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Firms can make green rules more than just slogans, says Sarah Liao

Polly Hui

Environment chief Sarah Liao Sau-tung has urged Hong Kong businesses to heed international environmental benchmarks such as the 'green' principles imposed by the World Bank on projects they finance.

The secretary for environment, transport and works expressed her support on a radio show yesterday for the Equator Principles drawn up by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group which was set up to promote sustainable private-sector investment in developing countries. The principles, in place since 2003, are intended to ensure the agency lends only to projects that adopt socially and environmentally responsible practices.

'There is no boundary to air pollution,' said Dr Liao, who stressed the problem should not only be dealt with within Hong Kong or in collaboration with the Pearl River Delta, but also on a global level.

'Globalisation should not only be seen from the business point of view. When you buy a product, you do not only appreciate the improvement it has brought to your material life, but the price the environment has to pay as a result of that,' she said. 'The principles are not merely slogans. There is a handbook with concrete guidelines for businesses to follow.'

Dr Liao said the HSBC Group was among more than 40 of the world's largest lending institutions to have voluntarily endorsed the principles.

Her spokeswoman, Pauline Ling Lo Po-lin, said the government hoped other banks and business groups in Hong Kong would consider similar initiatives.


'Overseas investors and businessmen always said they would leave Hong Kong if the government could not tackle the pollution,' she said. 'But we want them to understand that they also have to play a role in saving our environment.'

Chan Wai-kwan, senior director of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, said the Equator Principles were worth considering. But he said Hong Kong needed to first build up its capacity in green business practices, and warned against adopting a regulatory approach. He said the chamber would conduct a pilot scheme in three local factories to draw up a list of environmental friendly guidelines in the next three months.