Destination #2: Hong Kong

I’m leaving Hong Kong at the end of a weekend celebrating the Moon Festival: especially on Thursday evening and Friday throughout the day it was obvious on the streets that people were out enjoying some extra free time. With moon cakes and lanterns to be seen at places such as Victoria Park. The Moon Festival mostly means some family time for people here, and most people were out of work by 4pm on Thursday with the day off on Friday.

It also turned into a weekend of anticipation of ‘superstorm’ Usagi: though some of the Dutch assured me that it would more likely be a strong autumn storm the way we know them in the Netherlands, I nevertheless am now on a Sunday morning train out of Hong Kong, and onto China to make sure I am across the border in case it gets closed down because of Usagi (strange that what is expected to be such a violent wind is called after such a cute little animal like a bunny). No doubt I’ll be catching some wind and rain either tonight or tomorrow in Guangzhou as well.

Despite having visited Guangzhou before, I am looking forward to now having a bit more time to actually see the city. Previously, this was limited to being in a car, on the way out to places such as Dongguan and Shenzhen.

In Hong Kong, ahead of the holiday weekend I mostly met up with some Dutch contacts working in either sustainability or trade support for Dutch companies. Because, apart from getting a better look at the sustainability field in Hong Kong I also want to know better whether or not CSR is a topic for European companies based with their regional headquarters in Hong Kong but who work in China. If it is, organisations such as the Dutch consulate or the Dutch Chamber of commerce in Hong Kong should have heard about this interest – or concern – from the companies they work with and for.

Unfortunately, these talks confirmed some of my suspicion that the operations side of a business (the people in charge of running a factory, selecting suppliers, or working with distributors in China and Hong Kong) is often far removed from the people working in CSR (which can be called differently, and placed in the organization differently in each company of course). Hearing stories from companies who have a local sustainability team here, but all decisions and policy are made in the Netherlands (both sustainability-related and operations-related) are not encouraging. But it confirms what I’ve seen in the past years of talking to individual companies as well.

The challenge will be how to connect these two parts of an organization: when done well, topics that fall under the umbrella of CSR or sustainability should be integrated throughout the organization and not limited to the responsibility of the CSR manager. This is difficult to do. But each time when I talk to an export manager and he is unable to tell me anything about his company’s activities on CSR I can’t help but be slightly disappointed – even if I understand that he has other primary concerns. I guess there’s still a lot of work ahead.

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