Hong Kong’s K11 MUSEA introduces their first circular product- an upcycled umbrella- in collaboration with local social enterprise, V Cycle. Ellie Tang, New World Development and K11’s Head of Sustainability, walks us through the project and the importance of engaging the community to take part in sustainable practices.
New World Development (NWD)’s iconic K11 MUSEA’s new green initiative in collaboration with V Cycle, works towards promoting a circular economy and diverting waste from Hong Kong’s landfills, all while empowering Hong Kong’s elderly population. As the city’s first retail landmark engaging their tenants in waste collection for its reuse, K11 MUSEA hopes to raise awareness of and engage the community with sustainability. Since the project launch in April 2021, 150kg PET were collected during its 3 month trial period and have been upcycled into 500 eco-friendly umbrellas.
As NWD and K11’s Head of Sustainability, Ellie Tang works to integrate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) into the Group and K11’s corporate strategy, creating a full value chain of sustainability.
Ellie Tang, Head of Sustainability, NWD & K11
Adrian Cheng, the CEO of NWD and Founder of the K11 brand, as a strong believer in driving social change through financial progress, has been working to lead the Group to utilise assets to tackle different greater problems such as climate change. Through strategising with company management, the board, stakeholders, and customers, Ellie actualises these sustainable goals through existing projects and new developments.
“Sustainability is very much about working across different disciplines, bringing different stakeholder groups together, and creating shared value. We have this amazing portfolio where you are able to serve many individuals’ lifestyle needs, to see through their growth and education,” Ellie noted.
In Hong Kong, the Municipal Solid Waste Charging Scheme has been approved by the legislative council, covering different sectors, including the commercial sector, including K11’s tenants. As an environmentally responsible company with their Sustainability Vision 2030 in place, NWD had already been implementing waste sorting and recycling measures across their various developments.
However, waste management involves many parties: tenants, the landlord’s property management, and cleaning service contractors. Waste including plastics is sometimes mixed together before eventually sorted for recycling and proper handling. As a shop employee, many are unaware of the massive amount of plastic generated from day to day operations. NWD recognised this as a knowledge gap to fill and a chance to raise awareness as a landlord to affect change.
“Most of our tenants come from international brands or young brands with a strong ethos in sustainability,” said Ellie, “On the tenants’ side, there is an organisational intention to do something for sustainability, but on an operational level, they may not have enough support.”
Two years ago, Ellie co-founded B2B startup accelerator Impact Kommons, as a collaboration between NWD’s sustainability function and their tech and innovation team. It is Hong Kong’s first startup accelerator that focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), following in the footsteps of the Group’s own sustainability vision, which is also based on the UNSDGs.
Many startups and new businesses want to attract impact investors, but they do not really know how to articulate what they do, their business strategy, or how to quantify the impact of their products and services. Impact Kommons opens up NWD’s platform and allows startups to work with the Group’s different business units, to drive sustainability based on the UNSDGs together.
Between the two cohorts that Impact Kommons has completed, they have already generated 26 pilots between different startups and New World business units. V Cycle was one of the startups admitted by the cohort, built on the principle that environmental consciousness and human compassion are intrinsically linked. Through employing the elderly and underprivileged in Hong Kong with meaningful and safe work, V Cycle aims to educate the public and normalise upcycled product development.
At the same time, K11 MUSEA worked to raise awareness of the importance of recycling through engaging their tenants to collect plastic waste to upcycled into umbrellas. In line with NWD’s sustainability vision, the retail destination educated their tenants about environmental protection, sustainable development, and proper waste disposal. Starting with 30 active participants including National Geographic and Patagonia, K11 MUSEA now has 50 tenants involved in the next phase of the project.
“Upcycling is not an original concept, but this is a magic partnership, because we can utilise our company platform to gather these eligible partners and use their network to propagate the impact of a small project to different demographics,” Ellie said.
Most of the upcycled umbrellas are gifted back to participating tenants, encouraging them to use a product as long as they need it.
“The benefits of this initiative are more than just waste reduction and creating a sellable product using rescued plastic. Most importantly, I think it challenges us to think about what other possibilities are there- instead of just thinking about what we can’t do, think about what we can do,” Ellie commented.
As a cultural brand, K11 offers many opportunities to incorporate these values in retail and mixed-use development projects, creating real estate opportunities to inject sustainability into their customer journey through infusing their core values of art, people, and nature into everything.
Now having begun the second phase of their initiative, K11 MUSEA is engaging more tenants with their plastic upcycling journey. Moving forward, they are looking into the upcycling potential of waste materials other than just plastics.
“On a company level, waste reduction fits very nicely into the context of climate action. We have been one of the earliest movers among Asia corporates to drive ambitious climate actions, including making a pledge to go net zero carbon by 2050. There’s more work to be done and we need to make sure our retail customers and stakeholders understand why sustainability matters in their everyday lives.”
The limited-edition umbrellas are also available for purchase on the K11 online store, where all proceeds will go to the sustainability mall’s other initiatives for environmental protection or Creating Shared Value (CSV).