Every little step counts – Unleashing social innovation from social intrapreneurship


Every little step counts – Unleashing social innovation from social intrapreneurship

Have you ever thought of earning rewards for reducing your carbon footprints in daily lives? Can you imagine how the impact of your little steps adds up in a quantifiable way? Our CUHK Business School alumni Chester Cheng (Class of 2019) co-founded Carbon Wallet to reward your green actions and recognise your contribution to the environment for the little steps you take.

“Every little step counts” is the message that Chester wants to share with fellow Hong Kong citizens through Carbon Wallet.

Chester wears two hats - one being a Senior Corporate Strategy Officer driving Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy at MTR Corporation (“MTR”);  another being the Co-Founder of Carbon Wallet, the first-ever MTR-backed social innovation venture.

“I believe there is a solid corporate innovation case for MTR to go beyond its low-carbon railway business and enable the community to act on climate change through social innovation. That was how the social intrapreneurship journey started.” Chester stressed the symbiotic relationship between MTR and Carbon Wallet. “Green” has been in the DNA of MTR business. As MTR launched the new corporate strategy a year ago with major emphasis on embedding ESG into our businesses, Chester sees the responsibility and potential of MTR leveraging its resources to lead the transition into low-carbon lifestyle in Hong Kong. To Chester, Carbon Wallet is the platform to co-create a green ecosystem in Hong Kong by connecting MTR with the public, sustainable businesses and civil society.

“Launching the App is a case of Creating Share Value (“CSV”), not Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).” Beyond community investment and philanthropy, CSV focuses on leveraging the unique expertise of corporates to resolve societal and environmental problems with a long-term sustainable business model. Carbon Wallet has utilised shared values for both the society and the environment, and fostered the brand awareness locally. However, Chester admitted that the team was still in search for the business model that best suits the operational structure of the company, but he emphasised the importance of finding the product market fit and getting the basics right in the first year after launch. “Everything is down to the product. A good product attracts users, and users will bring you enormous commercial potential,” Chester added.

Passion in social innovation and driving ESG in corporates

Chester is a graduate from the Integrated Bachelor of Business Administration Program (“IBBA”) majoring in finance. What drives Chester in pursuing a career in ESG rather than a job in the banking industry? The story began when he learnt about the climate challenge as he studied Geography in his secondary school. During his undergraduate studies, he participated in the Youth to Sustainability Summit organised by AIESEC, where he first encountered the concept of social innovation and later joined the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge. Chester shared his first social innovation idea, which was about providing a zero-packaging shopping experience to university students to reduce plastic waste. He proposed to operate vending machines for students to refill their shampoo and shower gel near their hostels. However, he soon realised the challenges in the implementation of this plan as heavy capital expenditures upfront with weak customer demands were in presence. The project ended up as a failure but it helped Chester understand the prerequisites for running a social enterprise.

The belief that corporations are key to advancing sustainability emerged when he worked on pro-bono consulting projects with Cambridge Consulting Network for a social enterprise based in Burkina Faso, Africa, by providing consultation services on the solutions of sustainable cookstoves and lighting. Through the experiences, he was amazed by the impact of social enterprise practicing social innovation in providing clean energy, improving poverty and health, and reducing carbon emissions in the Western Africa. Through the diverse experiences in CUHK Business School, Chester has equipped himself with an entrepreneurial mindset, which becomes the foundation for him to create Carbon Wallet from scratch.

The Birth of Carbon Wallet – A Challenging yet Rewarding Journey

Chester has always been committed in driving broader societal change for the local community. Realising the huge gap between awareness and action in combatting climate change in Hong Kong, Chester sees the importance of changing the narrative from issue-based climate communication to action-based engagement. Two years ago, Chester was offered the opportunity to brainstorm what MTR could do to foster innovation and sustainability. After rounds of ideation, market research and pitching, he convinced the Executive Committee to approve funding for Carbon Wallet. Working on a start-up under an established corporation freed Chester from worries on fundraising. It also gives his team the edge to convince partners to join the ecosystem as an MTR-backed venture. However, Chester also met challenges along the journey such as the lack of experiences and know-how in building an App from scratch. Run by a group of young trainees in MTR, the majority of Carbon Wallet team could only contribute on a part-time basis and had to dedicate extra hours beyond their official roles. All these made the work at Carbon Wallet challenging.

Working in Carbon Wallet, to Chester’s surprise, allowed him to better appreciate the significance of governance and risk controls in a listed company. “Despite more stringent requirements operating as a subsidiary under MTR, these requirements are actually paramount to risk management and lay a solid foundation for future growth and expansion.

Above all, Chester reflected the best part of the journey was working with his team for this great cause and dreaming together. The people in his team are the reason why they persevere hurdles after hurdles.

Lessons learnt

At the end, Chester shared the lessons learnt in his undergraduate studies and career. He stressed the importance to “Be Kind to Ourselves” and  “Follow your heart” when planning for the future. He was once lost and followed the peers to pursue a career in finance but he soon realised it was not something he enjoyed most. His experience reminded us how we may be prone to peers’ decisions as we apply for internships and graduate positions.

“Like any company, one needs to know what his or her competitive advantage lies relative to the peers. It would be difficult for a company to thrive without a strategy leveraging its strength. The same applies to an individual. Follow the direction of your inner voices, be really good at what you are good at”. Chester shared his learnings when searching for his passion and planning for his career.

“And let’s not forget to be kind to ourselves.” Chester’s final remark in the interview prompted us to reflect how we often will over focus on achieving our goals at the expense of our health, sleep time and relationships. We all need to stay physically and mentally healthy to realise our aspirations, so remember to recharge yourself when you feel exhausted. Treat ourselves better!

從生活的每一小步出發 – 於港鐵公司內創業帶領社會創新

你有沒有想過你的減碳行為能換來各種獎賞?你又想不想知道你所減少的碳排放對環境帶來甚麼的實際貢獻?Carbon Wallet創辦人Chester Cheng於2019年中大商學院畢業,致力將環保減碳融入大眾日常生活當中,透過獎賞鼓勵並告訴我們每一小步對環境的影響。

「每一小步都很重要」,是Chester希望透過Carbon Wallet帶給大眾的訊息。

Chester 現時擔當著兩個不同崗位。一方面,他作為香港鐵路公司企業策劃高級助理,負責制定港鐵公司的轉型企劃及ESG策略。另一方面,他同時是Carbon Wallet的聯合創辦人,推動著這個由港鐵公司支持的社會創新企業的發展。

「我相信港鐵有一個堅實的企業創新的基礎,發展並營運其低碳鐵路業務之餘,可以通過社會創新賦予社區應對氣候變化的能力。這就是港鐵內部創業之旅的開始。」 Chester 強調了 MTR 和 Carbon Wallet 之間的共生關係。 「低碳」一直是港鐵業務的DNA,港鐵於一年多前推出新的企業策略,將 ESG 納入企業的重點發展方向,這令他看見港鐵利用其資源引領香港邁向低碳生活方式的責任和可能性。對 Chester 而言,Carbon Wallet 是一個紮根香港的平台,與各合作夥伴共同創建的環保生態圈,將港鐵、公眾、可持續企業和公民社會聯繫起來。

「Carbon Wallet 的本質是創造共享價值 (CSV) ,而不是企業社會責任 (CSR)」對比社區投資和慈善事業,CSV 更專注於利用企業的專業知識,通過可持續的商業模式解決社會問題。 而Carbon Wallet旨在帶動香港人減少溫室氣體排放,為企業、社會和環境三方面創造共享價值。通過推出創新的應用程式、舉辦環保推廣活動等項目,向港人灌輸環保意識及培養減碳行為,同時亦為港鐵提升品牌形象。不過,Chester 承認團隊仍在尋找合適的商業模式,但他強調在應用程式後的第一年,已找到適合市場的產品定位,亦明白先做好基礎的重要性。「一切都取決於產品。好的產品能吸引用戶,用戶則會為公司帶來商業機遇。」


Chester畢業於香港中文大學工商管理學士課程,主修金融學。究竟是什麼驅使Chester投身ESG工作而非銀行業呢?在跟他的對話當中我們得知一切的故事源於他中學時期埋下種子。Chester在中學期間曾修讀地理,從而認識到有關全球氣候變化的議題。而在入讀中文大學後,他參加了AIESEC舉辦的Youth to Sustainability Summit,首次接觸社會創新,隨後更參與了香港社會企業挑戰賽。Chester 與我們分享了他大學時期第一個社會創新理念:他希望透過自動售賣機,讓學生在宿舍附近購買零包裝的補充裝洗髮水和沐浴露,以減少塑料垃圾。然而,由於前期資本支出高昂,而且同學對補充裝洗髮水和沐浴露的需求疲軟,他很快就了解到這計劃的挑戰。雖然項目以失敗告終,但這次經歷卻幫助Chester了解到營運社會企業的條件。

Chester亦透過Cambridge Consulting Network接觸到一家位於非洲布基納法索的社會企業,該企業為當地提供可持續爐灶和照明解決方案,而他與團隊從這次諮詢項目獲益良多。 這次的經驗令他相信企業是推動可持續發展的關鍵。通過這些經歷,Chester充分理解到社會企業能透過社會創新於提供潔淨能源、改善貧困及健康,以及減少碳排放等方面的力量。除此之外, Chester亦回想曾於中大商學院修讀與企業可持續發展相關的課程,發現課程對他是一個重要的窗口,讓他探索可持續發展的重要性及潛力,使我在ESG領域上發展的決心更堅定。這一連串於中大商學院的經歷讓Chester具備了創業家思維,更成為他從零開始創建Carbon Wallet的基礎。

Carbon Wallet的誕生: 艱鉅但具意義的旅程

Chester一直致力於推動更廣泛的社會變革。他認為香港在應對氣候變化的意識和行動之間存在巨大差距,有必要把現有較著重描述氣候變化影響嚴重性的方式,改為鼓勵大眾以行動參與其中,一同延緩氣候變化。兩年前,Chester 有幸參與港鐵創新和可持續發展的策略規劃。經過多輪構思、市場研究和宣傳,他終於成功說服港鐵總監會為 Carbon Wallet 計劃提供資金。在一家成熟、具規模的上市公司進行內部創業,Chester免去了融資方面的擔憂,也讓他的團隊能夠以企業優勢說服更多的合作夥伴加入Carbon Wallet。然而,在上述優勢的背後,Chester 在創業過程中也遇到不少挑戰,例如缺乏構建應用程序的經驗和專業知識等等。Carbon Wallet的團隊成員大多數都是港鐵年輕的見習管理人員,團隊成員都身兼兩職,以兼職身份投入Carbon Wallet,有限的時間投入也讓工作變得更具挑戰性。

很多人都未必認同於大公司內部創業,但令Chester感到驚喜的是,Carbon Wallet 的工作讓他更好地體會到上市公司的治理和風險控制的重要性。「儘管在港鐵框架下運營子公司的要求嚴格,但實際上其實更有助於建構一個良好的企業治理和風險管理系統,並為Carbon Wallet未來的增長和擴張奠定了堅實的基礎。」

在建立鞏固的公司架構後,Carbon Wallet盼望在未來能夠達成四個目標。第一, 於Carbon Wallet 應用程式中添加遊戲及社交元素,以吸引用戶持續減碳,培養低碳生活的習慣。 第二,透過第二階段的宣傳,提升用戶覆蓋率。 第三,與更多企業客戶合作舉辦環保活動,協助企業吸引員工、顧客及其他持分者一同減碳,履行社會企業責任。第四,透過教育工作,向中小學生灌輸正確的環保概念。



最後,Chester亦分享了他在本科學習和職業生涯中的經驗教訓。在規劃未來的路上,他強調「Be Kind to Ourselves」和「Follow your heart」的重要性。他曾一度迷失方向,跟隨同輩投身金融事業。但他很快意識到這並不是他最喜歡的事情。他的經歷提醒我們,在申請實習或尋找畢業工作時,我們可能都會受到朋輩的影響,忽略了個人的長處和喜好,讓工作逐漸失去意義。


Chester 向我們分享了他在尋找自己的方向和職業規劃時所學到的知識。他在採訪中的最後亦強調「不要忘記好好待自己」,不要忙著專注於目標而犧牲了我們的健康、睡眠時間甚至人際關係。我們每一個人都需要一個身心健康的自己,才能實現夢想。所以當你感到筋疲力盡時,請記得為自己充充電,更好地對待自己!