Partnerships for a Living Planet

Companies Can Help Save China's Environment, Says WWF's Laura Weeks

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HONG KONG ( -- The awareness of the depletion of our world's natural resources and ability of the planet to absorb our waste is not new to most of us.

What may come as a surprise, however, is the rate at which these are happening.

According to WWF's 2006 Living Planet Report, which is produced every two years, if we continue at the current rate of consumption, we would need the equivalent resources of two planets by 2050. In the recently published 2008 Living Planet Report, this is now projected to be 2030.

Clearly, our rate of consumption is increasing.

China's per capita consumption is almost equal to the global sustainable level of 1.6 global hectares per person.
WWF's Laura Weeks
WWF's Laura Weeks

This figure is lower than the world's average of 2.2 hectares, but it nonetheless presents important challenges. China is already consuming twice as much as can be provided by its own ecosystem, based on our report on that country's ecological footprint.

It is the responsibility of governments, individuals and companies to make adjustments to their operations to bring this unsustainable level of consumption under control. If we don't, we will not have the resources available on which our livelihoods depend.

Air will become more polluted, fresh water will become more scarce, natural resources and food will become more expensive. However, it is not too late, and if we all act now, we can find the solutions to a sustainable future.

Solutions can often be found in partnerships. Companies should look beyond their own sphere, and look for partnerships and innovation in other sectors of society. Many non-governmental organizations (NGO) make appropriate, effective and innovative partners for companies who take the environment seriously.

WWF is one of the world's largest conservation organizations, working in over 100 countries, with over 5 million supporters, tackling some of the world's most pressing conservation challenges.

It works across China, with field offices in nine provinces, and marketing, communications and partnership functions in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

As well as working with conservation partners on the ground, we partner with over 150 multinational and Chinese companies in tackling issues such as climate change, deforestation, water conservation, natural resource use and socially responsible investment.

WWF works with companies on a variety of different issues, from employee volunteering and awareness raising, to marketing partnerships, from advising on developing corporate social responsibility strategies, to integrating leading environmental practices in to the core business.

Companies do not necessarily need to have a green track record, but if you are committed to change, and are serious about addressing the companies' ecological footprint, WWF may be an appropriate partner, at a local, national, regional or global level.

WWF has also developed tools for companies to make it easier to understand the challenges you are facing, the opportunities that present themselves, and highlight where relatively small, inexpensive changes within can make a difference, not only to the environmental bottom line, but also to your financial bottom line (as environmental improvements often make good economic sense).

Examples include WWF's Paper Guide, providing guidelines and tools on how to reduce consumption of unsustainably-sourced paper, and the practical tips covering the environmental issues of responsible forest management, efficient paper use, pollution and global warming.

In early 2009, the Low Carbon Office initiative will be launched in Hong Kong. It's a toolkit for office-based businesses to reduce their carbon emissions, and measure this reduction for communication purposes.

For leading companies, wanting to take more concrete and ambitious steps in reducing their carbon emissions, WWF's Climate Savers initiative enables companies' carbon emissions to be independently audited, and a road map to reductions developed.

Through setting up ambitious but achievable in-house greenhouse gas reduction targets for companies and conducting joint awareness raising, WWF's Climate Savers Partnership promotes voluntary corporate leadership in action on climate change.

Don't know where to start? Or, you know the sorts of things you want to address, but need a hand in understanding how to approach particular issues? WWF has corporate membership schemes, which are good first steps for companies wanting to develop partnerships with environmental NGOs.

In Hong Kong, WWF runs the corporate membership program, which currently has 100 members, and in Greater China, the corporate alliance membership provides an ideal platform for companies to start addressing their impact on the natural world.

At 8.30 pm on March 28, 2009, WWF will be leading the world's largest social movement for climate change. Earth Hour is a positive, action-oriented, non confrontational campaign, calling on people to take small steps towards a sustainable future, starting with turning off your lights, together, for one hour.

Not only are we asking you to turn the lights off in your offices and buildings (including external lighting and neons), and to encourage your staff, clients and customers to do so.

We are also offering you a unique opportunity to showcase your support for WWF, climate change and the future of our planet, by taking the concept of Earth Hour and creatively showing what your company is doing to support this campaign.

The Earth Hour web site,, shows you many innovative ways in which companies have promoted their own company, products and services, in support of Earth Hour in 2007 and 2008, through online media, print media, viral messaging, as well as TV and radio.

Although there are environmental organizations on the "green spectrum" who are keen to expose companies' malpractice, WWF is a solutions-oriented organization, whose mission is to work in partnership with the corporate sector to facilitate change -- whether this be through marketing and communications partnerships, or through working with you on adjusting some of your core business practices.

Together we can leave a living planet for current and future generations.

Laura Weeks is director of marketing and fundraising for the WWF in Hong Kong.

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