Environment Hong Kong 2006 Chapter 1: IntroductionChapter 2: Cross-boundary and International Co-operationChapter 3: Community AwarenessChapter 4: Customer Service and PartnershipChapter 5: Environmental Assessment and Planning
Chapter 6: AirChapter 7: NoiseChapter 8: WasteChapter 9: WaterChapter 10: ConservationChapter 11: Environmental Compliance
Vision & MissionForewordDirector's MessageContentsSummaryHomeEnglishChinese TraditionalChinese Simplified
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Chapter 4 Customer Service and Partnership

To work with others and continue to build partnerships in the pursuance of sustainable development objectives.
Highlights in 2005
  • Launched a Safety and Environment Payment Scheme for contractors, in which environmental payments are linked to performance.

  • Developed an ISO 14001 support package to help small and medium enterprises in the electrical/electronic sector improve their environmental performance.

  • Updated the environmental management system support packages for SMEs to incorporate the latest requirements for ISO 14001 certification.

  • Held a seminar and a workshop for restaurant operators on minimising water use and pollution.

  • Conducted an Interactive Voice Response Survey on our Customer Service Centre, with 98 per cent of respondents satisfied to extremely satisfied with the service.

  • Launched a revamped Green Restaurant web site and a new Green Garage web site.

  • Held an appointment ceremony for Environmental Ambassadors and a paint spraying seminar for the vehicle repair workshop trade.


Polluter pays is a policy that rightly puts the onus for cleanup on those who pollute. Fees and fines underscore the notion that operators are obliged to redress the damage caused by their activities and protect the environment. Yet financial tools are not the only means of encouraging responsible behaviour. Education and support can be just as effective, if not more so. The Environmental Protection Department’s (EPD) partnership programme is based around this concept. If we educate polluters about environmental problems and how they can minimise them, we can reduce offences. True, there will be holdouts, as discussed in Chapter 11, but overall this approach has achieved impressive results.

Non-compliance has plunged among our formal partners – the construction trade, restaurants, vehicle repair workshops and property management companies. These four were singled out in the late 1990s because they received the most complaints and convictions. But since 2000 complaints against them have dropped 22 per cent, in line with a general decline for all pollution complaints. More importantly, convictions are down 90 per cent. The four industries amassed 1 095 convictions in 2000, or 65 per cent of the total, and only 111 convictions in 2005, or 37 per cent of the total. The EPD’s efforts to reach out to them with training, general advice and educational programmes are bearing fruit. We are now seeking to extend our reach to other operators.

Core Partners

Our formal partnership programmes began in response to a sharp rise in complaints and convictions in the late 1990s. The programmes were intended to be a carrot to the stick of enforcement. Rather than only trying to catch operators polluting, the EPD began putting greater effort into educating them on how to minimise their pollution. As a result, improvements have been achieved in all four industries. A spirit of goodwill has also been cultivated enabling the EPD and operators to share views on a range of environmental issues and understand each other’s needs.

Our first partnership was formed with the construction trade where convictions have dropped from a high of 730 in 2000 to 60 in 2005. We have organised conferences and workshops, published materials, adapted the processing time of some applications to meet industry needs and supported education programmes. In 2005 we worked with the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau to expand a safety payment scheme for contractors to include payment for good environmental performance. Contractors who show they are meeting good environmental standards – for example, by submitting an environmental management plan, training staff and installing pollution abatement measures – will receive the payment. The measure is intended to be a positive means of encouraging compliance, rather than simply barring contractors from tendering for certain projects.

Officials of the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau hold a seminar in July 2005 to brief representatives from the construction sector on the main features of the "Pay for Safety and Environment Scheme".

With restaurants, we have focused on promoting technology to reduce water use and, as a result, sewage flows. Special throttles installed in water taps were tested in a pilot trial with the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute in early 2004 and reduced consumption by 20-25 per cent. Guidelines on cold water thawing, developed by the University of Hong Kong with EPD support, were presented at an experience-sharing seminar in February 2005 on green restaurant practices. A workshop in March also looked at how to manage food waste, control pollution and increase energy efficiency. Related findings and guidelines have been placed on the Green Restaurant web site so restaurant operators can access them easily. To make it more user-friendly, this dedicated web site was revamped in August 2005.

Various types of water saving devices, which can fit easily into water taps, are available in the market.
Members of the restaurant trade and EPD attend an experience-sharing seminar on green restaurants. The Green Restaurant web siteprovides useful information to local restaurants.

Pollution from vehicle repair workshops has been tackled through an outreach programme. The Collaboration Scheme with Vehicle Repair Workshops to Improve Environmental Compliance has helped to confine problem workshops to a few blackspots. Volunteers from trade associations, who are nominated as Environmental Ambassadors and receive training from the EPD, educate their colleagues about the environmental problems they are causing and how they can reduce them. Their efforts have coincided with a drop in convictions for the industry from 65 in 2000 to six in 2005. In April 2005, 55 Ambassadors were appointed for a new tenure. The EPD also launched a Green Garage web site early in the year to provide garages with easy access to guidelines, legal requirements and other relevant information.

EPD officials with newly-appointed Environmental Ambassadors for the vehicle repair industry.

Our fourth formal industry partner, property management, was heavily involved in a scheme to promote floor-based source separation of waste in 2005 (see Chapter 8 for details). Some 223 housing estates have signed up and the EPD aims to have 80 per cent of the population in Hong Kong participating in the source separation scheme by 2010. In addition, the Property Management Ambassador Scheme has continued to enrol new members, with 576 ambassadors appointed by the end of 2005. The EPD also continued to provide advice, guidelines and training materials to the trade.

Extending Our Reach

Partnerships have brought many environmental benefits to the participating industries. Unfortunately, the EPD does not have the resources to form partnerships with every industry in Hong Kong. We therefore are seeking other ways to reach out to a wider range of operators. Our aim is to promote compliance by providing operators with information, pointing them in the right direction, answering questions and being accessible.

The EPD has developed ISO 14001 Environmental Management System (EMS) support packages that can help businesses develop their own EMS and meet the latest international requirements for improving environmental performance. The first package, produced in December 2004, was targeted at small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the construction sector and another, released in January 2005, was tailor-made for the electrical/electronic sector. Both packages contain a User Manual and Generic ISO 14001 EMS Templates that can apply to any type of business.

The EPD also updated the two support packages in November 2005 to incorporate new requirements for ISO 14001, as existing certificates will expire in May 2006. Tools like these, combined with a commitment from senior managers, can help businesses meet ISO 14001 requirements on their own and save on consultants’ fees.

The new ISO 14001 EMS support packages for SMEs. An EMS support package for SMEs of the ectrical/electronic sector.

We have also been developing a new platform to provide more specific, tailor-made information for enterprises of all sizes. The Compliance Assistance Centre will be launched in about mid-2006 at Southorn Centre, near the Wan Chai MTR station. The accessible location will make it easy for operators to drop in, collect up-to-date materials and speak to staff about their needs. The intention is to provide enhanced assistance to concerned trades in achieving environmental compliance, pollution prevention and environmental management.

Partnership programmes and outreach like the Compliance Assistance Centre aim to create a win-win situation for operators and the environment. The EPD does not want to discourage industry, but to encourage it to adopt better practices. A co-operative approach means we can show operators that good practices can result in cost savings, as well as a healthier environment. There are still a few bad apples and our enforcement team is dealing with them. But they are increasingly becoming isolated as more businesses realise the value and the rightness of going green.


The Environmental Protection Interactive Centre (EPIC) was upgraded in 2005 to enable on-line application and processing of ten types of licences. The response has been unsatisfactory so far, possibly because people still prefer to apply for such documents in person or by mail. The EPIC also provides access to a wide range of environmental information and in 2005 received 440 000 hits.

The EPIC web site, which was upgraded in 2005, supports the online processing of ten types of licences.


The EPD’s Customer Service Centre is the first stop for pollution complaints and enquiries from the general public. In 2005 we received 56 779 calls, of which 19 389 were related to complaints. We resolved about half the complaint calls over the phone and referred the other half to our compliance team. The remaining calls were mostly enquiries about our work.

The volume of calls makes customer service a high priority for the EPD. We have established a system where calls are handled by our staff, not machines, and the average waiting time for getting through is six seconds. Less than one per cent of calls are abandoned. An Interactive Voice Response Survey in 2005 showed this approach was regarded favourably by callers. 98 per cent of callers were satisfied to extremely satisfied with our Customer Service Centre; 32 per cent of them were extremely satisfied. The centre was also honoured in the Civil Service Outstanding Award Scheme 2005, receiving a merit award for its front line/counter service. We were assessed for our commitment to service excellence, our efficiency and user-friendliness and the manner and attitude of our staff.

  Staff at the Customer Service Centre answer calls within six seconds.  
  The EPD’s Customer Service Centre received a merit award in the Civil Service Outstanding Award Scheme 2005.


  • Set up a Compliance Assistance Centre to provide a one-stop business facilitation service.

  • Work with a local trade association to develop a support package for controlling cooking fume emissions from small and medium sized restaurants.

  • Promote the use of more environmentally friendly paint spraying technology and practices to vehicle repair workshops.

  • Launch an Interactive Voice Response Survey to gauge public feedback on the quality of service provided by enforcement staff.

  • Develop tools and guidelines to help the construction trade meet the requirements of the newly launched Pay for Safety and Environment Scheme.

  • Develop appropriate indicators to monitor and enhance the environmental performance of contractors.

  • Promote implementation of waste management measures for private sector projects.

  • Develop a plan to require ISO 14001 certification for public sector construction projects.


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