Going from a family business in India to Shared Value Initiative Hong Kong comes with a lot of learning. My first experience beyond the walls of India not only involves working in a different culture and environment. It also brings me into a new world where business leaders align profit and purpose, though, I have never taken it as a challenge because I am under the guidance of Virginia Wilson, SVIHK CEO, a transformational leader.
A new perspective on the world
Throughout my bachelor’s studies in computer science & engineering, and in my first professional experiences, ESG, sustainability, or purpose have never been part of the conversations. I was first introduced to the topic of ESG in my MBA at the CUHK (Chinese University of Hong Kong) Business School. After attending a few events about ESG in Hong Kong, I got to know about the concept of shared value that goes beyond ESG: I was amazed to learn that companies can make more money by seeking environmental and societal positive impact. My curiosity was piqued, I wanted to learn more about businesses that run through purpose and are profitable. I had the opportunity to join SVIHK for a 6-month internship.
Throughout my bachelor’s studies and in my first professional experiences, ESG, sustainability, or purpose have never been part of the conversations
Part of my initial training was watching Beyond Zero, the documentary about Interface, the global office flooring company that successfully transitioned away from fossil fuels to become carbon neutral. Beyond Zero, a one-hour movie, changed my perspective of looking at the world. This fascinating story is not only about inspirational and visionary founder Ray Anderson but the struggles and determination of a company trying to become a positive force in the world.
Speaking as equals
Imagine my delight when, in the second week of my internship, I participated in the Shared Value Leaders & Changemakers roundtables at Interface Hong Kong. After watching the movie, I was given a tour of the Interface Hong Kong office by Andy Lee, Sales Director Greater China! I could touch carpet and floor tiles that are carbon neutral across their full product life cycle. Carbon-free products are over every wall. In a cozy corner, a lot of books are devoted to ESG and sustainability.
What I liked the most about this event was that everyone spoke as equals, no matter what their position and background. I met a bunch of hard-working leaders, actionable and assertive CEOs, and partners of different consulting companies who contribute to pushing ESG and Sustainability. I got a chance to sit with all of them in roundtable discussions.
World problem solvers
My initiatory journey through business with purpose continued with the group visit SVIHK organised to WEEE PARK, in late November. It was the first time for me to see the fate of my waste. Before visiting WEEE PARK, I have never thought that huge products like washing machines, refrigerators, and air conditioners were recycled. ALBA Integrated Waste Solutions runs WEEE PARK successfully with an 87% recycling rate. Around the world, ALBA Group, one of the leading recycling and environmental services companies, transforms waste into raw materials that are put back into the industry. They are a key player in the circular economy. Their CEO, Eric Schweitzer, describes themselves as “problem solvers for the greatest challenges of this century: climate change, resource scarcity, and energy transition. An innovative family company with a future”. My journey through shared value is just beginning. I would love to implement my learning from Beyond Zero, real experiences and connections with purpose-driven business in my professional and personal life.
About the author
Arpit Agarwal is the Data Integration intern at Shared Value Initiative Hong Kong. He graduated from Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technical University, India, with a Bachelor of Computer Science and Technology, and is currently doing his MBA at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.