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HKA’s Triple Bottom Line


BY HEATHER LINHARDT


For hundreds of years, poets, philosophers and scientists have encouraged an intrinsic appreciation for nature. For centuries, advocates for the environment from St. Francis of Assisi to scientists such as Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, have encouraged us to take heed of the unseen cost of environmental destruction.


And now, even Profit & Loss statements show us what we already know: what is good for the environment is good for business. HKA’s recent electric bills are absolute proof! Hong Kong Academy reduced its energy consumption by over 40,000 Kilowatts in November 2014 alone — 50% beyond seasonally expected reductions between October and November. This is an obvious benefit for the environment, but it also generated a savings of $50,000 HKD on expenditures in one month. Imagine the financial savings that might accrue over the next ten years. Imagine the benefit of the school’s lowered energy consumption in terms of air pollution and global warming.


HKA didn’t achieve these environmental and financial gains overnight. Building on the efforts of the Worldwise Committee, HKA established a Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) in 2014 to set effective, obtainable targets for reducing energy consumption. HKA is one of only non-tertiary schools in Southeast Asia with a comprehensive sustainability strategy in place. HKA’s plan covers eight areas: water & energy, waste & procurement, heritage & participation, transportation, building & grounds, health & well- being, business management, and sustainability learning.


With the SAP in place, HKA follows a process of careful planning to identify action items to reduce the school’s energy consumption. It’s long been said you can’t change what you don’t track, so one of HKA’s first steps is to track consumption patterns in key areas and establish targets where they will be most effective. The result: lower energy use, lower energy bills and lower emissions. And more sustainability!


But at HKA, environmental sustainability isn’t just about offsetting; it is about innovating. At many educational institutions, the operation of the school runs quite separately from the learning that goes on in the school. HKA follows a different model that leverages learning and bridges the gap with operations. HKA students are actively involved in generating initiatives to promote sustainability, to learn through examination of broad global issues like global warming, and to connect those problems to tangible actions they can take within the school community. Simple things like turning off the lights and closing doors because the air conditioning is on, done consistently over time create financial, social, and environmental wins.


Along with energy, HKA is tracking all waste to determine key areas for reduction. The school’s Student Organisation for Sustainability, S.O.S., has initiated several waste reduction projects including the recycling of plastic, metal, paper, and even food waste. According to Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department, 40% of landfill rubbish is food waste. The good news is that much of this waste can be turned into valuable organic fertilizer within 3 – 12 weeks depending on the climate and the storage method, sparing valuable space in a landfill.


Why does this matter? By closing the gap between operations and learning, we can achieve even greater sustainability gains both for the environment and for the school’s bottom line. Gone are the days where what we do (operations) and what we say (education) exist in silos. And by closing this gap, the entire community benefits. Students gain authentic experiences in solving real problems, and our operations improve the triple bottom line: economic, social, and environmental.


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