2019 Sustainability Report

Protecting and enhancing biodiversity

Biodiversity is key to a resilient natural environment. If managed well and sustainably, nature holds the key to global prosperity.

However, warning after warning in major intergovernmental scientific reports (IPCC, IPBES and others) have shown a crisis of accelerating nature loss. The United Nations has estimated that human activities cause the extinction of three animal or plant species every hour – or 30,000 species a year. The science has never been clearer about the impact of human activities on nature and the consequences we will face.

Why is biodiversity material to us?

Nature underpins our prosperity and wellbeing by providing economic value and security, supporting human development and increasing our resilience in the face of climate change. Up to 40% of the global economy is based on biological products and services. Each year, around US$125 trillion worth of ecosystem services are provided to the global economy through drinkable water, water for industrial processes, food, fresh air, heat absorption, productive soil and forests and oceans that soak up carbon.

To help nature flourish, we need to protect and enhance the ecosystems which we affect and in which we operate.

Our businesses rely on ecosystem services provided by nature (waste decomposition, carbon sequestration and climate regulation) and on the healthy and prosperous societies that provide our customers and workforces. Our property business depends on nature for fibre, minerals, timber and building materials. Our food and beverage businesses require food and water and depend on crop pollination and water filtration. To help nature flourish, we need to protect and enhance the ecosystems which we affect and in which we operate.

Group activity on biodiversity

Biodiversity is a key element of SwireTHRIVE because its loss affects our business. It is our policy that our operating companies pay due regard to biodiversity. We ask them to identify key biodiversity risks and to take steps to mitigate them.

Swire Pacific Offshore’s vessels have ballast water treatment systems. Swire Properties uses sustainably certified timber. Cathay Pacific does not carry ivory or shark fin and serves sustainable seafood on flights.

We can always do more. We can design buildings that use sustainably sourced materials (see Sustainable materials section) and that better support wildlife. We can help to combat the trade of endangered species.

The Swire Biodiversity Working Group includes members from across our operating companies and supports the implementation of our Biodiversity Policy. It is our policy to:

  • Ensure that all companies in which we have a controlling interest undertake biodiversity assessments where relevant to their operations
  • Minimise the adverse impact of operations on biodiversity and ecosystems, including protecting endangered species and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources important to biological diversity
  • Encourage operating companies to support relevant and appropriate biodiversity and conservation initiatives and participate in industry-specific working groups on this matter
  • Promote awareness of biodiversity and conservation issues among our employees and those with whom we do business
  • Promote the restoration of ecosystems important to the areas in which our businesses operate

SwireTHRIVE approach

It will take time to develop a group plan for protecting and enhancing biodiversity, given the broad geographical spread of our operations. Here is how we propose to achieve it:

Biodiversity assessments

In order to develop mitigation plans we want to understand how our businesses affect biodiversity. We expect our businesses to have conducted biodiversity risk assessments so as to identify biodiversity issues relevant to their facilities, operations and value chains.

Project planning

Following risk assessments, our businesses will make plans and set targets. Planned projects may be carried out alone or with others. The projects may be small or large but must be thorough and have a positive impact.

One of the easiest ways to protect and enhance biodiversity is to consider such issues at the beginning of a major project. Swire Properties is performing an urban biodiversity study of its Taikoo Place redevelopment. The results will help to establish guidelines for other developments. The roof gardens at Swire Properties’ INDIGO, Beijing and Taikoo Hui, Guangzhou, developments show how underused rooftop spaces can be used to grow edible plants and crops.

Guided philanthropy

Philanthropy can have a major positive impact on biodiversity. As part of SwireTHRIVE we will request businesses to include biodiversity protection and enhancement in their philanthropic activities.

Supporting biodiversity through sustainable procurement

We have catering, food manufacturing and hospitality businesses. Our food procurement practices need to be sustainable. We can conserve biodiversity by not purchasing unsustainable food items.

Our Sustainable Food Policy gives guidance about foods that should not be served at our own events or to customers. We do not serve shark fin, blue fin tuna or black moss. The policy is in line with the WWF Seafood Guide and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora (CITES). Our Sustainable Procurement Policy suggests that consideration should be given to selecting products and services that have minimal environmental impacts over their life cycles.

Cathay Pacific Group favours the use of waste as feedstock for producing biofuel, instead of other natural resources that may further burden the ecosystem. Fulcrum, a biofuel manufacturer in which Cathay Pacific has an investment, uses municipal solid waste as its biofuel feedstock. Cathay Pacific is committed to purchase 1.1 million tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel over 10 years from Fulcrum, once production has started.

Cathay Pacific - Sourcing with care and respect

Cathay Pacific – Sourcing with care and respect

According to WWF Hong Kong, about 90% of commercially important fisheries are either fully or over-exploited globally. While awareness about choosing sustainable seafood has increased over the years, fish stocks remain threatened and some are on the verge of collapse. As a company that regularly serves fish to our customers and staff, Cathay Pacific have been proactively addressing this challenge through responsible sourcing for almost a decade.

Cathay Pacific is a corporate member of WWF. It shares the same values, and sources and serves certified sustainable seafood on selected routes. Economy class food on flights from Europe comes from sustainable sources. Under the Cathay Pacific sustainable food policy, specific unsustainable food items are not purchased and information about where food items come from is requested.

In 2019, Cathay Pacific Catering Services purchased 412 tonnes of certified sustainable and traceable seafood. This represented 58% of its total seafood purchases. It purchased cod, lobster and scallops approved by the Marine Stewardship Council and shrimp and sea bass certified by Best Aquaculture Practices, Global Good Agricultural Practice and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

Supporting biodiversity through sustainable transport

Many animals and plants are threatened with extinction because of the international trade in rare or endangered wildlife and associated products. Airlines can help combat these threats.

Over the years, Cathay Pacific has worked closely with industry associations, conservation organisations, academia and various stakeholder groups and experts to develop guidelines for its carriage practices, so that it will not knowingly facilitate the trade of any flora or fauna, or their produce, that may threaten the sustainability of any species. Its sustainable development cargo carriage policy was developed with input from these subject matter experts and references international regulations and initiatives (CITES, IATA’s live animal and perishable cargo regulations and IATA’s wildlife transport taskforce initiatives). The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Hong Kong helped to develop its greyhound carriage policy. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring body, helped to develop its shark and shark-related carriage policy.

Cathay Pacific reviewed its Sustainable Development Cargo Carriage Policy in 2019, having regard to CITES and the policies and practices of other airlines. There will continue to be engagement with customers and others, with a view to the policy being understood and implemented. The aim is to develop the policy further to ensure its practicability and enforceability in response to major changes in the environment.


Cathay Pacific has an Embargo List aimed at stopping animal cruelty and biodiversity loss. It does not carry hunting trophies, shark fin, ivory, cetaceans, racing greyhounds, fighting dogs, snub nosed dogs and cats and animals intended for testing purposes. Any person or organisation wishing to transport live animals using their services must sign a Shipper’s Declaration Letter, certifying their compliance with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon’s shipping requirements. Failure to comply can result in legal penalties.

International declaration

United for Wildlife Declaration

United for wildlife logo

Cathay Pacific is a signatory of the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce Buckingham Palace Declaration. The declaration requires Cathay Pacific not to facilitate or tolerate the carriage of wildlife products trade which contravenes CITES, to train employees and to share information and resources.

Cathay Pacific - Big cat conservation

Cathay Pacific – Big cat conservation

In January 2019, Yakalla, a Sri Lankan leopard, stopped over for six hours at the Cathay Pacific cargo terminal in Hong Kong, enroute to Canberra from Paris. Sri Lankan leopards are at risk from poaching and habitat destruction in their native land. Yakalla will be the first of several big cats to be received by zoos in Australia as part of an international breeding programme, aimed at reducing interbreeding and keeping the species’ gene pool as strong as possible.

Supporting biodiversity through philanthropy

In 2019, the Swire Trust contributed nearly HK$1 million to academic institutions and NGOs to fund projects that support marine life and biodiversity. The Trust supports World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong’s Sea for Future project. The project aims to safeguard Hong Kong’s marine life and to restore fisheries by increasing marine protection areas to at least 10% of Hong Kong’s waters. 31 hotspots have been identified and assessed. Please see the Community investment section for more information.

A number of our operating companies have also conducted CSR activities related to biodiversity. Swire Properties Community Ambassadors cleaned up coastlines in Hong Kong and Miami, USA. They collected over 30kg of garbage at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. In Hong Kong, they collected 95.5kg of coastal trash at the Shui Hau Wan mudflats and 250kg of garbage at the Chi Ma Wan Peninsula. Swire Resources employees visited Tai O, a biodiversity rich fisherman’s village in Hong Kong. They learnt about the ecological value of mangrove forests that are native to Hong Kong.

Swire Group Charitable Trust – Eat sustainably

One of the key missions of The Swire Group Charitable Trust is to help safeguard fragile marine ecosystems and restore fisheries in Hong Kong and Mainland China. Asia is home to some of the richest, most diverse and productive fisheries in the world. But resources are declining fast due to excessive and destructive fishing practices, pollution and coastal development.

The Trust has been supporting the NGO ADM Capital Foundation, which encourages the growth of a sustainable seafood market in Hong Kong. Hong Kong‘s seafood consumption per capita is one of the highest in the world. It is the tenth largest seafood importer in the world, importing 90% of what it consumes. The vast majority of seafood consumed in Hong Kong is not sustainably sourced.

In its Choose Right Today website, ADM Capital Foundation advises on what it means to buy sustainably, understanding eco labels, species to avoid and where to eat seafood that has been caught or farmed responsibly. Swire Trust helped to fund Safeguarding Seafood for our Future, a Hong Kong seafood industry symposium co-organised by the Foundation. Following this the Hong Kong Sustainable Seafood Coalition was formed. The Coalition has drawn up a code of conduct on responsible fish and seafood sourcing, setting minimum standards and using common, unambiguous language about seafood marketing. It wants consumers to be able to trust that seafood in restaurants and supermarkets in Hong Kong is legal, traceable and sustainable. Swire Trust supports the coalition, with a view to creating a sustainable seafood market in Hong Kong that can serve as a model the whole of China.

For further information, please contact swiretrust@jsshk.com.

Looking ahead

We are updating our Sustainable Food Policy and our green procurement guidelines. We are trialing, and intend to implement, a biodiversity risk assessment and reporting process for our operating companies. We are designing the process to help our businesses identify key biodiversity concerns and opportunities, to develop mitigation plans and to report on their activities.

Our Head of Sustainable Development is the Chair of the Asia Pacific Transport Taskforce of United for Wildlife (U4W). In 2019, he addressed the first global meeting of the combined U4W taskforces on transport and finance in London, with over 150 participants, in the presence of HRH the Duke of Cambridge. He outlined the progress and challenges of tackling illegal wildlife trade in the Asia Pacific region. There is a 3-year goal to embed tackling illegal wildlife trade in the business as usual operations of the members of the taskforces. The taskforces aim to increase membership, particularly among shipping lines and freight forwarders, to increase engagement with customs authorities and law enforcement agencies and to use technological advances to identify suspicious cargos and organisations.

Climate resilience

Sustaining climate resilience