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Caring Company Scheme 2023/24: Research Findings Release
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Focus issue

SMEs and the Implementation of Sustainability

Date of issue: 2024-05-21

"Sustainability" and "Environmental, Social, and Governance" (ESG) have become crucial terms in business operations. These concepts are not only applicable to large companies but also require participation from small and medium enterprises (SMEs), social enterprises (SEs), and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). By implementing ESG policies and establishing sustainable business models, SMEs can enhance their competitiveness. While large companies possess more resources and social influence, SMEs play an important role in sustainable development. Through their contributions in the economic, social, and environmental aspects, the entire society can be driven toward achieving sustainability goals.

To facilitate the realisation of sustainable development goals by more SMEs, SEs, and NGOs, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) collaborated with the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong (WWF) last year to launch the "Sustainable Living" ESG Realisation Campaign (the Campaign). Professional support was provided to those companies and organisations that were either new to environmental management and protection practices or wished to further integrate them into daily operations.

After six months of effort, a total of 12 companies successfully completed their realisation projects in November 2023. Representatives from these companies shared their practical experiences during the result sharing and new cohort briefing session of the Campaign, held on 13 March 2024. They mentioned that, despite encountering various challenges in developing environmental protection measures, they observed significant behavioural changes among colleagues after utilising the toolkit provided by WWF to implement new measures from a behavioural change perspective. These changes included developing recycling habits, using reusable cutlery and water bottles, and turning off electrical appliances when not in use, thereby raising awareness of environmental protection among their colleagues. The formulation of relevant measures also helped the companies achieve good outcomes in waste reduction at source and discover more feasible directions for ESG implementation.

Some guests stated that they already intended to implement ESG policies within their organisations, and this campaign served as an opportunity to put their intentions into actions. On the other hand, some guests expressed personal willingness to take the lead in promoting and implementing ESG initiatives within workplace. Their personal passion and contributions are critical driving forces for sustainable development of companies.

Effective communication with stakeholders is another key to success. Understanding the behaviours and perspectives of colleagues is particularly important before designing ESG policies and programmes. WWF added that internal surveys and direct conversations with colleagues can help understand existing behavioural habits, business/organisational culture, and colleagues' opinions, facilitating adjustments and effective implementation. The involvement of colleagues will determine the success of initiatives. In addition to providing training, promotion, and establishing reward mechanisms, using innovative and interactive methods such as informative videos, quizzes and etc., can further encourage colleague engagement and support for ESG initiatives. Meanwhile, conducting effectiveness reviews, regular reporting and sharing progress contribute to gaining ongoing support from management and colleagues, making the execution of ESG initiatives more efficient.

In a nutshell, despite the challenges associated with implementing sustainable development practices, the success stories of the companies involved demonstrate the enormous potential and impact that SMEs have in promoting sustainability and ESG. Meanwhile, this instils confidence and capability within the participants to continue implementing other practices after the completion of the Campaign. HKCSS hopes that the efforts and achievements of these companies will inspire more businesses and organisations to join the 2nd cohort of the Campaign, working together to achieve the goals of sustainable development and create a better society and environment.

The 2nd cohort of the "Sustainable Living" ESG Realisation Campaign is currently underway. For detailed information, please click here to view the introduction.

To Participate:

  • Submit the Action Plan to WWF via email on or before May 29, 2024 (Wed)
  • The Action Plan should include the following elements from the "Sustainable Living" ESG Realisation Campaign Toolkit:
    • Step 1, 2 and 3;
    • Implementation timeline; and
    • Relevant supplementary documents for further explanation (if applicable)
  • When filling out the Action Plan, we encourage organizations to provide a brief description of the proposed goals, actions, and tasks, allowing us to understand the motivations and considerations behind each item
  • If more than one theme was chosen, please submit separate Action Plans for each theme respectively