HK Time Out Magazine – Column #5

timeout

I recently started writing a short, light-hearted political column for Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version…

Bright ideas

In what are meant to be times of economic austerity and eco-awareness, the vulgar practice of retail premises being lit up like a Macanese casino all night continues to spread, despite campaigning from local NGOs.

One has to wonder how many customers of Louis Vuitton, Dunhill and Coach are going to be around at 4am on a weeknight, and how many of them will be suddenly convinced that their lives are lacking yet another preposterous handbag. Unless Armani are somehow trying to capture that key ‘drunkard-loony-and/or-homeless’ demographic, it really seems unlikely that their target audience are going to be eyeing up their over-lit billboards.

Earlier this year, a Prada spokesperson said they were ‘actively seeking a solution’ to their energy haemorrhaging issues. What the heck does that mean and why has there still been no action? Quit the boardroom chin rubbing lady and ‘actively seek’ the off switch! How hard can it be?

It goes to show that although companies may apparently subscribe to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) ideals and programmes, they will only make (superficial) adjustments in their behaviour if it ultimately leads to profit. Take the McDonald’s twice monthly ‘no straw day’ – it only takes a token gesture here, and a few dollars there and you then have permission to shout and brag about your new cuddly eco-credentials. Retailers are jumping on the bandwagon to ‘appear’ green and ethical – but it is often without substance and, at best, a cynical reaction to a market trend.

Donald Tsang has long promised that he would ‘study the feasibility’ of doing something about energy wastage. He certainly embraced the word ‘dim’ when LEGCO’s electricity subsidy passed and simply increased consumption in HK. Plus, since we live in the world’s freest economy, any legislation against business is unlikely to appear anytime soon.

If the government and companies themselves cannot be trusted to protect our environment, then we’ve no choice but to campaign, fight, protest and complain ourselves until they switch on to switching off.

Time Out Column - 10.6.09