A third of firms fail to adopt green initiatives

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2007, 12:00am

Lack of incentives in pollution fight, AmCham survey finds

Almost one-third of businesses in Hong Kong have no environmental initiatives in place despite the city's widely publicised pollution problems, an American Chamber of Commerce-sponsored study on corporate social responsibility has found.

It also found that unclear government expectations and a lack of incentives are holding back greater corporate involvement in social and community development.

Of the 139 companies that took part in the survey, 31 per cent said they were not involved in any local environmental initiatives. However, 47 per cent of US companies surveyed actively support local projects compared with 37 per cent for Hong Kong businesses.

Significantly, 24 per cent of Hong Kong businesses have made green investments, more than double the 11 per cent recorded for US companies.

The survey found companies were much more likely to be involved in philanthropy and supporting social initiatives than getting involved in direct environmental action.

US companies accounted for 57 per cent of the respondents while Hong Kong businesses made up almost 33 per cent.

The chamber's president, Jack Maisano, said stringent environmental and other regulations in the United States, as well as high expectations on the part of customers and employees, 'have sensitised American companies to the need for higher levels of social awareness'.

In Hong Kong, much of the focus of corporate social responsibility was on protecting the environment and improving worsening air pollution. Bus operators regularly publicise their investment in the latest environmentally friendly engines, power companies are exploring the use of cleaner fuels, and businesses have measures to reduce electricity consumption and promote recycling.

The corporate social responsibility movement is also increasingly fashionable, meaning more companies around the world, and not just big multinationals, are seeing the value of adopting business practices that are considered ethical and responsible to the communities in which they operate.

But a lack of resources, incentives and government action are discouraging many businesses from becoming more socially responsible, the survey found. Respondents pointed to a lack of resources as the 'prime deterrent' to adopting the activities.

'The lack of incentives and legal requirements highlights the government's role in hindering respondents' corporate social responsibility engagement,' it found.

'This signals an opportunity for the government to foster corporate social responsibility in Hong Kong by setting social and environmental standards and by applying carrots and sticks.

'Failing to provide incentives or clarity on expectations significantly hinders the adoption of corporate social responsibility practices.'

The study was conducted by Catherine Walter, a University of Hong Kong graduate student.

Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation-certified business counsellor Spencer Ma Wai-pong said many companies wanted to exercise corporate social responsibility but simply could not afford to do so.

Government initiatives, such as tax incentives, rather than legislation were needed to promote greater corporate social responsibility, he said.