#StopAsianHate – Coronavirus ain’t bias, Minorities aren’t minor

People participating in a protest against Asian hate in New York, U.S., on March 21, 2021. /Xinhua

Since the beginning of the pandemic in Spring 2020, Asians residing in Western Countries have encountered racial assaults at different extents and higher rates. Some incidents took place in major cities with decent reputations. The issue is prominent and the Asian community has begun the #StopAsianHate movement.

We are grateful to have Dr. Rizwan Ullah for a discussion regarding the movement against Asian hate crime. Dr. Ullah is currently a vice principal at a local secondary school and a seasoned educator. He has conducted extensive research on Chinese education for ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, who is also a board member of the Equal Opportunities Commission as well as the Youth Development Commission.

We invited Dr. Ullah to share his point of view on why there has been an increasing number of racial attacks and what is behind the rise of violence.

Fear and ignorance caused the rise of violence

Towards the main reason for the increasing number of racial attacks, Dr. Ullah shared that it is fear and ignorance, with the lack of beliefs in science. They would not have posed unnecessary fear and fear mongering attitude towards their own perception of things if they believed in science . He addressed that the situation would not have turned out this way if people had addressed Covid as a flu-like virus or a strong contagious virus at the beginning, instead of the “Wuhan Virus”. People started associating the virus with China, and began the label and the whole propaganda.

Since then when people see Asians or anyone with yellow skin tone, they pose a perception that Asians are the carriers of Covid. And because of this ignorance and natural fear coming from humans, it has led to the emerging crisis.

“I mean, once you are scared and begin to stereotype, you would develop a sense of prejudice and discrimination against this group of community. That would eventually lead to all sorts of racial comments and worst of all, the violence”.

Dr. Ullah then shared his own witnessing of similar incidents in Hong Kong. He gave an example of the recent lockdown in areas around Jordan and how the government “ambushed” and rounded up Battery Street, Shanghai Street, Reclamation Street etc., where there were a large number of South Asians living around that area. As a result, some locals in Hong Kong  began by stopping the use of delivery services such as FoodPanda, which has many employees of South Asian descent. Moreover, when Hong Kong people see South Asians in the public, they tend to avoid them as if they are the legitimate carrier of Covid-19. 

However, Dr. Ullah admitted that after this massive lockdown in Jordan, there were not as many haters as the other clusters such as the “Dance Group” or “Gym Group”. Dr. Ullah then reiterated that fear and ignorance is still existent among the public, without acknowledging that Covid-19 does not identify race and will not attack one’s immune system based on skin color. 

Dr. Rizwan Ullah (right) at the press release of EOC, 2020

Awareness and responsiveness towards racial movements

When comparing between “Black Lives Matter”(BLM) and current ”Anti Asian Hate” movements, Dr. Ullah addressed that there is a difference in nature of the movements. The Former was triggered after the injustice on George Floyd, therefore the BLM movement was induced by the wrongful act of law enforcements. In contrast, the latter was due to the lack of information and public education about Covid, and it has resulted in people initiating all these prejudices against the Asian community. “One (BLM) is clearly wronged so even later on, Caucasians and other ethnic groups began to be supportive of this movement. However, the hatred against the “Asian Virus” is different. There is a group of people who believe that we are the virus carriers. And since Covid can affect everyone, this is an issue embedded in everyone’s backyard.” He added.

Dr. Ullah then discussed awareness and responsiveness of the movements. “With BLM, people started to understand under the influence of the media, pushing against it and making changes. For the Anti Asian Hate, unfortunately, some people lack scientific knowledge of Covid and politicians, from the West in particular, are politicizing this public health issue and weaponizing it against China particularly”. He explained with Sinovac and BioNTech vaccines as examples: Ordinary citizens go after whichever one available since they are recognized. But then some would come up with this political idea, that people should not be allowed to enter China without having Sinovac vaccinated. On the other hand, Europeans have this idea of disallowing visitors with Sinovac vaccinated. 

Dr. Ullah emphasises that these politics should not be existent, since that would lead us nowhere but back to square one. “People would fear and develop annoyance and irritation, eventually tearing the society apart . Therefore politicians around the world should not politicise covid unless it is out of good gesture. Developed countries can assist the weaks by donating resources. But if you are using Covid to create racial division and an unharmonious environment, that really should not be seen in the 21st Century”. He commented.

Dr. Rizwan Ullah (thrid from left) presented the findings and recommendations of a study report of Education and Career Pathways of Ethnic Minority Youth in Hong Kong at the press conference

Suggestions to minimize hate crimes against minorities

As a reputable board member of the Equal Opportunities Commission. Dr. Ullah has given several suggestions to the general public to minimise hate crimes against minorities.

 He urged the public to take away our mindset as an individual. People should not be judgmental and need to fact-find things without being misled, particularly by social media. Once these prerequisites are solidified, people would start opening up our values of acceptance, respect and appreciation. However, he regretted that we are currently on the other side of the continuum, where we stereotype, prejudice, discriminate, and in some places, hurt the minorities.

“The dynamics have changed. We are no longer identified in a country by skin color.

Lastly, he addressed the importance of unity. “The dynamics have changed. We are no longer identified in a country by skin color. We are instead identified by the values we share as a human race. We can only solve problems with this mindset. Because the virus does not care if you are white or Asian. We can fix this with the right mindset. But if our mindset is still in deficit, then only God can help”. He concluded.


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Another Possible Outbreak – This Time from The Gym/Fitness Center

Written by: Prof. Fu Hoo Kin Frank MH, JP, Executive Chancellor of SERA

 

Photo source: TUV Rheinland

The Government required employees of Hong Kong gyms to be screened for the coronavirus by Sunday (14/3/2021) if they were allowed to open. Since the city confirmed 60 new infections on Friday (12/3/2021), the public fears that another possible outbreak might be happening soon. Most of the latest cases were linked to a “cluster” at Ursus Fitness in Sai Ying Pun. So far, a total of 64 cases were linked to this fitness centre in just 3 days and increased to 122 cases in 6 days. The city’s tally of infections stood at 11,210, with 203 related deaths.

Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory expert doctor at Chinese University, said the outbreak was similar to the dance clubs outbreak earlier that ultimately affected 732 people – the largest in Hong Kong since the start of the pandemic. “I worry the big outbreak at the fitness centre will be the prelude to the fifth wave, but the Centre for Health Protection very quickly quarantined close contacts. Hopefully that will stop the virus from spreading everywhere in the community. We will need to closely monitor the situation,” Hui told a local radio programme. He noted the gym was popular and might have customers who also frequented other fitness centres, potentially carrying the virus with them.

As coronavirus cluster linked to Hong Kong gym spreads, are city’s fitness centres safe enough to remain open?” (Phila Siu and Gigi Choy)

The recent outbreak prompted government officials to step up safety measures at fitness centres across the city. Instead of reacting to this potential outbreak, it is believed that a more comprehensive system and guidelines should be in place and enforced to prevent another outbreak similar to the dance group earlier such as:

1. Requirements/Compliances by Gym/Fitness Center owners and users
  • Temperature check
  • Clean hands with alcohol
  • Use “Leave Home Safe” app
  • Wear face masks (even when doing aerobic exercise)
  • Clean equipment and facilities after use every time
  • Have adequate staff on duty
  • Staff must be tested for the virus every 2 weeks
  • Improve air ventilation – meeting air flow requirement (more stringent than restaurant) – ventilation of exercisers will increase to two to three folds (from normally 16-18 times/min to 40-50/min during aerobic exercise)
  • Safe distance with petitions between stations
  • Forbid eating and drinking on site
  • Reduce maximum capacity to 50% (including locker room and shower)
  • Install surveillance cameras to allow better monitoring
  • Provision of clean towel service.

2. Recommended Policies and Regulations
  • Gym/Fitness center operators must observe the requirements suggested under #1 or face the consequence of being shut down and fined
  • The Government inspects the Gym/Fitness center sites and issue a temporary permit for them to open and operate
  • Similar regulations for indoor exercise facilities should be in place and they should be monitored more regularly
  • Users should be encouraged to be tested for the coronavirus before they come to the Gym/Fitness Center

Summary

It will take another 1-2 months for the vaccination to work and 9-12 months to reach the level of herd immunity. In the meantime, we should exercise to stay healthy and maintain a strong immune system. At the same time do so diligently and in compliance with suggested measures to prevent/minimize the transmission of the coronavirus.

Nonetheless, this battle against the COVID-19 pandemic requires teamwork, cooperation, self-discipline, and practice of scientific findings/recommendations (as stated under #1 – requirements/compliances and #2 – recommendations).

Reference

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3125142/

Hong Kong expecting about 60 new coronavirus (SCMP)


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A Year-End Message from our Executive Chancellor

Dear SERA Circle Family, 
 
2020 was a very difficult year for Hong Kong. We were faced with the COVID-19 Pandemic, social unrest, downturn of the global economy and US sanctions such as in withdrawing recognition of our special economic status. Looking back over the past 23 years since our return to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, we have overcome many challenges and crises to maintain Hong Kong as a world class business hub. We even surpassed the Japanese as the number one rank in terms of longevity. We should continue to rely on our strengths, innovation and perseverance to make Hong Kong a blessed place (福地) to live and prosper in the years ahead. 
 
In a recent publication (《來生一定再做香港人》) by Sheila Yuen Suk Ming, she provided detailed document/statistics and evidence on the outstanding achievements of Hong Kong in 36 areas, ranging from traveling, dining, energy and technology, transportation, living culture/quality of life, education, health, Covid-19 Pandemic, employment, business hub, prosperity and wealth, housing, and civilization/culture. She wanted to show that Hong Kong was not “finished” as some pessimists claimed but possessed many outstanding achievements and features to remain the most attractive place to live on earth – she would definitely choose to live here again in her “second life”. She hoped that the disputes between the two camps (Pro-establishment and Pro-democrat) would be resolved and that they could compromise and work together to make Hong Kong great again.

I believe that when there is a will, there is a way and nothing is impossible.

Through establishing a community network and bondage, Social Enterprise Research Academy (SERA) can pull our resources together and provide the leadership to accept and overcome uncertainties and inherent limitations/sacrifices ahead. Hong Kong was by far the safest place to live and work, do business and raise a family, and was rated third in the world in terms of offering a quality of life. 

At SERA, we can face and overcome any challenges together.

Professor Frank Fu MH JP

Executive Chancellor

Social Enterprise Research Academy


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A Message from Our Executive Director

Dear SERA Circle Family, 

Hereby, I would like to express my sincere Christmas greetings to you all. 
 
2020 has been a year like no other. As we turn our backs on one of the most challenging years with a convergence of crises that require leaders to rise up and tackle every challenge, we are also pointed to a clearer vision for Social Caring Leadership that gets us to sustainable prosperity on a healthy planet. We are proud of your resilience and effort this year, be it personal, environmental, societal and economical. We are also grateful for the support and encouragement that Social Enterprise Research Academy has received from our fellows and community has been extraordinary, motivated us to go forward during these times. 
 
Heading into a new year, may each and every one of us carry the inspirations we learnt in 2020 into how we become the leaders we need for our communities, companies and beyond. Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season! 

Bonnie Liao

Executive Director

Social Enterprise Research Academy


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CSR In Post Covid-19 Era Insight #5 – What is the future development of CSR? How does CSR extend to the “internet of things”, data and the surveillance internet that will affect our lives?

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Something Important is missing in ESG Management
As the market for sustainable investments expands, more investors are taking a keen interest in sustainability reports from companies. Yet the information might not meet these investors’ expectations. From an investor’s standpoint, if the sustainability disclosure were loosely related to the company’s financial and operational performance, it would be difficult to compare from one company to another.

For future development, we need an ESG Management Standard, a standard similar to any ISO Standard, in which corporates can set up a respective internal ESG management system and ESG auditing. Without a third party ESG audit and system implementation, ESG reporting would only be output without resolving the questions on data credibility.

Ultimately, we need a globally accepted system to be built from existing standards and frameworks that can fulfill the market needs and be adapted in different jurisdictions, to support companies in presenting comparable and relevant ESG information.

The Power of Data Technology on Future CSR Development
One must not overlook the trend of data and technology which would be a significant drive changing our ability to measure, calculate and monitor ESG factors as well as to assess their materiality and impact on long-term value creation. Also, with better visibility on challenging metrics such as resource consumption and biodiversity would likely allow the creation or enhancement of international frameworks and targets on several key issues.

Data technology can greatly facilitate the process of putting a price on impacts and externalities. Artificial intelligence shall also play a major role in identifying patterns linking economic performance to ESG factors. This enables the creation of the ‘right methodologies to assess and evaluate and more accurately, and also allows accurate predictions in long term CSR practice. Companies that can better measure their ESG impacts and risks shall surely be better positioned to make improved capital allocation decisions. On the other hand, recognizing the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) on the manufacturing sector, which has been actively integrating IoT into operations leading to better optimization and efficiency, allowing us to automatically track the quality of vendors, suppliers and end products without ever leaving the office. It also allows us to plan the shipping or transportation routes, production schedules and maintenance routines more efficiently, proactively avoid us wasting time, products and resources.

New technologies allow corporates to collect real-time data and automate the data collection process. Ubiquitous access to the internet has made data more accessible and easier to gather, check and analyze. The extensive reach of technology into daily life means that stakeholders expect to be able to access information quickly and conveniently. They also demand that information be updated regularly and be easily verifiable about its consistency and validity. Revolutionary technologies such as Blockchain would allow multiple stakeholders to be involved in CSR projects and to access reliable information at their own convenience. Such ongoing public scrutiny shall further require companies to present coherent and reliable sustainability information all the time. It also leads to greater empowerment and involvement for stakeholders who will have a more direct impact on the development of corporate governance and strategy.

We are in a Zero-sum Game
In view of the overall trend, one can conclude that by demonstrating leadership in ESG will ultimately become a differentiating factor for entities in the public and private sectors, and market participants have much to gain from embracing ESG stewardship as part of their competitive advantage. While on the other hand, should any companies, investors and governments fail to act on ESG will likely face greater risks and miss significant opportunities as compared to ESG leaders in many key areas, ranging from better access to capital, to operational improvement and pursuing new business ventures.


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CSR in Post Covid-19 era insight #4 – How does CSR affect the development and implementation of policies?

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In recent years, CSR has developed beyond its dictionary definition. It means far beyond “philanthropy”, but it includes the concept of “social innovation” and “shared value”. The company should also be able to generate economic value in a way that it also produces social value for society by responding to its main challenges. Corporate are suggested to explore innovative ways to harness employees’ creativity and energy in order to address social needs while developing business opportunities. It is also suggested to work with social entrepreneurs as this helps to bring a new lens for traditional corporate.

Each company has a different organizational context, hence there will not be a standard CSR development and implementation policy that can be applicable to all industries and companies. Based on the UN Global Compact, Social Enterprise Research Academy (SERA) established the Social Caring Pledge Scheme with 6 principles to clearly laid out initiative for the adoption of sustainable business practices in Hong Kong, arguably, from a proof-point of company’s commitment to its clear and achievable objectives.

To pledge is only the first step, it is important for companies to set a clear common goal. The goal could only be found out through undertaking a process to evaluate ESG issues that are most material to the company, one can evaluate and determine which issues are most relevant to stakeholders and the company’s core business strategy as issues are weighted, prioritized and plotted on ESG Materiality Assessment Map according to their relative degree of importance.

Companies could employ third party consultant to conduct confidential interviews or hosting a ESG forum with senior executives from different lines of business and control functions, also leaders from suppliers, consumer, community development and environmental /civil rights organizations, as well as socially responsible investment firms to select what are the major factors the Company should prioritize and ask different departments to deploy detailed policies and action plans based on the same corporate goal.

We realized that the main challenge is not lying upon the materiality assessment tool, but different understandings of CSR importance to different stakeholders, how seriously different people take CSR are also based on their understanding and knowledge of the global market, related corporate training is needed but very lack of in Hong Kong. With the vision of being a socially-integrated and cross-sectorial platform to advocate a “sustainable CSR” and to enable not only listed companies but also small-medium size companies access ESG expert insights, SERA has hosted various forums in the past years based on the 6 principles of Social Caring Pledge Scheme to enable discussions among members of SERA Circle and to raise out concerns to government policy-makers, community development and environmental /civil rights organization leaders, as well as socially responsible investors. ESG would not be able to be fully integrated in the heart of company unless its top management commit and involve, therefore SERA has also focused on influencing founders and C-level management through Fellowship Selection Scheme in hope to transform entrepreneurs to social entrepreneurs.


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CSR in Post Covid-19 era insight #3 – In terms of corporate and investment policies, what does sustainable CSR mean beyond gift-giving and charity?

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Given that gift-giving practice and charity is a philanthropic act being supported by most governments through tax incentives and tax breaks, most institutions take this practice as a way of fulfilling public’s desired expectations or a business tradition, as many believe it is a kind of the social contract between a business and its local community. Some even regard it as a way to partially offset some of the social harm or social problems that business has engendered. However, CSR is not only limited to philanthropic efforts— to demonstrate fondness or concern for humankind through the form of money and gifts, which is only a small part of company’s social responsibility or citizenship initiatives, being a socially responsible business itself is much required in this time of crisis with global warming and Covid-19 as pressing concerns.

CSR alone is no longer sufficient for a business to excel in this new era; from a corporate policy nutshell, CSR represents a company’s efforts to have a positive impact on its employees, consumers, the environment and community, which is only a form of self-regulation that most companies report on annually. To arrive at a more precise assessment of a company’s actions instead of producing impressive-sounding rhetoric, Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) which demands metrics plays as an important tool to measure company activities such as:

  • Climate change responsive actions
  • Workers Welfare
  • Supply chain Management
  • Innovation Fostering

In this sense, a “sustainable CSR program” would be with clear target setting, execution, monitoring and action to take to ensure things like environmental programs which are to demonstrate kilowatts of energy saved, tones of carbon emissions avoided, or gallons of water preserved could be achieved with progression year on year. In fact, the report of ESG data becomes a key assessment marker for respective company’s stakeholders especially for investors as it shows the corporate purpose, strategy and management quality, that’s the reason why a quarter of the global professionally-managed investment funds only invest in companies with solid ESG credentials demonstrated. Although some companies would still regard the making of ESG report solely for compliance reasons or an add-on to business activity, the integration of ESG at the very heart of a company including the financial decision and long term planning would help to eliminate operational risk as well as the environment and social risk, which is a clear pointer to investors. The financial data on the annual report would only be an earning and loss of a company’s “health-check” without sufficiently demonstrating its actual operation, which could cause risk to the business in the long run. Given that today institutional investors and pension funds have grown too large to diversify away from systemic risks, so they must consider the environmental and social impact of their portfolio.


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CSR Post Covid-19 Series – #2 What is the value of CSR means to a corporate?

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What is the value of CSR means to a corporate?
How ESG helps corporate to make investment decisions?

Making Investment Decisions through ESG information
Forbes article pointed out some insights from Tim Mohin, Chief Executive of the Global Reporting Index on why the world continues to shift toward environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting: “In the past decade there has been a tremendous upswing in interest coming from the financial sector. With over 90% of the largest companies now filing sustainability reports (85% of the S&P 500), the data is plentiful. But that is not new. What is new is the interest in using the information for investment decisions. A recent study from Oxford University found that more than 80% of mainstream investors now consider ‘ESG’ — environmental, social, and governance — information when making investment decisions. And the numbers are compelling — globally, there are now $22.89 trillion of assets being professionally managed under responsible investment strategies, an increase of 25% since 2014. This number is so large it needs context — it exceeds the gross domestic product of the entire U.S. economy.”

A higher return with lower risk is possible?
Genuinely speaking, investors are looking for higher returns with lower risk, whereas nowadays, ESG reporting opens a door for risk assessment and management. ESG risks can be estimated by the weighting and impact of environmental risk, product risk, social risk, governance risk, to arrive at an overall ESG risk index.

Capture opportunity and Create value through ESG investment
From the case of KKR breaking through the problem of a large fund that could not have right capital for impact projects, by creating this Global Impact Fund to seizes opportunities in companies that size is $100 million and valuable from an impact perspective, institutions and family offices should rethink the traditional concept of CSR and start looking into opportunities.

Cost of ESG non-conformity
Game change with ESG factoring in societal expectations, governments, regulators, stock exchanges and investors are driving increasingly requirements and actions on environment, social and actions on ESG performance. These drivers challenge organizations to incorporate ESG factors into corporate strategy, management approach, performance analysis, disclosure and reporting. Most countries with policies of ESG reporting requirements adopt a combination of laws, listing rules “comply or explain” and/or voluntary guidelines to regulate the disclosure of ESG information. An important trend is that these policies are increasingly subject to higher levels of obligation.

CSR Post Covid-19 Series – #1 Why Do We Need To Care About CSR?

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Living in the time of global covid-19 crisis, one cannot continue to deny that our failure to act responsibly to nature which is in crisis, is indeed failing humanity. Do you know that around 60% of all infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, from animals to human, as are 75% of all emerging infectious diseases? According to an article from UNEP, Zoonoses reemerged recently are Ebola, bird flu, Middle East respiratory syndrome, Rift Valley fever, SARS, Zika virus disease and now, the coronavirus are all linked to human activity. Nature is threatened by biodiversity and habitat loss, global heating and toxic pollution. Human induced environmental changes modify wildlife population structure and reduce biodiversity, resulting in new environmental conditions that favor particular pathogens.

The relations of Socio-environmental Risks and Financial Value at Risk

Due to the increasing risks from socio-environment, different countries signed The Paris Agreement before in 2016 which is a commitment within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, that is one of the milestones that further leading regulations to be set up and also leading world-wide institutional investors to increasingly request corporates to put Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) agenda on the board of directors and management level to minimize financial value at risk, which allows CSR policies to be fully implemented in the heart of organization, presenting an opportunity for internal audit to address major risk zones under the board’s radar and to scrutinize the underlying data in ESG reports. Financial value at risk is the possible financial loss that could incur, given the probability of risk on the ESG impact, such as:

  • Loss of market share as customers move to low-emission suppliers;
  • The increased cost resulting from fines and sanctions;
  • Compensation cost to affected employees, communities or business partners;
  • Failure cost from defective products;
  • Increased cost due to staff turnover.

Game change with ESG factoring in societal expectations, governments, regulators, stock exchanges and investors are driving increasingly requirements and actions on environment, social and actions on ESG performance. These drivers challenge organizations to incorporate ESG factors into corporate strategy, management approach, performance analysis, disclosure and reporting. Most countries with policies of ESG reporting requirements adopt a combination of laws, listing rules “comply or explain” and/or voluntary guidelines to regulate the disclosure of ESG information. An important trend is that these policies are increasingly subject to higher levels of obligation.

SCMP: “Social enterprises are needed more than ever amid Covid-19, and Asia is the perfect place for their growth”



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