The impacts of climate change could be irreversible by 2030. But in the wise words of world-renowned environmentalist Sir David Attenborough, “We know in detail what is happening to our planet, and we know many of the things we need to do during this decade … All we need is the global will to do so.”
Global impact starts with local action, and Tony Chu, senior packaging technologist from our WBA Global Sourcing team in Asia, is taking matters into his own hands. Following in the footsteps of our successful business resource groups (BRGs) in the U.S and UK, Chu founded our newest Environmental Sustainability BRG chapter in Hong Kong back in May of this year.
WBA Magazine sat down with Chu to learn how the voluntary, grassroots network is engaging and supporting our Asian team members to make more sustainable choices.
Tell us more about you and your role at WBA.
As well as being the proud chair of our voluntary Environmental Sustainability BRG chapter in Asia, I also have a “day job:” As part of WBA’s Global Sourcing team, it’s my responsibility to focus on the quality of the products we sell, as well as make sure we’re supporting WBA’s ambitious sustainability targets.
When I’m sourcing new products, sustainable materials are always front of mind. Can we use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper? Can we introduce Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) plastic? Can we switch to more environmentally friendly printing materials like soy-based ink? This thought process plays a huge part in my day-to-day role, and it’s important that I encourage others to think like this too, to help protect our planet.
Tell us about the environmental landscape in Asia right now. What are the general feelings toward sustainability in Hong Kong?
Within the last 10 years, Hong Kong’s citizens and government have really raised the awareness around living more sustainably. Despite being a city with many high-rise buildings, Hong Kong was ranked 16th among the world’s top 100 cities listed in the Sustainable Cities Index, and was one of Asia’s leading cities within the planet sub-index.
Local charitable organizations such as Greener Actions and Ecobus are definitely helping to drive these achievements. These groups engage and educate the public on environmental issues and cultivate a positive attitude toward sustainability. Their green activities, such as litter picking in parks and shorelines, are welcomed by the people of Hong Kong.
As well as introducing a special Council of Sustainable Development, our government also implemented a number of recycling sites in different districts, as well as bottle recycling machines in shopping malls, that reward people who recycle, which helps make positive changes like these more accessible.
Why was it so important to launch the BRG at this time?
It’s important that we capitalize on the sustainable movement that’s sweeping Hong Kong. There has never been a better time to connect with our team members across our three Asian offices, build on this momentum and exchange green ideas. The earlier we tackle environmental issues, the more likely we are to make a lasting impact.
You’re clearly passionate about environmental sustainability. Why does it mean so much to you?
Our planet is sick, and we all have a responsibility to nurse it back to health for our children, and our children’s children. As a proud team member within such a responsible business, I have a role to play in helping drive cultural change for my team members, customers and future generations.
In 2009, our Hong Kong office formed a sustainability team. I was honored to join this team in 2013, and our hard work was rewarded one year later when we received the Gold Hong Kong Award for Environmental Excellence (HKAEE) from our local government.
This prestigious accolade gave me the confidence to believe that we can all make a difference, and it encouraged me to take the next step in my sustainability journey – establishing WBA’s first official Environmental Sustainability BRG in Asia.
What issues do you hope to tackle with the support of your BRG?
In the short term, we want to raise awareness of the environmental issues experienced by our team members in our Hong Kong, Shanghai and Thailand offices, such as food waste or littering in our country parks. We also want to encourage our team members to understand the recycling journey by visiting our local recycling facilities. During our regular meetings with our BRG members, we brainstorm new ideas and encourage members to take ownership of their own activities, too – the more we can engage our members, the bigger our impact will be.
In order to have a long-term impact, our BRG is working hard to create a three-year roadmap with a clear timeline that addresses environmental issues, such as reducing single-use plastic, food waste, climate change and our carbon footprint.
In your opinion, what is the biggest environmental challenge facing our planet today?
Plastic in our oceans is a massive global problem. Did you know that if we continue living as we are now, there may be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050? If we take the Pacific Ocean for example, which borders Hong Kong, you’ll find the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This a vast collection of debris and litter, much of which is not biodegradable, that has a detrimental impact on marine wildlife such as turtles, seals and animals that feed on plankton, like fish.
This is why it’s so important that our BRG contributes ideas that will help WBA to continue reducing its waste and single-use plastic, like straws, plastic bags and food containers.