Sustainability and CSR are very broad terms, and include so many different topics: environment, urban farming, pollution, impact investment, corruption, diversity in the workplace, urban development etc etc. There are several informal networks – worldwide, but also in China – which provide a place to meet and chat with a diverse group of people working in these various areas of sustainability.
When you are new in a city, but looking to build a local network with sustainability professionals, this is a great way to meet people. I’ll list a few that I’ve come across in China & Hong Kong.
> Green Drinks is a worldwide informal network, with groups getting together in more than 600 cities. The extent of activity varies quite a bit in each city, but the Green Drinks website lists all locations in China (including geographically diverse cities such as Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Beijing, etc).
Of maybe special mention is the location in Shanghai, which has grown far beyond ‘just’ the monthly drinks. The organisation now organizes an event at least weekly it seems, and is in the process of changing into a more formal organisation which will be working on projects on sustainability, together with partners in the Shanghai region, aimed at moving beyond raising awareness on sustainability to impact and results, including some projects on education. It was very interesting to hear about this last week in Shanghai, and I can’t wait to see what the organisation becomes in the next few weeks.
> The Beijing Energy Network is a similar network based in Beijing. Apart from regular events, their online platform also posts vacancies, mostly in the field of (renewable) energy and environment.
> And in Hong Kong I joined the SippedIn-network which meets irregularly but brings together sustainability professionals in HK, from diverse areas such as sustainable finance to organic farming.
Of course, there are more networks you can tap into – which might not be solely focused on sustainability, but may offer you other useful contacts. It’s worth looking at networks supporting companies from your country in China. For the Dutch: make sure to get in touch with the Dutch representation in the region where you do business (currently, located in 11 cities across China, including Hong Kong and most recently in Chongqing).
The Benelux Chamber of Commerce (BenCham, in short) offers networking and a wide membership of companies from the Benelux doing business in China, and related organisations. Located in three cities the BenCham chapters organize regular events focused on the practicalities of setting up your business in China (such as HR, IT, and anything else). In Hong Kong, there’s an equivalent organisation: the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.