When it comes to protecting the environment, Friends of the Earth (HK) believes everyone should play a part, no matter how small. It came up with the Earth Partner programme in 2005 to encourage corporations to devote serious efforts to bringing about environmental changes. Since then, the programme has been launched annually on April 22 to coincide with Earth Day. Earth Partner has engaged the private sector in a variety of ways, mostly through education and activities to raise awareness while providing a platform for organisations to promote environmental awareness within their companies. One of the consistent aims is to offer opportunities for companies and employees to work together in practical ways to improve their living and working environments. The central theme of Earth Partner 2012-2013 is GREENABILITY 360?, which extends the programme to apply environmental awareness and low-carbon living to all aspects of life, says Janet Fok, development manager of FoE (HK). 'We have always focused on four areas - minimising air pollution, reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, waste management and waste reduction, and water conservation. This year, we want to broaden the programme and incorporate these concepts into our daily living activities,' Fok says. To help Earth Partners carry out their green actions, FoE (HK) has developed a list of 12 green deeds as practical guidelines for participants to follow. Participating companies are encouraged to support at least three green deeds throughout the 12-month period. According to Fok, the more green deeds that a company supports, the more chances it has to be selected as Superior Earth Partner of the Year - the highest honour for the company that has demonstrated a great deal of commitment and effort towards the Earth Partner programme. The green deeds include joining a Power Smart programme by participating in its 2012 Energy Saving Contest to reduce electricity consumption; supporting the recycling programme by stepping up waste recycling and reuse of resources; supporting the Order Less, Waste Less campaign to reduce food waste; supporting the Take a Brake 2012 campaign to implement corporate green driving; preventing electricity wastage on exterior lighting such as billboards and avoiding light nuisance to the public; implementing carbon assessment for offices and business events; and committing to water conservation and paper reduction. Earth Partnership is open to organisations of all sizes and sectors as long as they are committed to protecting the environment, Fok says. Each participating organisation will be named an Earth Partner after pledging to support the initiatives provided by FoE (HK). Since 2005, the programme has established partnerships with 151 organisations. Asked how to achieve the set targets, Fok says: 'Taking the first step is most important. I think a good rule of thumb is to just go ahead and do your best. 'With Power Smart, for example, participating companies have to reduce their electricity consumption by at least 2 per cent this summer compared with the same period in 2011. We can monitor this through data submissions and on-site visits. We don't monitor actions such as whether employees turn off their computers during lunch hour, because we believe if they join our programme they are genuinely interested in helping to protect the environment and therefore will follow our initiatives.' Fok says the group has had encouraging results over the years, with participants coming from a wide range of sectors. 'They include multinational corporations, small- and medium-sized enterprises, companies with leading roles in the banking, finance, insurance, telecommunications, transportation and property sectors. We also invited non-profit-making institutes, and private and public housing estates to take part.' Earth Partners from business sectors are required to make an annual contribution to help FoE (HK) develop programmes and activities to benefit the environment and social sectors. After becoming an Earth Partner, participants can enjoy a wide range of benefits such as eco-tours, educational workshops, meeting representatives of other Earth Partners, use of the Earth Partner icon and direct access to FoE (HK) for environmental advice.