ESG Leaders Develop “Smart” Solutions for Sustainable Development

January 2023

The topic of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) should be no stranger to the students of tertiary educational institutions as it has gained much traction worldwide. To further cultivate their understanding towards ESG and its applications, “Link Together Initiatives” under Link has been sponsoring the Jane Goodall Institute Hong Kong since last year. Recently, they have organised the first cohort of the “ESG Leadership Training Programme”, which included 12 hours of ESG leadership workshop for over 30 local students of tertiary educational institutions to understand more about ESG concepts, such as climate change and its risks and the circular economy business model. On 7 and 8 January, an ESGATHON (ESG Hackathon) case competition was held: the participants went on a field trip at a Link mall and with the knowledge they have gained in the workshops, they created their own ESG solutions. In the end, a group of two students from The University of Hong Kong (HKU) stood out among the 10 groups and was crowned the champion along with a $12,000 scholarship.

 Learn about ESG by visiting a Link mall

Link staff explained to the students the sustainable measures adopted in the Lok Fu Place.
Students visited the urban farm and learnt about green planting.
Solar panel is one of the basic facilities to generate renewable energy.
After compression, styrofoam box can be recycled to become useful again.

On the first day, sustainability managers from Link and other organisations introduced to students the applications, challenges and limitations of sustainable development. For the field trip, participants visited Lok Fu Place where the staff of Link explained to them the sustainable measures adopted in Lok Fu Place, such as the outdoor urban farm, solar panels that generate renewable energy and the styrofoam recycling scheme. Students were curious and discussed after the field trip in preparation for the case competition on next day.

After the field trip, the students discussed in the outdoor square of Lok Fu Place.
After the field trip, the students discussed in the outdoor square of Lok Fu Place.

Going all out for the champion

Students spared no effort in presenting their ESG solutions.
Students spared no effort in presenting their ESG solutions.
The 2nd runner up team proposed using Black Soldier Fly to tackle the issue of food waste.
The 1st runner up team built a case on reducing water usage.

As the highlight of the programme, the final case competition took the stage with four judges and all the students, who were divided into 10 teams. They introduced their ESG cases and most of them targeted the tenants of Link, while others were for Link. The solutions covered different aspects, from food waste management, recycling disposable tableware, reducing water usage and making community artwork with waste, etc. In the end, the sustainable smart city proposal created by two HKU students, Joe and Katie, has stood out from other teams and took the champion.

App and AI for all age

HKU students Joe and Katie.
The champion team received an $12,000 scholarship.

The winning duo are both HKU students: Joe is a year three Electrical and Electronic Engineering major and Katie a sophomore studying Business Administration. Their solution aims to combine all intelligent technologies into the management system of malls and display the findings on an app. Examples include detecting the traffic in different spots and adjusting the temperature accordingly, thereby reducing emissions and saving energy; another function is to install sensors in major areas of the malls to count the number of customers in restaurants, which will then be displayed on the app for other customers’ convenience. In addition, their solution also includes producing unmanned robots to lead the way for the elderly.

Joe said: “Hong Kong is developing into a smart city and the Smart Mobility technology is something to look forward to, so I try to apply concepts of IoT and renewable energy that I have learnt at university to this competition.” On the other hand, Katie saw the importance of integrating ESG with business strategy and she benefited a lot from ESG concepts and cases from the workshops.

Before studying at HKU, Joe was an electrical engineering student at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education. Teamed up with three students, Joe joined the “Innovation Award and Seed Fund 2021/22” and won the Gold Award with the project “The Game Changer — High Gain MPPT Converter”.  The team received a sum of seed funding, and decided to establish a startup company in mid-July 2022 to develop solar vehicle for green transportation, all for a sustainable and carbon zero city.

For this “ESG Leadership Training Programme”, the most outstanding student in the winning team will be offered internships at Link and other environmental organisations for six weeks starting from mid-July. For all the participants, they will be invited to the “ESG CONNECTION Summit” to learn more from the practitioners in the industry; they will also undertake a 5-hour community internship and help organise an “ESG Community Experience Day” to educate the public on the topic.

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