Well, maybe not exactly bright green, but still, yes, it appears that Corporate China is more focused on improving its environmental performance than one might have thought. At least that's the conclusion of a new WWF report (PDF) -- Chinese companies in the 21st century -- which found that many of China's largest companies -- including China National Petroleum Corporation, Bank of Shanghai, China Telecom and China Mobile -- believe environmental standards are central to their business.
"The survey shows that a significant group of Chinese companies are more environmentally aware than they are often portrayed," said Peng Lei, WWF Trade and Investment Programme. ...
"As China emerges as one of the world's biggest economies, it has massive potential to become a leading world exporter and investor in sustainable goods," said Dennis Pamlin, at WWF's Trade and Investment Programme. "China could set the agenda as a global champion for sustainable business solutions."
22% of the companies polled say they are exceeding government-mandated environmental standards for "CO2 emissions, waste pollution and using energy efficient technologies" (though 39% said 'many' or 'very many' Chinese companies were breaking the law"). 85% said there is a need for stronger rules for "environmental reporting, transparency and monitoring."
This is all excellent news for China itself, which is mid-way through an environmental meltdown, a set of ecological problems which threaten to stop China's "miracle" in its tracks. It's potentially even better news for the planet as a whole. though, as the authors note, with understatement:
We should not underestimate either the challenges or the opportunities of rapid development in China. If China develops by even the most conservative estimates, by 2040 it will have around two and a half times the GDP of the US today. The consequences, assuming traditional means of industrialisation, are challenging.
China's been sending some strong environmental signals lately, especially the Green Olympics, but the gap between rhetoric and reality may be shrinking faster than I'd thought.
Both Lovins and McDonough see China as a place where their ideas can make a huge impact. Wouldn't it be great if every product that came out of China was either biodegradable or truly recyclable. Also, let's hope Lovins can talk them out of their commitment to nuclear power!