Following is a speech by the Permanent Secretary for Environment, Transport and Works (Environment), Mrs Rita Lau, at the launching ceremony of the Environmental Reporting Awards 2002 today (November 5):
Mr. LAW, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure and honour to speak at the Launch Ceremony of the first Environmental Reporting Awards, organized by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Hong Kong this morning.
As a result of the challenges and opportunities arising from globalisation, increasing public awareness in green concepts, and emergence of new environmental laws and international conventions, more and more companies have been attaching great importance to keeping their operations and products environmentally friendly. Protecting the environment is no longer regarded as a burden in the course of conducting business. Instead, it has been incorporated into the corporate goals of many business enterprises as a means to evaluate and benchmark their own success.
As the title - "Rewarding Transparency" in ACCA's invitation card reveals, we are now in an era with strong public demand for transparency and accountability. Unless Government organizations and private corporations alike can respond positively to such a demand, their corporate or organizational image may suffer, and they might face difficulties in enlisting public support for their initiatives. It is therefore not surprising that many visionary international corporations have, since the 90's, begun to make use of environmental performance reporting to inform shareholders, investors, potential business partners, customers as well as the general public about how they have contributed to achieving a sustainable environment.
Recently, environmental performance reporting has been accorded further importance at the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg. In the Implementation Plan endorsed by over 100 leaders of the world, environmental performance reporting is recognized as one of the measures to enhance corporate environmental and social responsibility and accountability. These leaders have pledged to encourage industries to adopt this initiative to improve their environmental performance.
The HKSAR Government has been closely following the trend of enhanced transparency and accountability to lead by example within the policy commitment back in 1998 that all Government bureaux and departments should publish annual environmental reports starting from the calendar year 1999. The objective is to promote environmentally responsible management within the public sector. Hong Kong has been among the few developed economies which have such a requirement for all Government agencies and we have already entered the third annual production cycle. So far, the requirement has brought about notable improvement in environmental awareness among Government officers, better performance on material and energy consumption, and conscious incorporation of environmental considerations in programmes and activities undertaken by various Government units.
To further improve the quality of environmental reporting within the Government, the Environmental Protection Department is now developing a benchmarking system. We hope that this system can serve as a good reference tool for Government agencies which have the inspiration to take up the challenge to further improve their reporting performance. In due course, we also wish to share our insight and experience in this respect with our counterparts in the private sector to further promote environmental performance reporting in Hong Kong.
In the private sector, I am aware that a number of our leading business enterprises have also taken the initiative to produce their own environmental performance reports. So far, 18 major corporations have published the reports, either as a stand-alone document or as part of their annual reports. I certainly hope that more business organizations would echo the call to embrace corporate environmentalism and publish their environmental reports in the near future. Such efforts would certainly help Hong Kong maintain our status as a world class city in terms of environmental consciousness, corporate accountability and transparency.
Though environmental performance reporting in Hong Kong for the private sector is a voluntary initiative, I am glad to see that the private sector has been taking this very seriously and always strives to improve on the quality of the reports. The presentations that follow this Launching Ceremony no doubt would provide yet another excellent opportunity for all participants to exchange views and understand the latest development of corporate environmental, social and sustainability reporting in Hong Kong.
Last but not least, I would like to congratulate the ACCA for its excellent effort in the past 10 years in organising environmental reporting award schemes in more than 20 countries - in Europe, Asia and the Asia Pacific Region. Your schemes have not only provided due recognition and encouragement to those companies which have strived to improve their transparency and quality reporting, but also inspired others which are in the process of joining the world trend to increase their momentum. I am deeply encouraged to see that the ACCA shares such a common goal with the Government in promoting environmental reporting and decided to launch an award scheme in Hong Kong for the first time. I am confident that this and future award events will encourage more and more business leaders to use environmental reporting to demonstrate good corporate governance, increase stakeholder confidence and improve corporate image.
I wish ACCA Hong Kong a most successful event, and I sincerely invite you all to give full support to this award scheme.
End/Tuesday, November 5, 2002