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Many rapid changes have been occurring socio-ecologically on a global scale, which includes climate change, resource scarcity, social exclusion, and change of customers’ aspirations. Looking at these, as well as the United Nations’ call for actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), many businesses have risen to the challenges and taken actions to contribute to sustainable development.

To support and further enhance these efforts and the business sector’s role in promoting sustainability, The Centre for Civil Society and Governance (CCSG) of The University of Hong Kong, with support from The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC), has initiated a four-year action research project, named, Partnership for Sustainability Leadership in Business (PSLB).

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The Project is the first-of-its-kind collaborative endeavour leveraging the strengths of academic institutions, businesses, regulators and the community at large to support the business sector, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong and the region, to build Sustainable Value Chains (SVC) and to promote the SDGs.

Sustainability Agenda at the Core of Business Value

Global sustainability challenges cannot be resolved with the effort of a single individual or sector. Besides the government, social institutions, and local communities, more business leaders have stepped up and made contribution towards this important agenda.

In the past couple of decades, many listed companies and multinational companies from Hong Kong and around the world have been adhering to the principles of sustainable development in their strategic management and operations. From the application of green energy and use of environmentally friendly materials, to reduction of carbon footprint and the adoption of ethical employment practices, companies have increasingly placed the sustainability agenda at the core of their business value.

Problems SMEs Face

As SMEs account for 98% of Hong Kong’s corporations and 45% of the territory’s total workforce, they are a major player in the economy. Many SMEs, however, lack the knowledge and experience in integrating and implementing sustainability measures in their operation.

Faced with numerous sustainability challenges, ranging from global climate change and resource scarcity, to stringent regulation and unexpected disruptions in their global supply chains, SMEs often find themselves incapable of tackling these challenges effectively. Compared with big corporations, SMEs in general are less able to absorb risk due to thin resources and funds.

Support to SMEs

Supported by the HSBC, CCSG successfully launched a four-year action research Project (2020-2023), PSLB. The Project is led by Professor Wai-Fung Lam and a group of sustainability experts, with the aims of promoting collaboration and partnership between large corporations and SMEs through knowledge transfer, capacity building, network development, and building resilience against sustainability challenges.

The Project has engaged the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) and the Business Environment Council (BEC) as Project Collaborators, and researchers of the Faculty of Business and Economics, HKU (FBE) as Research Collaborators.

This Project strives to foster collaboration between large corporations and SMEs, and to improve SMEs’ preparedness in taking on sustainability challenges, with a view to supporting the business sector of Hong Kong to create SVC.

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To achieve this goal, companies should integrate the principles and measures of sustainable development into their corporate governance and daily operations, strengthen workplace culture, foster the customer-and-supplier relationships, promote resources management, and improve innovation capabilities. All these are important building blocks for the nurturing of a sustainable society.

Knowledge Inventory and the Collaborative Leadership Scheme

PSLB consists of two key components, Knowledge Inventory and the Collaborative Leadership Scheme. The former is an online resource hub in which a whole array of resources and tools, such as Best Practice Cases, Guru Cases, SME Sustainability Self-check Tool, Kick-starter Impact Toolkit: Sustainability Roadmap, Kick-starter Impact Toolkit: Sustainability Strategy and Action Planning Template, and Practical Guidebooks, will be made available to businesses who are keen to integrate sustainability measures in their operations.

The latter consists of knowledge-based collaborative events, such as Knowledge Primers, Practical Workshop, Mentorship Programme, Quick Connect, Elite Roundtables, and other programs. Through these, sustainability leaders in big corporations work closely with SME executives to build a talent pool of sustainability leaders for the business sector.

The Project is currently calling to large and SMEs in Hong Kong for interests.


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