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An urgent need to change consumption pattern of biological resources in Hong Kong

Thomas Yu
Branch Office Head at Gold East Trading (HK)

Turning to renewable sources for energy and raw materials is a global environmental trend for years. More solar and wind power plants are built that contributes to the development of sustainable society. The latest conservation effort is expanding to protect biological resources. Although biological resources are renewable, we are facing a depletion of various resources as the consumption rate keeps exceeding the reproduction rate.

For example, over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted according to an estimate from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The demand for paper, timber and other wood products is also on the rise that has an impact on the natural environment in many countries. We need to reverse the course to conserve the environment. However, it is a complicated process involving both consumers and enterprises in the supply chain. 

In Hong Kong, the Council for Sustainable Development  has been promoting this behavioral change through education and sharing best practices implemented in other countries. Some initiatives include the implementation of sustainable fishing practices where trawling has been banned and the adoption of green procurement guidelines. 

For example, seafood consumption is one of the most concerned areas. Hong Kong is the seventh largest per capita seafood consumer in the world - an average resident consumes 71.2 kg of seafood each year, more than three times the global average. About 80% of the fisheries produce consumed in Hong Kong is imported. Our consumption could have a significant impact on the marine ecosystem. 
One solution is to promote sustainable seafood to restaurants and the public. The Australian Marine Conservation Society runs the Chef’s Charter, an industry-inspired extension of the Good Fish Project. It was designed to engage chefs and catering professionals in the promotion of sustainable seafood through membership programme and ambassador awards. In Hong Kong, more restaurants are embracing this practice. For example, Neptune’s restaurant in Ocean Park only serve sustainable seafood. Many hotels and restaurants are also committed to stop serving shark fin.

Another concern area is paper consumption. From printing papers to packaging boxes and tissues, Hong Kong people use a significant amount of paper products every day. Paper accounts for around 20% of municipal solid waste in the city. However, Hong Kong citizens generally lack the concept of using papers made with materials from sustainable source and how this practice can help protect the environment. Educating people to buy environmental friendly paper will help support and encourage efforts for responsible forestry by paper manufacturers.

For instance, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP)  as a global paper supplier is supporting this effort. The company implements Forest Conservation Policy (FCP)   that only sources raw materials from plantation instead of natural forest for paper production. APP also certifies its plantation with industry standard such as PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), which is a globally accepted ecolabel for forestry industry products and forestry derived products which demonstrate principles of sustainable forestry management, biodiversity protection and wildlife and resource conservation. The company is exploring opportunities with the government and various stakeholders to educate the public about the sustainability concept. 

In addition to the supply chain, consumers are the key to driving sustainable consumption. It is about being educated and making smart and responsible choices which satisfy our needs while respecting the environment. There is an urgent need to induce behavioural change towards a more sustainable pattern. The Council for Sustainable Development has invited stakeholders and individuals to share their views and suggestions on biological resources conservation through a public engagement campaign. We hope that the society as a whole can develop programmes that will encourage the sustainable consumption of biological resources in Hong Kong moving forward. 

Published in Singtao Daily on 13 November 2016