This year, Adrian Cheng announced a new vision for his 90-year-old family empire, New World Development and Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group: Creating Shared Values. It focuses on empowering culture and creativity, supporting social innovations, and creating sustainable solutions to modern life.
The Hong Kong business leader is well known in the art world for K11 Group, a mixed-use retail experience that blends fashion, contemporary art, and nature. Established over a decade ago, it aimed to democratize art, culture, and beauty for the millennial generation. And over the summer, the K11 MUSEA celebrated its one-year anniversary.
Cheng knows that millennials and Gen Z are not only interested in engaging with retail and museums in a new way, they are also more conscious of social issues and sustainability. Cheng directly addresses those concerns in the New World Sustainability Vision 2030, promising to reduce energy and carbon intensity by 50 percent in the next decade, as well as the #LoveWithoutBorders campaign, established early this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to donating funds, masks, and preventative kits, the campaign has created contact-free vending machines for masks to reach the largest population possible in Hong Kong.
Whitewall spoke with Cheng about his vision for the future of consumer experience, cultural engagement, and sustainability, as well as responding to the ever-evolving global crisis.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us about the #LoveWithoutBorders campaign’s current focus on donating masks internationally?
ADRIAN CHENG: #LoveWithoutBorders is a global charitable platform that I have created to share love with others and provide essential support to those affected by COVID-19 around the world. Borders are invisible to viruses, and in order to win this battle, we must do our best to eliminate borders at this critical time.
Around the world, we are seeing shortages of essential protective gear for both citizens and healthcare workers. Driven by our vision of Creating Shared Value (CSV) to contribute innovative and sustainable solutions to today’s most pressing problems, we offcially launched #LoveWithoutBorders in March and announced that we will source, deliver, and donate over 2.5 million medical masks to partners and local communities across Asia and Europe.
Furthermore, in April we announced that we will donate 10 million “Made in Hong Kong” face masks, produced by New World Development, to local and overseas communities. Most recently, we announced a donation of 500,000 masks to UNICEF that will then be distributed to the world’s most vulnerable children and communities.
We have a long-term vision for this campaign. Wherever possible, we are ready to share our expertise, intelligence, and resources with all our global partners and stakeholders, regardless of our own or other people’s culture, ethnicity, background, or gender, to overcome this challenge together.
WW: How has that grown to include contact-free vending machines throughout Hong Kong’s most at-risk populations?
AC: We have found that it is incredibly difficult for the disadvantaged, who are especially vulnerable to the virus, to take these necessary precautions due to a limited and costly supply of personal protective equipment. As a result, we’ve seen many people turning to non-certified protective gear of unknown origin and materials out of desperation, while countless others have succumbed to wearing no protection at all during such a high-risk time.
For these reasons, we decided to develop our own production lines to ensure continuous supply of high-quality medical-grade face masks to our communities. We also created 35 “Mask to Go” dispensers, which will be installed at the designated centers of our NGO partners across 18 districts in Hong Kong, to offer free masks to preregistered low-income families and communities in need. By leveraging QR code technology to identify and validate recipients, we can guarantee the masks are being provided to those citizens who are most in need while maintaining a hygienic distribution process.
WW: Can you tell us about New World Development’s “Creating Shared Value” mission, focused on creativity, social innovations, and sustainability?
AC: In 2020, I announced my new vision to reinvent our 90-year-old family empire through a CSV strategy that focuses on three main points: empowering culture and creativity, supporting social innovations, and creating sustainable solutions to modern life. With the focal point of New World Development’s attention centered around these specific pillars, we are taking a long-term approach to balancing shareholders’ and stakeholders’ interests by forming a new connection between business success, social progress, and people’s well-being.
Through this mission, I hope to share my vision, expertise, and resources with stakeholders and partners across the globe, to provide a holistic ecosystem to serve the communities we operate in, while simultaneously furthering New World Development’s business advancements. For example:
Social innovation: To help solve the housing shortage issue in Hong Kong, we were the first to donate over three million square feet (278,700 square meters) of farmland to Hong Kong’s government and to nonproft organizations to build public homes.
Climate change and sustainability: We have launched the inaugural Sustainability Forum in January 2020, which brought together more than 200 social entrepreneurs, investors, startups, and artists to encourage intergenerational dialogues, share ideas, and explore partnerships that help tackle issues around climate change, sustainable cities, circular economy, and impact investing.
WW: Why is it important for New World Group to reduce energy and carbon intensity by 50 percent, in the “New World Sustainability Vision 2030” effort?
AC: Climate change is becoming an increasingly concerning reality, and what we do today to reshape this trajectory will make all the difference tomorrow. With this in mind, we are proactively referencing the advancements made by top environmental organizations, such as Science Based Targets, Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, to conduct continuous climate resilience assessments within our business advancements to stay on track in our mission and meet these target reduction goals by 2030.
In January, New World Development joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as the first-ever Hong Kong real estate company to be a part of the organization. I take great pride in this achievement and have made it my mission to continue breaking barriers in sustainable testing and technology within our own developments, in hope that our efforts will serve as impactful inspiration for the current and next generation of sustainable changemakers. In terms of our staff, we also have internal sharing, as well as KPIs, for everyone, from the board level to frontline staff, to highlight the connection between business performance and long-term sustainability.
Moving forward, we will continue to influence our supply chain partners on sustainability and set Science Based Targets to echo the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global temperature increase no greater than 1.5 ̊C.
WW: How has sustainability become a major pillar for the group?
AC: With real estate development being a serious contributor to climate change, our team has made sustainability a major pillar in our business pursuits to ensure our properties can serve as lifestyle platforms to build communities and promote sustainable habits. It’s our goal to develop synergistic businesses in an ecosystem that enhances the lives of our stakeholders with green, wellness, smart, and caring impacts.
Within the last 12 months, for example, we have created Impact Kommons, Hong Kong’s first Sustainable Development Goals–focused accelerator program to provide potential funding, coaching, and support for the next generation of changemakers combating environmental and social
challenges; launched Nature Discovery Park, the first urban biodiversity museum and sustainability education park; debuted the next-generation workspace K11 ATELIER King’s Road, which is K11 Group’s project incorporating smart technologies, green design, art, and craftsmanship to create a triple platinum green and healthy building and the first in the world to be awarded WELL platinum pre-certification.
WW: What role does sustainability play for Gen Z and millennials?
AC: Today, there are 566 million millennials and Gen Zs in China, which is around 41 percent of its population. In recent years, we have seen a general increase in awareness of sustainability among the Gen Z and millennial consumers. As a socially responsible group, we need to add more into our businesses and services to accommodate their needs—e.g., using more technology further merging our hardware and software seamlessly into one sustainable business ecosystem, so that consumers can fully enjoy both of our physical spaces and services. Looking ahead, our mission will continue to be to serve those around us in the most sustainable and responsible way, for our environment and for society at large.
WW: K11 Art Malls over the past decade have proved that you can successfully bring art to the masses in settings outside of a museum. What was your initial vision back in 2008?
AC: When I set up K11 in 2008, my vision was to reinvent the way in which we engage with art and commerce as a society. People visit galleries to observe art, malls to browse clothes, and parks to be surrounded by nature, but why must these universal joys be separate? We really want to democratize art and create a space for Chinese millennials to go and appreciate the beauty of art and culture.
WW: Why do you think the efforts of blending contemporary art with retail, fashion, et cetera have been so successful?
AC: I would say that much of our success is made possible through the unique customer-centric ecosystem that we have at K11, which enables us to enrich the daily lives of our next generation of consumers through creativity, culture, innovation, and sustainability. We’ve taken conventionally separate, but universally treasured, parts of our global art and culture and combined them to create an immersive environment that caters to the vast interests and passions of the modern consumers. This is also the motivating force behind K11 MUSEA, as I’m ushering in a new concept of cultural-retail so that customers can engage with a wide variety of cross-disciplinary art and cultural programs all year round.
WW: Have you found Chinese artists embracing this way of showcasing art outside of Western models of institutions?
AC: We have been focusing our work on organizing programs that support emerging Chinese artists that provide platforms to showcase ideas, inspire
conversation around the creative process, and assist artists in developing their craft through an important global perspective.
Given the current social distancing policy, for example, our team has come up with our own online gallery exhibition and virtual tour through K11 Art Foundation. When everyone was confined to their homes during the city lockdown in March, we had an opportunity to work with Xiaohongshu (also known as RED—one of the most influential social media and e-commerce platforms in China) to launch a series of online art tours, “云逛展” (Exhibitions on Cloud), led by local influencers, to showcase Chinese contemporary art at K11 Guangzhou and the chi K11 art museum Shanghai. The series garnered a viewership of over one million. We also recently collaborated with Phillips auction house to present Ash & Pyrite Eroded Porsche by American artist Daniel Arsham at K11 MUSEA, an artwork revealed to the public for the first time in Hong Kong.
Our goal is to make the best use of social media platforms and our multifunctional space to connect both Chinese and international artists with China’s own fan base and target audience, and hence create a new ecosystem for the local art scene to grow.
WW: Victoria Dockside was unveiled last year, a new kind of art and design district. What is your vision for this area?
AC: This land was acquired by my late grandfather, Cheng Yu-tung, in 1971, then both my grandfather and my father built New World Centre in 1978. It was an icon and a hub for Hong Kong in the 1980s and ’90s. It is therefore my vision to build on this heritage and reinvigorate this three-million-square-foot district. Through partnering with 100 creative powers around the world, we have made this the “Silicon Valley of Culture” that is not only setting unprecedented standards in architecture, art, design, lifestyle, commerce, and hospitality, but also reshaping Hong Kong’s waterfront to become the new cultural-retail destination.
The $2.6 billion redevelopment project includes K11 MUSEA, the sublime culture-retail global flagship of K11; K11 ATELIER, office buildings designed for the new culture of work-life integration; K11 ARTUS, a luxury serviced residence; and Rosewood Hong Kong, the ultra-luxury hotel owned by
our group. By injecting art, architecture, culture, design, nature, and technology into different forms of commerce, my goal is to form a unique culture-commerce ecosystem that conserves traditional art and culture while incubating new ideas and innovation.
WW: How do you see this vision expanding throughout China?
AC: I am fully confident in the long-term future of China and our ability to thrive in this market, especially given our diversified ecosystem business strategy and localized approach to serving our communities. In fact, by 2024, K11 will have 36 projects in nine cities across Greater China, offering multiple spaces that open up conversations and transformed ways of thinking to further inspire a new generation of innovators, artists, and advocates. Ultimately, this generation will continue these important conversations surrounding cross-cultural interconnectivity in their own unique and evolving way and for years to come. And our role as a leader is to continue to guide, support, and empower them whenever possible, in a hope of finding new and bright opportunities to reinvent our city and impact the global community.