for its self’ prejudice’ to a certain degree but after reading these books, meeting some real business owners (who invest with their own blood, sweat, tears and money) and feeling the energy of Shanghai I can safely say that the people at the coal face (no pun intended) are more than ready to do business.