Where: Kowloon, Hong Kong
When: 14th November 2014; the organisation was started in 2012.
Who: William Yu and Albert Oung founded the organisation. There are currently 26 employees – it is a huge growth in such a short space of time!
What: The World Green Organisation combines environmental, social and economic considerations into its approach to ensure all three are totally integrated into their work. The activities of the organisation span from office greening programmes to public education programmes, research and policy work for the Hong Kong government to media outreach about particular environmental issues.
Their most recently launched programme makes them the first NGO in Hong Kong to focus on energy poverty. In Hong Kong there are many people who live in subdivided apartments where they pay high electricity prices. The WGO have been providing more efficient electrical appliances and energy saving tips to many families in order for them to save money and save electricity. For example, many families use a rice cooker for boiling water which is far less efficient than using a kettle. The initiative helps these families spend less money and improve their livelihoods as a result, as well as reduce energy usage. This is a perfect example of their search for solutions which combine positive social, environmental and economic benefits in specific situations.
Why: The WGO is focused on helping to create a different mindset within society, focused on global citizenship and doing good, uniting people around common problems.
For William, his passion for sustainability began with his studies in Cambridge, and an introduction to climate change through a course on energy policy within the Judge Business School there. He focused his PhD on energy policy and climate change and subsequently became Head of the Climate Change Programme at WWF HK.
For Albert, it began during his childhood in Myanmar; he said he saw so much waste, and was always taught to save resources by his family to help make ends meet. His interest in waste management stayed with him so much that he created a solution for biodegradable packaging which is now used by many of the major supermarkets around the world.
Impacts/successes: Measurement is recognised as a very important aspect of the WGO’s work; with each of their programmes, they set targets and measure progress against them, but they are still at the early stages of working out how to measure actual behaviour change.
A major focus for the WGO is to be focused on action and real solutions in combination with solid research and contextual understanding of a given community or policy. To that end, a lot has been achieved already, with policy papers, research and reports as well as community projects and educational programmes and training delivered.
William feels the biggest success for the organisation has been keeping coherence within the organisation whilst seeing such rapid growth. For such a young organisation, this has been no small task, but seeing its success, it seems the organisation can only go from strength to strength.
Future plans are no less ambitious than what was happened to date with the transformation of the WGO from an idea into a 26-person, HK$10 million (just under £0.1 million) turnover organisation. Next year, there will be a Green Festival and a Green Concert in Hong Kong involving thousands of citizens, and some major developments in Myanmar. In the next five years, the plan is to expand offices internationally, to mainland China and beyond.
Further info: http://thewgo.org/website/eng/introduction/
This organisation has the notion of integrated solutions at its core i.e. the idea that you cannot solve problems looking at them in one dimension – the ‘environmental’ is inherently linked to the ‘social’, and it brings that thinking into its projects to ensure their success and suitability to their context. I am so excited to see this thinking being put into practice.
Further to that, its model for generating income relies on this integrated, coherent thinking. It is predominantly generating its own funds through implementing projects for other companies and governments (like a thinktank), and then carrying out its own projects with the money generated. This means it is engaging in a huge range of activities, as can be seen from the website. That variety allows them to act on issues in a cohesive, integrated way, linking together policy, research, education and action to ensure full understanding and context for successful well thought through solutions.
I am excited to see what happens over the next year and what impacts and successes result to help them realise their mission.