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Powering Ahead With Range Of Initiatives

Group says it has significantly reduced emissions since 1990 and vows to continue with clean-energy strategy

May Chan – SCMP – Updated on Jul 23, 2008

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should stretch beyond out-of-pocket donations and voluntary work, according to big businesses in Hong Kong. They have strived to communicate new business ethics with employees, stakeholders and business partners.

The scope of CSR is drawn by the careful calculation between the capacity of the company, the resources at home and politics. For CLP Group, it has found itself at the centre of discussions on environmental issues, which have been gaining momentum over the past 10 years or so, according to its communication director Jane Lau Yuk-yin.

On the business side, the group has committed itself to improving efficiency and providing cleaner energy. The group generates power from a mix of nuclear, natural gas and coal.

From 1990 to last year, the total emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides and other pollutants from CLP’s power stations decreased by 74 per cent, 57 per cent and 76 per cent respectively, while total electricity demand increased by 82 per cent over the same period. Last year, it achieved its goal of producing more than 5 per cent of power from non-carbon emitting renewable sources – three years ahead of schedule. The group set a target to reduce its carbon emissions by 75 per cent by 2050.

“We have to be sensitive about changes in surroundings, and understand our own capacity in making commitments,” Ms Lau said, noting that the issues of environmental protection, sustainability and pollution have been gaining attention in Hong Kong.

“CSR is not a formula – it is not a set of tests to be passed. It is more of a value system, which manifests itself in every aspect of the company,” she said.

Staff members were briefed about the vision and mission of the group, Ms Lau said, while externally community wide educational projects were being undertaken throughout the year to communicate its message to the public. That includes initiatives such as tree-planting projects and its annual Young Power Programme to educate secondary school students in renewable energy.

Ms Lau said good CSR policies had given the group a good reputation and motivated it to enhance energy efficiency but, above all, it had cultivated a win-win mindset among young people.

“In the educational programme, young people get the chance to understand how energy relates to them, both in the ways it is produced and in the ways it is used,” she said.

“That helps them to be more responsible users and decision makers and, in some ways, also helps us to better understand what the market needs.” Another major corporation, NWS Holdings, on the other hand has been progressive in finding ways to implement CSR initiatives.

It started with donations and regular volunteer projects, but the concept has been developed into more sustainable forms, according to its assistant general manager of corporate communication Maria Cheung.

The company holds regular seminars on CSR policies, and it has set clear guidelines for its contractors.

In the bidding process, the contract does not necessarily go to the lowest-bid, as bidders are appraised on their responsibility towards the environment and to their staff.

NWS Holdings has also set up charity funds that sponsor community projects, and regular volunteer programmes that involve its different subsidiaries and all levels of staff.

Ms Cheung said CSR had actually improved the company’s image, which in turn eased communication on labour issues between frontline staff and the senior management. “It has sent a clear message to all that we are a caring company, and that helps build up trust,” she said.

“For example, in negotiations with our bus drivers, about their request for a wage increase, they were very understanding when we explained the pressures we faced, and an agreement was made peacefully.

“Some of the bus drivers have actually worked side by side with some of the senior management in volunteer projects … they have known each other in informal settings.”

According to Community Business, a non-profit organisation promoting CSR initiatives in Hong Kong, companies still need to deepen their understanding of the concept.

It said many companies still thought of CSR as community work, although it was encouraged to see an improvement in the business sector in their commitment to CSR initiatives over the past five years.

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