June 5 is World Environment Day. This year, in order to mark the occasion, Alibaba and the United Nations Environment Programme started a series of online environmental protection activities on June 1, allowing the public to take part in over 80 kinds of environmental protection activities, such as planting non-commercial trees and recycling boxes, through Alibaba’s 20 apps. According to estimates, individual members of the public took part in these activities nearly 900 million times.
As Alibaba’s recently released corporate social responsibility report for the fiscal year of 2019 shows, the Chinese tech giant is taking the lead in creating a sustainable green development mode in many areas, such as supply chain, logistics, computing and recycling. It is also driving ecological partners and the public to participate in green actions, facilitating the creation of what it terms the “Alibaba Green Planet.”
Lijun Sun, the director of the Alibaba Charity Foundation, explains that “the Alibaba Green Planet is characterized by a green loop from consumption to logistics to recycling. The public and ecological partners are enabled to participate in every part of the loop, encouraging everyone to take part in environmental protection.”
Green supply chain: providing eatable chopsticks and takeaway without dishware
Part of Alibaba’s efforts are making food delivery, express delivery and second-hand goods recycling environmental-friendly. For example, “Ele.me” (饿了么), an extremely popular food delivery app that belongs to Alibaba, has long been promoting takeaway orders that don’t require dishware. By March 2019, Ele.me had sent out more than 74 million orders without dishware included. As one pair of chopsticks was saved per order, this means that a total of 1184 tons of carbon dioxide emissions were avoided, which is equivalent to planting 66,000 trees.
Ele.me also promotes “eatable chopsticks” that are made of flour, butter, sugar, milk, and water, enabling part of the dishware to end up in people’s stomachs. In its sustainable laboratory, Ele.me has cooperated with restaurants to recycle plastic food boxes, and proposed the first green supply chain management standard for takeaway restaurants.
Green logistics: 50,000 green recycling bins to allow express delivery boxes to be recycled
Junguo Ge is head of the express station in the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. Since the green recycling bin was established in the station in 2017, he has encouraged all the students and teachers to leave paper boxes there for recycling. Nowadays he recycles over 400 boxes every day, for a total of over 100,000 annually.
More than 5,000 such green recycling bins have been set up nationwide. This is now the largest express box recycling campaign in China, with participants from more than 2000 universities in over 200 cities and over 3000 communities, covering 50 million people both online and offline. Hundreds of millions of boxes have been recycled up to now. On May 28, Alibaba announced a follow-up plan to add 50,000 more green bins across the country.
Environmental protection in computing and office work
The report also points out that Alibaba’s environmentally-friendly mode has expanded into some less noticeable areas, such as computing, office work and the financial field.
Every day, Alibaba’s data center processes trillions of orders. As calculated by Alibaba’s staff, a decade ago the energy consumed by 10 e-commerce transactions could have boiled four chicken eggs, but now the energy consumption has dropped and it would only be enough to boil one quail egg.
Alibaba’s office app “Dingding” is also helping to promote a paperless office working style. By the end of March 2019 Dingding’s paperless office had saved 227 million kilograms of carbon emission, equivalent to planting 12.7 million trees. Moreover, the Alibaba Charity Foundation is also promoting the development of environmental education in China. Through nature education centres, online animal protection activities and nature carnivals, the foundation’s programs have successfully reached over 35 million people. During World Environment Day, Alibaba also launched documentaries about environmental protection to appeal to the public.