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WE Red Bridge Study: ESG Imperative for B2B Success in China

December 5, 2023

New WE Red Bridge Research Finds B2B Brands Must Act On ESG Now or Risk Losing Out In China

SHANGHAI – Dec. 6, 2023 – Today, WE Red Bridge, an award-winning communications consultancy, announced the findings of its latest Brands in Motion study, “ESG Means Business in China.” The research reveals the essential role in corporate reputation shaping that many B2B brands in China see for ESG (environmental, social and governance), with multiple applications, from generating awareness to converting sales.

“ESG is integral to China’s B2B landscape as companies strive for further growth,” said Nicky Wang, CEO, WE Red Bridge. “Our data is clear — ESG decisions are predominantly driven by business impact. Downstream customers are increasingly demanding clean and green supply chains in response to consumer expectations. The increased chatter about ESG globally presents significant opportunities for credible ESG narratives.”

Notable insights from the China report include:

  • Nearly all respondents (99%) say they will spend the same amount or more on communicating their sustainability initiatives this year compared to last. Further, half of respondents believe sustainability to be one of the top considerations influencing their customers’ purchase decisions in the long term — ranking it higher than any other factor.

  • Although environmental focuses such as low carbon and eco-development are the most popular areas for B2B enterprises’ ESG strategies, employee development is now the second-most important area of focus for the year ahead, with 57% saying employee-targeted initiatives are “essential” or “high priority” to their ESG strategies.

  • Larger corporations tend to see greater value in ESG initiatives than smaller companies do. Sixty percent of respondents working at companies with 5,000 employees or more are seeing the value of sustainability in terms of brand awareness as compared to 50% for those working in smaller companies; respondents at larger companies were also 8 percentage points more likely to say such programs assisted with customer inquiries or leads (53% vs. 45%).

Among other insights, WE Red Bridge identifies three strategies of marketing and communications to shape companies’ approach and support business growth in China:

An effective ESG strategy begins with its customers

Let the customer be your lodestar. The survey found that 40% of respondents say that customers are very important to consider when selecting ESG programs, while other stakeholders, such as government (31%), employees (25%) and the public (27%), were ranked lower.

Multinationals must balance domestic and international expectations

Multinational companies often face unique circumstances, with different expectations at home and abroad. One solution that companies should consider is tailoring communications assets and materials to different markets, emphasizing sustainability activations in China, while promoting other activations, such as employee-oriented ones, overseas.

How brands tell their sustainability story matters

Owned and paid channels are viewed as the most important way to communicate ESG stories, with social posts (43%) and short-form videos (41%) viewed as the most effective, and earned channels, such as feature articles (24%) and events (16%), viewed as being much less effective.

“As the expectations of many stakeholders change, businesses in China must swiftly communicate their ESG proposition for a first-mover advantage,” said Tony Zhang, Head of Corporate, WE Red Bridge. “Strong sustainability credentials not only meet demands but create opportunities for B2B players to differentiate and win business.”


WE Red Bridge surveyed 300 communicators and marketers operating in B2B industries in China to understand their attitudes toward sustainability and ESG communications.

“ESG Means Business in China ” is part of WE Communications’ Brands in Motion global research. Now in its seventh year, Brands in Motion has surveyed more than 114,000 consumers and business decision-makers about how perceptions shift over time.

WE Red Bridge is an award-winning consultancy that delivers growth for businesses in China. From our offices in Beijing and Shanghai, we combine holistic business understanding, agile planning, creative storytelling and digital know-how to help clients shape reputation and build high-value communities that achieve business growth in the world’s most dynamic market.

As a WE Communications company, our team’s expertise spans sectors and geography, making us local in focus and international in thinking. For 40 years, WE has built meaningful partnerships with clients and influencers, created work that connects with the audience’s head and heart, and moved people around the world to positive action. The company’s operations now span 20+ international offices, 1,300 employees and an ever-growing portfolio of global technology, health and consumer brands. Our work with global brands like Microsoft, Intel, McDonald’s, and Volvo has been recognized by Cannes Lions, PRovoke SABRE Awards and PRWeek Awards, just to name a few.

For more information, press only: BB Borri, WE, +86 13020209143, [email protected]