Cannes Lions

HSBC Clean Waterways

GREY , Hong Kong / HSBC / 2021

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Sustainability is at the heart of HSBC’s global organizational strategy – demonstrated by our recent pledge to reach net zero by 2030.

As supporting communities is core to HSBC’s relationship with Hong Kong, it was a brand imperative to make a positive impact on the sustainability-related challenges facing the city through action and advocacy.


We launched the HSBC Clean Waterways Programme - a first of its kind corporate partnership to address plastics pollution in waterways through the creation of a self-contained recycling ecosystem, supported by a community education series to raise awareness of the issue.

In partnership with a local NGO, we constructed four custom-designed solar-powered, zero-emission boats which can reach the narrow areas where rubbish collects. A unique square design maximises the space for solar panels to generate 100% of energy needed, a two-stage filtration system collects waste, and a sorting system separates recyclables for processing at the New Life Plastics plant - a joint venture financed by HSBC. The boats operate seven days a week in Victoria and Aberdeen Harbour - visible to the public from the shore.

The Programme reinforces our global pledge to unlock next generation climate change solutions, and is a tangible demonstration of our support for the community.


We defined our audience as the broader Hong Kong community – with a focus on the next generation of Hong Kong, HSBC staff, and customers. What unites each of our audiences is the need to see tangible action to positively impact sustainability in the local community.

Present and future staff want to work for companies that actively support sustainability; 87% of consumers are more likely to purchase from companies that play active roles in sustainability; and crucially 81% of millennials expect leading corporations to drive environmental change.

So our strategy was to do, not just say. Partnering with a local NGO, Clean Waterways Initiative, we created a three-year plan to drive sustainable impact. This included the construction of four solar-powered, zero-emission boats to collect and sort plastic waste, the operations of the ongoing collection process, a community education series and the communication of the programme to the public.

Source: Forbes


Despite Covid-19 significantly delaying the build, all four boats were constructed within a year, and are now operational.

We introduced the HSBC Clean Waterway Programme to the community via an integrated campaign with marine life at its core, including a three-part documentary series documenting origination to operation; co-branded websites and social media handles; social content supported by a media campaign to share updates; LED messaging on HSBC’s 47-story Main Building calling the community to join our efforts; and two key visuals featuring local marine life and Hong Kong's iconic harbour. The Programme also featured in HSBC's global Business Plan for the Planet campaign.

Beyond communication, we partnered with conservation experts WWF, Plastic Free Seas, and local authorities to offer education programmes for staff and HK students to see the boats in action, and learn how our individual actions can make a difference - with virtual sessions to accommodate Covid-19 restrictions.

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