HK should hurry onboard to build sustainability in GBA

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The Greater Bay Area (GBA) initiative has been a constant topic for discussion on a wide variety of subjects – and almost all of them centre on how Hong Kong can contribute to the development of the GBA area and what roles it should play.

The EnviroSeries Conference, hosted by Business Environment Council (BEC) recently examined the theme “leveraging opportunities for Hong Kong in the transition towards sustainability”. Experts were brought together to explore how Hong Kong can help turn the GBA into a low-carbon economic hub that benefits the business.

Speakers took an optimistic tone that Hong Kong already has the potential to contribute and to lead – but would be left behind when the GBA development plans came together.

“We need to get a seat at the table,” emphasises Christine Loh, Chief Development Strategist at Division of Environment and Sustainability at HKUST, on multiple occasions during the event.

“There has been a lot of internal discussions in China already. We need to be part of the national discussion and play a role, push the GBA ahead and lead the national standards,” she says. “We should look at ourselves in a regional context. Guangdong can exceed national standards and be a leader in environment.”

She argues that sustainability is a megatrend nowadays. It matters to the government, the businesses and the ordinary people. While concerns lie on the quality of water, air and soil as well as wetland ecologies, Hong Kong should look at these areas in terms of national policies and plans.

“After all, it’s one country, one sky,” she said, adding that Robin’s Nest is an example where cross-border cooperation is needed. It is a hill lying on the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen with botanical importance.

Working in academia, Loh advises business in Hong Kong to practice “ecological civilization” – China’s long-term plan to improve its environment – through funding and sharing studies for added brainpower, as well as working with the authorities on transformation. But don’t wait, she warns.

Daniel Cheng, managing director of Dunwell Technology, also says the sustainability trend brings along plenty of new business opportunities, such as hydroponic farming and electric cars.

“Don’t sit and wait,” warns Cheng. “In China, changes are government-driven so they can come fast. The development of the GBA is a fast train and Hong Kong needs to get on it. Businesses need to look for new opportunities.”

Cheng also calls for common environmental policies across the GBA region, so businesses can align their practices.

Meanwhile, business in China is also coming to realise the importance of sustainable development, catching the wave of responsible global investing.

“By 2020, corporations in China will be required to do environmental, social and governance reporting,” says Hannah Routh, advisor of Hong Kong Green Finance Association, adding that green practices help create sustainable profits in the long term.

As Richard Lancaster, Chairman of BEC, says: “This is not only of importance for the social well-being of the people, but also for our economic resilience, helping us identify new business opportunities.”

(Printer – R&R Publishing Limited, Suite 705, 7/F, Cheong K. Building, 84-86 Des Voeux Road Central, HK)