Chinese consumers are among the most environmentally conscious in the world, new research has revealed, but are unwilling to pay more for "greener" products.

The study, conducted by market research group GfK in 23 countries, found that 72% of Chinese consumers claim they only buy products which match their values, beliefs and ideals. This surpasses those in most developed countries in the intensity of their expressed emotion.

Around 70% say they are plagued by guilt when they "indulge in an environmentally unfriendly manner." Their expectations of brands and companies is even more exacting, with 80% wanting brands and companies to be environmentally responsible.

There is, however, no evidence of consumers paying more for an environmentally friendly product, as they would for a safe product such as infant milk formula.

"What do marketers and policy makers need to bridge this gap between espoused values and actual behaviour?" said Ashok Sethi, managing director of GfK consumer experiences in China. "The key to achieving this is to link the desired positive behaviour to a clear consumer benefit. Consumers seldom pay to assuage their conscience, but invariably do when they see a clear and meaningful benefit. Less pollution and safer environment are clear candidate benefits that can be dangled in front of the consumers.

He added that Chinese consumers will pay a premium if they believe it will create "a better and safer world for their children tomorrow".

"The key to a more desirable behaviour and premium for environmentally friendly products lies in converting the guilty consumer conscience into a powerful emotional benefit that Chinese consumers can identify with," he said.