Given that our membership is global and that our mission is positive change, it ends up taking us to a lot of different places, including China.
The Consumer Goods Forum association gains a foothold in China after years of member-driven work.
For the last seven years, the Consumer Goods Forum has played a critical role in promoting food safety in China, but until recently, the trade association did not have a foothold inside the country.
CGF is a global organization focused on helping its members—consumer, retail, and manufacturing brands like L’Oréal, Costco, and Shell International—to collaborate on environmental and sustainability efforts.
“Given that our membership is global and that our mission is positive change, it ends up taking us to a lot of different places, including China,” says CGF Managing Director Peter Freedman. “Right now, there’s an awful lot happening there, which means it’s the right time to enter.”
In January, CGF opened a Shanghai office. The move was partially prompted by member companies, many of which do business in China. At the same time, President Xi Jinping, in his report to the 19th Party Congress, identified sustainable development as a critical issue for the country, making the political climate a good fit with CGF’s mission.
On the other hand, China has set up more roadblocks to nongovernmental organizations, including associations, establishing a presence there. Its new Foreign NGO Law, which went into effect last year, requires organizations to register with Chinese authorities, submit to a review of their operations, and get the support of a Chinese sponsor. CGF worked with a government food safety agency for years before it obtained its official sponsorship approval.
“Nothing is ever easy,” Freedman says. “What we learned is that you really can’t do anything in China without the support of your members as well as the government.” From day one, CGF’s key message has been to promote “better lives through better business in China.”
Now with Chinese staff on the ground, CGF can lead on sustainability policies like those addressing food waste, zero-net deforestation, plastic waste, and refrigeration. The team will also focus on developing events and roadshows.
“We hope to engage regionally across the country with our events,” Freedman says. “And going forward, we want to host larger events that bring people together across our whole agenda.”