Event report

September 7, 2020

Online Talk Event “The Future of Business for a Sustainable World” Report

Sustainable goals have been adopted by many businesses and corporations in recent years. Not only to create impact to the society but also to bring new economic values to businesses. FabCafe Hong Kong hosted an online talk event on 26 August to explore how businesses adopt sustainable goals and how they can balance between bringing social impacts and economic values.

Online Talk Event “The Future of Business for a Sustainable World”

Sustainable goals are becoming increasingly important to corporations and businesses these days. But sustainability is not just about green living styles or recycling. From the business perspective, sustainable development can bring impacts to the society and bring positive economic value to the business as well. FabCafe Hong Kong was honoured to have Michael from District Capital, Tat from SZC Holdings and Kit from CLP to share their valuable insights and experiences about sustainable development for businesses.

The event was hosted in a panel discussion format and divided into 5 parts.

Part 1 – Introduction

Michael, Managing Director of District Capital, first introduced that District Capital is focusing on sustainable impact investing. He explained that impact investing has the intention of generating positive social solutions, alongside strong financial return. Michael shared that they invest in technological advancement that improves human living, which is within the scope of the future of living, future of food and future of investment.

Michael Au, Managing Director of District Capital

Tat, CEO and Founder of SZC Holdings, shared that as an architecture PHD, he was interested to know how grassroot communities handle technology and how can that make changes. He then defined Shanzhai City as a social innovation incubator, in which they launched different projects in remote villages. They are using a lot of blockchain technology and other high-tech. Tat believed all these high-tech need solutions and they are the solution architect which allow everyone to use and find out the values of using them. 

Kit, Manager of Group Sustainability from CLP Power Hong Kong Limited, introduced the sustainability team is helping CLP to embed sustainability into existing business processes. Kit shared that CLP identified 4 strategic topics and all these topics are linked with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). CLP is producing sustainability reports every year, not only to demonstrate how they perform on corporate sustainability, but also to identify the gaps and find out solutions to improve in the future. 

Part 2 – During Pandemic

During the pandemic, there are more discussions about sustainability or protecting the environment. Kit shared that CLP has rolled out initiatives to support those who are more vulnerable in the community. In Hong Kong, CLP has a close relationship with the local community so they found it important to show their support to the community, especially under this tough time. Kit also mentioned they will share more insights under the pandemic in their next sustainability report. 

Tat then shared from the community point of view, globalism is affected as the global supply chain has broken down during the pandemic. For local communities, there is a need to build community resiliency in order to handle crisis and help them to recover from crisis quickly in the future. Tat believed that the whole world is operating under a “trustless” environment. Due to social distancing, services could not be delivered by service providers but need to ask somebody to do it and ask users to believe the services from others. There is a need to explore new solutions to rebuild trust, especially for the unpredictable future.

Tat Lam, CEO and Founder of SZC Holdings

Tat: “Once they (local communities) lose the global supply, they don’t have the resilience system in the communities that they can handle crisis…community need to build community resiliency, so they can handle crisis in the future and quickly recover from the impacts of crisis.”

Michael then mentioned that it has actually reaffirmed their impact investment policies under this pandemic, which they strongly believe companies who understand their responsibility and take care of all stakeholders would perform better in the future. Michael believed in the next generation, consumers are going to use their wallets to vote for companies who are value-aligned or align with the work field. Companies who only consider their short-term profits or short-term share prices will struggle under the new normal. 

Part 3 – How do you do it

After understanding more on our speakers’ background and their roles in pushing sustainability, we would like to know how they operate and roll out projects. Kit shared that CLP has integrated sustainability into their business and they have strategies to decarbonize their portfolio, especially they are one of the main polluters as a power provider. Climate change is one of the main topics CLP is tackling and they are looking at how climate change impacts the business and what will be the relevant financial costs. In terms of risk management, Kit introduced they are using “horizon scanning” to identify mega trends of the operating environment in the future, which has been a useful tool as an internal engagement exercise. 

Michael admitted that it was difficult to identify appropriate profiles for impact investment at first, but there are more frameworks coming out, which helped them to identify the right companies. People might feel that impact investment should look for less profit or return because they want to make a difference. But Michael believed impact investment is not charity. They are looking for promising returns in finance and social or environmental impact. And they set higher standards for companies as compared with the traditional assessment of company investment.

Michael: “I want to highlight that impact investment is not charity. We look for promising returns in both finance and in social and environmental impact, and we look for entrepreneurs who understand this clearly.”

Tat shared the projects they ran in rural China or South-east Asia involved individual data which might be very sensitive e.g. illegal immigrants. But Tat said even they are illegal does not mean they do not need help. These people need help from international organizations, and the databases they built were fundamental for social services. They are also teaching people in remote areas about what is data and data ethics, so people can protect their own data. Meanwhile, Tat believed under this cyber-age, there is a need to bring people equally online and everyone should be able to access information and insights online. Then eventually people can help  themselves with these online resources.

Part 4 – How to measure

In the poll we did during the event, 88% of the participants believed they would have more incentives to adopt sustainability strategies if social or environmental impacts can be measured easier. So we asked how our speakers measure their sustainability impacts. Tat believed impact measurement is always used for investors and usually it is upward reporting to tell investors about your performance. But actually the projects they are doing should be downward reporting, which is used as a tool to gather support from users, clients and markets. Tat emphasized that they did a lot of workshops for impact literacy capacity building and allow people to understand more about sustainability. Building up the capacity for sustainability is the way they measure their work. 

Michael then shared at first they were using SDGs as the measurement tools but they quickly realized SDGs are not really relevant to private investors, which make it difficult to communicate on measuring companies’ performances. They are using a more common sense approach now, also with SDGs as output measurement at the same time. Michael also echoed Tat’s sharing that performances or impacts of the companies are difficult to measure and report, which these businesses are producing qualitative metrics but not quantitative metrics.

Kit shared that CLP is still measuring output such as the emissions they made or the numbers of training they did. But not only numbers, Kit said they were trying to put value into it, which is actually difficult to measure. Kit believed the trend of measuring sustainability is emerging. There are organizations coming up with measurement solutions that help businesses to better communicate their impacts.

Kit Law, Manager – Group Sustainability, CLP Power Hong Kong Limited

Part 5 – Future and Expectations

At the last part of the panel discussion, we asked our speakers how they see the future business sustainable development. Kit found that there are more Hong Kong companies that care about sustainability, especially after the Hong Kong Stock Exchange introduced ESG reporting. But Kit believed sustainability should be integrated into businesses. It should not be a separate or extra budget, but companies need to search for the most relevant sustainable topic that they can adopt and they should plan in the long term to make sustainability planning possible in businesses. 

Kit: “I think sustainability is actually a way of business, it’s not something extra that you work on. Sustainability should actually be integrated into the business.”

Tat believed the younger entrepreneurs in Asia are creating their own business models that are integrating sustainable development. This is because they found sustainable development is the future trend in order to keep themselves relevant to the world. Meanwhile, the trend is also bringing pressure to big and small companies to provide innovative solutions to catch the next opportunities, which means to tackle environmental problems. 

Michael agreed that businesses cannot ignore sustainability from now on. It is not just nice to have sustainable development plans, but that becomes a must for businesses. The quicker we can adopt these sustainable principles, the better life would be for everyone.

At the end we had a 15-minute Q&A session. Online audiences would like to learn more about the real examples of impact investment and circular economy, and also the values of producing sustainability reports. Our speakers shared their valuable experiences and insights. FabCafe Hong Kong is glad to have 3 wonderful speakers to join us. We are going to host more talk events in the future and we will discuss different local and global challenges. 

Our next talk event will be hosted on 17 Sept about “SDGs driven innovation at the Global Goals Jam” and you will learn more about SDGs and find out more about Global Goals Jam. Sign up now!

Author

  • FabCafe Hong Kong Editorial Team

    This articles is edited by FabCafe Hong Kong.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this article with us.
    Contact us

    This articles is edited by FabCafe Hong Kong.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this article with us.
    Contact us

Get in touch

Subscribe to FabCafe Global monthly newsletter for more stories in innovation and designs.

Our Business Services

Building products and services that push innovation for companies