• Sustainability
  • Plug and Play China

Plug and Play Launches a Sustainability Program in China

CHINA, September 2020 - The global innovation platform Plug and Play announced the launch of its Sustainability Program in China last month.

Corporations can achieve their sustainability missions through collaboration among players across the industry value chain, in both public and private sectors.

"With tightening environmental regulations, consumer pressure, and natural resources restraints, an increasing number of companies see sustainability as more than a responsibility to fulfill, but as an effective tool to manage risks, create new growth drivers, and generate capital returns. We have seen an increasing number of leading corporations in China asking for an effective platform to collaboratively innovate with startups, their corporate peers, municipal governments, and investors on sustainability issues,” said Jeff Chien, Partner and Senior Vice President of Plug and Play China.

"As the world's leading innovation platform, Plug and Play is uniquely positioned to build such a collaborative ecosystem for sustainability innovation. Through our innovation services, startup accelerator programs, and venture investment, we can scale up sustainability innovation for our corporate clients by harvesting synergies across various innovation resources,” added Jeff. 

Over 60 large corporations and 30 startups attended the program launch event in Wuxi, China. 
“Sustainability is broad, but the launch event focused on four major areas where innovation can and has been bringing huge climate impacts. These areas were: energy, new materials and recycling, agriculture and food, and sustainable fashion,” said Bella Jiabei Zhang, head of Plug and Play China’s Brand & Retail, Energy, and  Sustainability programs.

Technological innovation has drastically changed the landscape within the energy sector. With the development of energy storage, wind, and solar technology, 56% of renewable capacity added last year achieved lower electricity costs than new coal power plants, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. Furthermore, by the end of 2021, it would be cheaper to build new photovoltaic facilities than to keep running active coal power plants of as much as 1.2 TW, more than half of the world total.

“Only through the deployment of renewable energy is it possible to solve the climate crisis that we are facing,” said Lei Zhang, CEO of Founder and Envision Group, at the launch event of Plug and Play’s Sustainability program in China.

Also key to global decarbonization is the material sector. With issues such as plastic pollution under increasing scrutiny, the material sector is also faced with sustainability challenges. Leading players are seeking to innovate collaboratively both in recycling technology and in new materials.

An example of the collaborative innovation in this regard is The Alliance to End Plastic Waste.

The Alliance is a not-for-profit organization that includes companies that make, use, sell, process, collect, and recycle plastics, including chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters, and waste management companies. The Alliance is the foremost CEO-driven international organization focused on bringing together industry, government, communities, and civil society in the fight to end plastic waste in the environment. The Alliance is working to promote programs and partnerships that focus on solutions in four core areas: infrastructure, innovation, education, and clean up. The Alliance membership represents global companies and organizations located throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Arabian Gulf.
In 2019, the Alliance announced a partnership with Plug and Play to create three accelerator programs focused across three geographical hubs on the plastics value chain to identify startups with different innovations to address plastic waste in the environment. 

Thus far, the accelerator program has scouted and assessed over 1,000 startups for discussions of pilot projects with the Alliance’s nearly 50 member companies. 

“We [the Alliance and Plug and Play] came together because we have a common vision. We know that to solve the plastic waste challenge, we must leverage the best technology startups and the world’s largest corporations,” said Jacob Duer, President and CEO of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, at the launch event of Plug and Play’s Sustainability program in China.

In addition to energy and material sectors, some sustainability innovation has taken a more “fashionable” form. 

“The first half of 2020 has been the toughest period the entire fashion industry and luxury industry have faced. It’s time for us to reflect on the nature of the fashion industry. Under this special situation, the concept of ‘sustainable innovation,’ which we are talking about today, is particularly important,” said the President of Kering Group, Great China, Ms. Cai Jinqing, at the launch event of Plug and Play’s China Sustainability Program.

“It is through catalyzing innovation that Kering will be able to go beyond incremental improvements and implement the transformational changes that are necessary to be truly sustainable in its business and as an industry,” said Ms.Cai.

In 2018, Kering Group and Plug and Play established the K Generation Award for Sustainable Innovation in Greater China, which recognized and supported Chinese startups that address challenges in alternative raw materials, green supply chain, retail and usage, and circular economy to make a positive impact on the environment and society. In October 2019, three Chinese startups received the award for their focus on the treatment of chemicals and clean water in the supply chain and their commitment to modernizing production processes to provide breakthrough solutions for the entire industry.
The food and beverage sector constitutes another focus of Plug and Play’s China Sustainability Program. According to the Harvard Business Review “products that had a sustainability claim on-pack accounted for 16.6% of the market in 2018, up from 14.3% in 2013, and delivered nearly $114 billion in sales. Most importantly, products marketed as sustainable grew 5.6 times faster than those that were not.”
As the world’s leading brewery, Budweiser’s mission is to bring people together for a better world. “We aim at driving sustainability across our value chain, from raw materials, manufacturing, sales to our consumers and communities,” said Terry Weizhou Yao, Associate Procurement Director at Budweiser APAC, at the launch event of Plug and Play’s China Sustainability Program.

At Budweiser, sustainability is housed under procurement. Hence by nature, Budweiser’s sustainability practice requires extensive collaboration with suppliers and various stakeholders along the supply chain, according to Terry. 

“For example, we need to work with local governments and NGOs to ensure the protection of water resources used for our breweries. We have water stewardship goals of improving water efficiency and water quality improvement, especially in high-risk watersheds. Circular packaging of products needs innovative ideas from packaging suppliers to eliminate waste and use returnable or majority-recycled content. Besides, electricity suppliers are key to our renewable goals. We have been pushing towards 100% of our purchased electricity from renewable sources and cutting our carbon emissions by 25% across value chain,” said Terry.

Through its search for more innovative solutions in sustainability, Budweiser has paid special attention to startups. By collaborating with Plug and Play in 2020, Budweiser has deliberately selected seven startups from over 60 startups for pilot projects to explore innovation solutions on sustainability goals including renewable energy, sludge treatment, and waste to wellbeing. 

“The future of sustainability is no longer about corporations taking resources directly from the environment, but about building an interdependent, innovative, and interactive ecosystem across corporates, innovation, and the environment,” said Bella Jiabei Zhang, head of Plug and Play China’s Brand & Retail, Energy, Sustainability Programs.

About Plug and Play’s China Sustainability Program 
By linking leading corporations with ground-breaking startups, Plug and Play’s China Sustainability Programaims at scaling up sustainable innovation in energy efficiency, alternative materials, carbon-neutral supply chain management, circular economy, waste management, and other climate-resilient areas. Through a collaborative ecosystem of the public sector, industry, investors, and innovators, we support our corporate partners to achieve their sustainability goals and uncover new growth drivers. To learn more, email sustainability@pnpchina.com.