Green group works to spark collaboration between policymakers and sustainability innovators

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Despite the seemingly bleak trajectory of climate change, SUSTAINHK co-founder Vince Siu has reasons to be optimistic for the future. 

It may be hard to believe that someone who works in the field of sustainability and climate change could be optimistic for the future; yet Vince Siu, the co-founder of SUSTAINHK, is.

SUSTAINHK is a volunteer-run project founded two and a half years ago that works to bring climate experts and policymakers together to shape HK towards a greener future. It is one of the three social impact initiatives of the Hong Kong hub of the Global Shapers Community, which is a youth initiative of the international multi-lateral think tank, the World Economic Forum.

“The key thing that we do is facilitate different types of exchanges and dialogue and forums on climate science awareness as well as best practice sharing between private and corporate sectors,” Siu explains during his podcast appearance with Harbour Times.

Siu and the rest of the team at SUSTAINHK hope to extend their efforts beyond talks and panel discussions by organising collaborative workshops that involve not just the experts, but also public officials who are the key to making top-down changes in environmental policy. 

“We will need decision-makers and policymakers to be present in those forums and workshops just so we have that endorsement or visibility through all stages of the process.”

Siu comes from a background in corporate consultancy, and while he does not identify as an environmental expert, he was keen to apply the problem-solving experience he has from consulting to foster discussions around issues that Hong Kong does not give enough attention to. In his opinion, Hong Kong does not have a strong history of creating discourse around climate change and thus the topic has not been prioritised.

“I think we’re all very spoiled in the sense that a lot of things work really efficiently for us so we don’t see the negative impacts of waste, for example, a lot of us don’t live near a landfill … [L]ike the fact that we’re running out of landfill space in Hong Kong – that doesn’t register on our radars and … we don’t encounter these things because the entire system underneath is quite efficient and all of that is taken out of our consciousness.”

Now that businesses are discovering that COVID has forced them to think about wider social impacts, then they also start to wrap in sustainability as part of the conversation too.

vince siu, co-founder of sustainhk

Siu emphasises the need to expose Hongkongers to different types of waste practices and raising general awareness on the matter to bring the public out of its complacency.

“The current state of the linear economy is not sustainable going forward, so we really need to have a new way of approaching different issues and problems and helping different stakeholders within the entire economy and within different industries.” 

When asked about start-ups that are creating green opportunities and engaging with awareness-raising in its community, he gave a shoutout to Ampd Energy, which has deployed a non-diesel powered battery that is a carbon-free alternative for construction sites.

“There are a lot of good success stories and nice coalitions that are being formed right now… Now that businesses are discovering that COVID has forced them to think about wider social impacts, then they also start to wrap in sustainability as part of the conversation too … so I’m slightly optimistic.”

Since Siu’s conversation with HT, the HK government announced its commitment to hit carbon neutrality by 2050. Perhaps, even in 2020, he is right to remain optimistic after all.

To hear more about SUSTAINHK and the other initiatives driving Hong Kong’s sustainability movement, listen to the latest episode of Spyglass: A Closer Look at Hong Kong.

This article has been edited for factual accuracy.

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