Chinese online platform giant Alibaba has announced a pledge to achieve carbon neutrality in its own operations by 2030. Alibaba’s goal is to go beyond the common corporate practice of offsetting carbon emissions by buying carbon credits from trading markets. Instead to hit its self-imposed deadlines, the group wants to apply its technical prowess to boost efficiency and collaborate with stakeholders across its platform.

Part of this is to pioneer the concept of “Scope 3+,” which refers to the emissions generated by a broader range of participants in the platform's ecosystem, currently outside of the Scopes 1, 2, and 3. Its pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 maps to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s Scope 1, direct emissions generated by the company’s own operations; Scope 2 includes indirect emissions from purchased electricity and heating; Scope 3 emissions occur in the supply chain, including from goods and services, from the end-use of products sold, commuting and business travel.

Alibaba has also initiated the “1.5 Gigatons for 1.5°C” project, committing to facilitate 1.5 gigatons of decarbonization in its ecosystem by 2035. It has aligned its decarbonization measures and strategy with the “Business Ambition for 1.5°C” pledge, a critical target to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change as outlined by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“We believe the Scope 3+ pledge reflects our commitment to take higher social responsibility as a platform operator,” said Daniel Zhang, chairman/CEO, Alibaba Group.

Daniel Zhang, chairman/CEO, Alibaba Group
Photo: Alibaba Group
Daniel Zhang, chairman/CEO, Alibaba Group
In terms of governance, Alibaba has set up a sustainability committee at the board level that will meet at least once annually to guide the group along its environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) roadmap. The committee is chaired by Jerry Yang, an Alibaba independent director and co-founder of Yahoo!. Other committee members include Alibaba independent director Walter The Ming Kwauk, Alibaba’s executive vice chairman Joe Tsai and Alibaba’s CFO Maggie Wu.

Alibaba has also set up a sustainability steering committee responsible for ESG-related strategic planning, goal setting and management. An ESG cross-business action group, comprising representatives from each of the group’s business units, will be responsible for putting the goals into action on a day-to-day basis.

Alibaba elevated ESG to the group’s list of core corporate responsibilities last September and according to an official statement has since aligned its social responsibility aims with the United Nations sustainable development goals adopted by all UN Member States in 2015.

In some first steps, Alibaba claims that it is already promoting consumption of green products, encouraging consumers to adopt eco-friendly transportation, and nurturing a secondhand selling through its digital marketplace Idle Fish.

“We believe the use of digital platforms can play a significant role in empowering a low carbon circular economic model that can lead to achieving the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement. The concept of ‘Scope 3+’ is based on the potential of leveraging our digital platforms to influence and advocate for low carbon products, services and behavior among a wider group of stakeholders in our ecosystem and share our energy-efficient technologies and innovative business tools with customers and business partners to reduce the carbon footprint together,” said Dr. Chen Long, VP of Alibaba Group and chair of Alibaba’s Sustainability Steering Committee.



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