Kerry staff dig deep to help grow a culture of environmental awareness
Hong Kong's businesses are renowned for many impressive qualities - their sharpness, competitiveness, extraordinary ability to turn an unpromising situation to their advantage and their innate sense to recognise and act upon an opportunity.
One quality they are not as universally recognised for is their concern for the environment. But quietly, behind the scenes, some of the territory's most successful companies are championing projects that make a positive contribution towards creating a greener Hong Kong.
Among these businesses is Kerry Properties, one of Hong Kong's leading property investment and development companies with a portfolio of assets in the territory and the mainland. Employees at the company take time off from their office schedules to get their hands dirty with a myriad of green projects around Hong Kong, applying the philosophy summed up in the proverb: 'Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.'
Some of the projects are small, while others are large and ambitious. All, however, lay the roots for a broadening environmental consciousness in the community that Kerry Properties sees as key to building a Hong Kong that is sustainable for future generations.
One of the most important projects that the company's employees are involved in is the planting and maintaining of 10,000 tree seedlings on a site in Tai Lam Country Park which was ravaged by a hill fire last November.
Kerry Properties was the first company to step forward and take up the challenge when an appeal for help with the reforestation effort was issued. Its employees not only cleared and prepared the site, but will nurture the saplings for the next three years.
Some of the staff - who are more used to shuffling through documents and sitting behind computer terminals - picked up spades and shovels and worked with Friends of the Earth to clear the ground and plant the saplings in April as the first step in the regreening of the country park.
It is through such 'tiny acorns' that Kerry Properties has over the past two years attempted to play a key part in expanding the environmental awareness of Hong Kong people - first through its employees, then through the friends and families of employees and thereby to the community at large. In 2005, the Kerry Group set up an environmental committee to organise and oversee green policies and activities, encouraging employees to get involved in environmentally related projects and incorporating initiatives into the company's day-to-day operations.
Making involvement in green initiatives part of the office routine rather than something for individuals to do in their own time in the evenings or on weekends has led to a remarkable blooming of green activities among staff from the top to the bottom.
The wholehearted way in which staff have embraced the initiative is reflected by the fact that during last year's Mai Po Walk for Nature organised by the WWF, a 135-strong team of staff and family members were named the Most Enthusiastic Team for being the biggest group in the event.
In the same year, the Kerry Group entered four teams with a total of 16 members in a 50km Green Power Hike, backed by a support team of staff providing food, water and first aid to their energetic colleagues.
The Kerry Group has also been a lively supporter of Green Day, an annual event aimed at raising environmental awareness in the community, and has taken advantage of the day to remind all employees to do their best to minimise unnecessary waste.
Kerry Properties has reached out to its customers and tenants as well as its own employees in its effort to foster stronger awareness of green issues in Hong Kong.
The company has been an active participant in the annual Used Books Recycling Campaign organised by World Vision Hong Kong, and has promoted the scheme to the tenants of all residential properties under its management.
As a business that relies heavily on technology and office hardware, Kerry Properties has tried to minimise the impact of its office operations on the environment by donating computer monitors, hardware and printers to the Hong Kong Caritas computer Recycling Project, which is sponsored by the Environmental Protection Department.
Kerry Properties believes just as no one person can save the planet, no one business can turn the tide on the growing crisis of environmental degradation that we face today.
But by planting tiny acorns, nurturing small saplings, and going out into the community to get its hands dirty by taking part in green projects, Kerry Properties is making a concerted effort to expand Hong Kong's environmental consciousness.
Green groups firmly believe that the more corporations that follow the commendable lead of companies like the Kerry Group, the bigger the difference Hong Kong's business community can make to one of the most critical issues facing mankind today.
Kerry Properties is part of the Kerry Group, the largest shareholder in SCMP Group, publisher of the South China Morning Post.