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In an effort to increase the amount of urban green space in China's major cities, authorities are encouraging companies to plant trees and build a healthier environment.

This year's National Tree-Planting Day on March 12 saw an increasing number of companies, including foreign firms, plant and sponsor trees and community parks.

In Shanghai, HSBC was one of the most high-profile corporate participants. The bank's China Chief Executive Officer Richard Yorke led staff volunteers as they planted trees in Paotaiwan Wetland Park.

CEO China HSBC Richard Yorke (third from left) and his family join bank volunteers to plant trees in Paotaiwan Wetland Park on March 11, on the eve of National Tree Planting Day. Yorke said HSBC will sponsor all the trees in the HSBC Tree-Planting Area in the park to make the city greener and help neutralize carbon dioxide emissions.

The bank has for two years planted and sponsored trees in the park, which is on the local authority's list of 97 community parks for public sponsorship this year.

As well as showing support for Shanghai and the community, Yorke says the bank's participation in the event is part of HSBC's global corporate social responsibility efforts.

"We see tree planting and park sponsorship as a way to help neutralize carbon dioxide emissions and to tackle climate change," says Yorke.

HSBC was the first major bank to go "carbon neutral" in October 2005, bringing its net carbon dioxide emissions to zero by reducing energy use and business travel, buying green electricity and investing in green projects globally.

HSBC also sponsors the 20,000 square-meter Yanfu Community Park in downtown Shanghai.

Tree-Planting Day falls on March 12 annually. The central government in a 1979 resolution made it compulsory for male citizens aged between 11 and 60 and females between 11 and 55 to each plant three to five trees every year.

The practice of fostering trees and community parks has in recent years gained in popularity, starting with a few celebrities and growing to include the general public, institutions and companies. Official statistics indicate that since 1998, 4.4 million square meters of community parks have been planted in Beijing.

(China Business Weekly News March 19, 2007)

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