Working together towards a sustainable future

Volunteers at the UPM Changshu Mill in China spread green awareness and social wellbeing through youth-driven projects.

Wang Feng smiles as she recalls a special moment she experienced while walking down the street one day. “A group of kids came up to me and said, ‘this is the lady who teaches us how to look after our planet,” says Wang, an energy engineer at UPM’s Changshu Mill.

Wang is a familiar face to many children in Changshu, as since 2011 she has been regularly visiting local schools to educate kids about low-carbon living and energy saving as part of the UPM Green Future project – an experience she describes as “extremely rewarding”. “I have gained a lot from interacting with young people who are eager to learn. My family and friends are also very proud of what I’m doing,” says Wang, who additionally takes part in organising educational summer camps on the mill site.

“As an engineer, Wang is the perfect expert to teach kids about low-carbon living. She can use her know-how for an important social and educational cause,” states Mill Communications Manager Gracie Huang, who leads the volunteer programme at the Changshu Mill.

“Our employees are actively encouraged to use eight hours of their working time per year for volunteer work. The Green Future project has been running for ten years, and it has had a very positive impact. When kids are taught to think greener, they also spread the message among their family and friends,” tells Huang.

Over 10,000 students from 60 schools have received early-age environmental training as part of the Green Future project, which forms part of UPM’s global Biofore Share & Care programme.

Every day is Earth Day
“We set up our first volunteer teams as early as 2006, so we have a long history of building close ties with the community. UPM is a local frontrunner in the responsibility arena,” notes Huang, with a distinct hint of pride.

Huang is also in charge of two other Share & Care projects at the mill. The first is the Green Lifestyle project, an info-sharing initiative launched seven years ago to promote environmental protection and safety & health knowledge among local residents.

“On Earth Day, for example, we share safety knowledge and give presentations about environmental protection and low-carbon living. We also host Q&A sessions, and UPM’s Clinic Doctor provides free consultations,” explains Huang.

The third project ongoing at the mill, Caring for Autistic Children, has been running for three years. UPM volunteers have taken part in a variety of activities such as accompanying autistic children in a hill climbing activity, giving speeches to kids, and a WeChat contest promoting autism awareness.

The Changshu Mill has received recognition from the Chinese government for its committed work in the social arena, but perhaps more important is the positive social change. “Both the students and parents give great feedback. The teachers always invite us to come back next year – kids grow up and there are always new generations waiting to learn,” says Huang.

“Volunteer work is a win-win-win. It benefits the community, offers personal fulfilment, and delivers on UPM’s brand promise of driving green transformation,” Huang concludes.

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