All In A Day's Work: Can-do spirit prevails
Samuel Kwong Tin-sang, group manager, environment, health and safety, Swire Beverages
I joined Swire Beverages in 2005, and I have an assistant to help me in my environment, health and safety duties. We focus on strategic planning and management and leave the in-house environmental specialists at each plant to look after the daily nitty-gritty. This is why I am not based at our Hong Kong plant in Sha Tin, although I do regularly visit the environment team there.
Before joining Swire Beverages, I worked for a consultancy firm and a public transport operator. I have a degree in civil engineering and a higher degree in environmental protection.
My company has 13 plants in Hong Kong, the mainland, Taiwan and the United States. At the head office in Hong Kong, we are responsible for setting group-wide environmental policy and strategy and overseeing the environmental performance of all our operations.
Given my present role in planning and management, much of my time is spent on communicating with my plant-based colleagues locally and overseas, and discussing their environmental performance, needs and concerns.
We have a common environmental management system at all our plants to help maintain consistent performance. We devised the system at the head office. As our plants are bound by different local regulatory standards, this common system must meet all these different standards.
The ISO 14000 and OHSAS 18000 certification are the most widely adopted standards worldwide. We don't just comply; we pitch our system above these and other relevant standards to help drive environmental protection where we operate.
I must keep abreast of the environments at our plants. I visit each plant at least once a year. On top of these visits, I also attend international conferences each year to update my knowledge and make new contacts. And I go to four overseas regions a year to see what others are doing. This adds up to travelling at least twice a month, which can be exhausting.
When I am not travelling, I spend most of my time monitoring our operations, reviewing our environmental policy and planning new strategies and implementation programmes. As a representative of Swire Beverages, I also attend meetings among different environment committees and taskforces under the mother group. This helps me catch up with colleagues in other groups and make sure we are up on the latest environmental thinking.
Although different companies in the group have different priorities, we all share our knowledge and thoughts, and this is useful and inspiring. We also have regular benchmarking with overseas counterparts to review our performance.
One of my priorities at the company is to try to reduce our consumption of water, power and raw materials. We are quite good at recycling production waste, but post-consumption waste, a bigger issue, is beyond our sphere of control. Nevertheless, we organise community education initiatives to help governments tackle this problem.
We are committed to repaying our local communities, so our plants organise their own local initiatives. I need to keep tabs on the major ones. For example, we support a project to supply clean water to a village in Huizhou, where we have a plant.
The primary objective of environmental planning and management is to do the most with the least resources. This may sound idealistic, but it is possible. If done well, we may even reap extra returns. Unlike what most people think, environmental measures can also make good business sense.
My job is more about communicating with different people and resolving problems that affect them than it is about technical issues. I must know what's happening around us and what other people think about environmental matters. I enjoy making contacts and networking.
I can't pretend to enjoy my frequent trips that much, but it is always satisfying to see the environmental projects at our different plants work according to plan and environmental awareness grow.