The consultation phase of the World Benchmarking Alliance is taking our team around the globe both physically and virtually. With the regional and global roundtables, and the recent launch of our online consultation surveys, the WBA is establishing a truly global presence. Each conversation brings new learning opportunities: from the complexities in language and cultural distinctions to the variations in how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are perceived and experienced in different parts of the world.

We would like to introduce you to Bei Wang, a media and communication strategist, who is helping us to build Chinese participation in our #futurevote survey titled ‘How would you change the world?’. Bei has many insights on the relevancy and impact the WBA can have in China.

Could you talk about the relevance of the WBA in China?

The private sector in China is developing at unprecedented speeds. The might of tech organisations, new-energy companies and e-commerce within the market is being felt regionally and globally. China is moving away from traditional manufacturing towards consumption, so the WBA’s social survey has come at a time when people’s buying power is beginning to emerge as a powerful element for influencing sustainable change. The market is a vivid part of everyday life for people in China. The actions of consumers represent a crucial voice within market change, and they are, to some extent, supervising the behaviours of companies. I feel there is a real element of reciprocity in this case, and I consider benchmarking to be a powerful tool in building this interaction into more concrete strategies for sustainable change.

What are your thoughts on the relevance of the WBA for the individual?

Sustainability is central to many conversations taking place right now in the country, and whilst benchmarking is establishing itself as a key strategy for increased SDG activity, the survey really reflects the importance of engaging with individuals. The questions are personal, but the agenda is global. The smartphone is central to the majority of social and economic interactions in China, and with 93% of survey submissions being completed through mobiles, it very much feels like the individual has the world in their hand. It feels great to see the survey capturing the diversity of individual SDG opinions, and I am excited to see how the outcome will interact with all the other consultation lessons and insights.

 How has the survey been received so far?

The survey is culturally comprehensive in its modern and eye-catching design. Life can indeed feel very fast in China and the simplicity of the survey – three questions in two minutes, on average – articulates a sense of momentum; a moving forward towards an ambition. We spent some time deciding on the look and feel of the survey’s visual attributes for sharing on social media platforms, and the team quickly saw a difference in attitude towards images that represent sustainability. We created a campaign that looks forward without emphasising merely the problem. Every day in China, people are seeing the impacts of globalisation and climate change: in the waste dumping sites, water/air pollution and overpopulation of urban areas. Images that highlight the counteraction to these issues, the potential opportunities for our global future, help to generate a sense of action; of fighting-back. It generates a shared ambition of working, together, towards all of the Global Goals.

 

Why did you get on board with the WBA?

Building cross-cultural collaboration and social engagement around sustainable development is something that drives me both professionally and personally. It combines my expertise in public and private sector engagement and relates to my ambition of integrating sustainability into all walks of life. I am assisting in the localisation of content, the dissemination of the survey and the generation of public knowledge about the WBA. It’s a dynamic and exciting role. The organisation’s multi-sectoral approach feels very modern to me and the focus on the private sector is incredibly relevant in China.

Our work with Bei Wang has highlighted the truly global character of the SDGs, whether it be in differing regional attitudes towards particular goals or in the alternative approaches in engagement and communication style. The #futurevote survey, now in four languages, will eventually be collated to create a global database of SDG perceptions, thus providing a social backbone to the alliance and the benchmarks.