Best international sustainability initiative
Water for Free
Great Eagle Group
Great Eagle Group, a Hong Kong-based property developer, is committed to striving for sustainable growth in its business operations. It also proactively leverages partnerships with external stakeholders to tackle sustainability challenges, and to bring about long-term behavioural change.
It has identified and adopted eight UN Sustainable Development Goals in its operations and community work. Great Eagle Group considers Planet as one of its sustainability approaches, and Environment Protection as a community investment theme, and has embedded these into its core business purpose as it seeks to drive carbon neutrality in Hong Kong by 2050.
In 2018, the Group identified an opportunity to tackle one of the biggest environment issues that afflicts Hong Kong. Every day, more than seven million plastic bottles – enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool – were being thrown away. Plastic recycling facilities are sparse; just 8.5 per cent of the discarded bottles were recycled in 2016.
Partnering with Go Green Hong Kong, a platform dedicated to promoting green living and corporate responsibility, and Healthy Seed, a charity which educates young children on the environment, Great Eagle Group decided to tackle the problem by simply and directly encouraging people to bring reusable bottles and to enjoy free and accessible water.
The first step involved installing dispensers, which offer cool, filtered water for free. To date, Great Eagle Group has installed 77 dispensers, 27 of them in the past two years, across 18 districts in Hong Kong, which have provided 186,000 litres of water, saving more than 372,000 plastic bottles. It also worked with Go Green to create a mobile app with a map showing the locations of water dispensers, which today shows more than 1,500 sites.
Most of Great Eagle Group’s dispensers are in low-income neighbourhoods, helping households to ease their financial burden by replacing expensive bottled water with free, drinking water.
Working with Healthy Seed, Great Eagle Group hosted 66 talks in schools, educating young people about water consumption and explaining the impact of plastic on the environment. (It takes 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose.) Young people are the most impressionable, and changing their habits and behaviours is likely to have a long-term impact. Six urban farming workshops also took place which discussed the importance of plastic waste reduction.
These activities were underpinned by a media campaign that made Hong Kong citizens aware of the issue, such as the carbon emissions generated from the production and transportation of plastic water bottles and served to convince them to carry reusable bottles.
The campaign led by Great Eagle Group has educated more than 13,700 people on waste reduction through education talks and urban workshops since 2018, including more than 6,400 over the past two years.
The property company estimates that, if bottled water costs an average HK$6, the campaign has saved more than HK$2,232,000 (about £237,000) since its involvement in 2018.