Sustainability Dialogue with Alumni: To Think and To Care

As being a consultant or researcher has always been one of the dream jobs of HKUST students, we are delighted to have Elaine Cheung and Karina Chow joining our dialogue!  


Elaine Cheung, our EVMT alumna, is working as a senior consultant at Ernst & Young Hong Kong. During the interview, Elaine first shared about the daily life of being a consultant. “We offer a broad range of services, including writing ESG reports which cover energy, water and waste management, managing climate-related risks, and evaluating green financial products to satisfy clients’ needs,” said Elaine. To keep pace with the fast-changing landscape for ESG, she mentioned that it is essential to keep yourself updated with industry trends and think outside the box. “Since there is no standard answer toward sustainability issues, a consultant should be equipped with up-to-date ESG knowledge and a design-thinking mindset to react to new and unexpected requirements.” Some tips were shared by Elaine, “Keep learning. Read news and sustainability-related materials to learn the latest ESG market trend. Following various sustainability pages on LinkedIn can be helpful!”


Looking back at her university days at HKUST, Elaine appreciated how the University helped her prepare for her career as a consultant. Training from different courses and case studies allowed her to enhance her research and presentation skills, and working on the final-year Capstone Project on green collaboration between building owners and tenants made her think more comprehensively. “By interviewing both landlords and tenants, my biggest takeaway was multiple-perspective. Knowing your stakeholders and thinking of the issues from different perspectives is key!” Elaine suggested HKUST students who are interested in the sustainability field gain experience by joining mentorship, internship or community service, to learn by doing. 


Getting back to our topic “Sustainability”, Elaine shared that sustainability is a simple principle: Maintaining our lives with adequate resources without sacrificing the resources of the next generations. “For me, it is the balance between three pillars, including environmental, social, and economic. Although the concept of sustainability can be abstract, it could be explained and executed through our everyday life. For example, be a sustainable consumer by purchasing products with less packaging or bringing your own shopping bag. We could always start a more sustainable lifestyle with small steps. 


Next, we shine a light on the other alumna - Karina Chow, who is currently a researcher at environmental public policy think tank Civic Exchange! 


As a nature enthusiast, sustainability means to her as having higher awareness of our surrounding natural environment. “Human actions have a significant impact on the greater ecosystem. Instead of caring only for ourselves, we should show more respect to nature.” The pandemic lockdown enabled Karina to slow down and be more observant, “I started to notice different types of birds chirping, and opened my eyes to Hong Kong’s diverse urban bird species!” laughed Karina. Karina believes that motivation comes from what we stand for in our hearts. Caring more for our planet’s natural assets is the first step that will motivate us to act in accordance to a sustainable lifestyle. 


Karina was also a student of the EVMT programme, who further explored her interests in public policy and research. “My interest in public policy stemmed from my observation of a lack of policies to tackle sustainability issues in Hong Kong. However, leveraging public policy is a top-down approach that offers a source of momentum. Effective public policy is core to accelerate systematic changes, so I hope to devote myself to the field to fill in the missing pieces.” Assessing and analyzing current situations and providing policy recommendations to address environmental issues, she also shared about the important mindset of being a researcher. “Always be curious and ask questions! Question the issue and challenges in solving the issue. By defining what you don’t know, you could be able to think more critically.” 


At the end of the interview, Karina recalled her university days and reflected on her learning at HKUST. In terms of academics, studies at HKUST helped her build up a solid and interdisciplinary knowledge foundation, having dabbled in concepts across science, business,  engineering, and social science. On the other hand, non-academic learning from student society activities and career-related workshops strengthened her soft skills. “HKUST has so many resources waiting for you to explore. Though you may find yourself a bit lost sometimes, enjoy your confusion. The more you explore; the more you will absorb.” Her final advice for students will be: Acknowledge the reality but never give up! “When striving to uphold sustainability, sometimes the deep roots of modern values that permeate today’s society, such as consumerism and the boundless pursuit for convenience,  may make you feel frustrated and hopeless. However, we must remain optimistic. Every action matters, no matter how small it is.” With the sincere blessings from Karina, we wish every HKUST student could think Big and Positively, and act Small and Determinedly.

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