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Brand Impacts and Social Responsibility

For those in the world of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental and Social Governance reporting (ESG), there is an interesting dynamic at play in Hong Kong, with a large multinational brand being drawn into the domestic “dirty” laundry of its licensee. The question is whether or not that local partner, and flagbearer of that brand, is able to find solutions which will not pull the value of the international brand down with its own domestic reputation. In short, the licensee of Starbucks in Hong Kong and Macau, Maxim’s, with over 180 stores, is also the largest restaurant chain in Hong Kong, and it continues to serve shark fin on its menus. This is akin to having a menu option for elephant or rhino. There are no proven sustainable shark fin fisheries, and most laws to protect endangered species are woefully late in coming to the rescue of the species. That's because it takes so long for science in the ocean to be undertaken, and for the global consensus of peer groups to finally approved "endangered status." In the mean time, sharks, and the entire health of the ocean (as sharks are the main balancing factor in the ocean ecosystem), have been put at serious risk. This is all in the name of culture, a so-called “tradition" for serving shark fin soup, which was mainly commercialized in the 1970’s as a money-making opportunity, and which has nothing to do with medicinal or sexual performance. Instead it is simply used to show wealth, face and status to the host's peers at the dining table. The illegal wildlife trade is also often related to the transnational crime syndicates that traffic dangerous drugs, weapons and humans.


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