Initiative launched to create greener future for e-commerce

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To better support e-commerce businesses as they try to make their operations more ecofriendly, the “Green E-Commerce” initiative was launched in Hangzhou on Aug 18. The plan is the work of organizations including Hangzhou E-Commerce Association, the Alxa SEE Ecological Association, Plastic Free China, China Environmental Protection Federation, CarbonStop, and SynTao Sustainability.

He Yibing, vice chairman of the Alxa SEE Jiangnan Project, warned of the rising temperatures in Hangzhou and the need to achieve carbon neutrality.

In the past 20 years, China’s e-commerce has undergone rapid development. Data shows the number of online shoppers in China has reached 782 million, a total of 79.1 percent of total internet users. By 2020, online retail sales accounted for approximately a quarter of total retail sales.

The extent of the carbon emissions and environmental impact caused by the e-commerce industry cannot be ignored. According to the national Carbon Emissions Management Platform, in 2019, China’s e-commerce carbon emissions totalled 53.26 million tons. The total carbon footprint of e-commerce over the next five years is estimated to reach 116 million tons, an increase of 73 percent.

If the industry does not adopt effective measures, then its incremental emissions in the 14th Five-Year Plan will account for up to ¼ of the increase in national emissions. The e-commerce industry must therefore take the initiative and adjust to the requirements of green low-carbon development.

In view of recent policy requirements and investment trends, the above companies curated a Green Commerce Action Guide titled “Environmental Impacts and Responses for Retail E-Commerce in China” to help support e-commerce businesses in taking a more targeted approach to their green transformation.

The new initiative encourages the e-commerce platforms, for the benefit of stakeholders in the value chain, to use their widespread influence to bring about environmental action.

In 2021, the Ministry of Commerce released a notice to “Promote Green and Low-Carbon Development in the E-commerce Industry”. Requirements include improving energy saving and efficiency, strengthening green data centers, advancing ecofriendly delivery and packaging, reducing and replacing single-use plastic products and expanding green product sales. The notice also called for e-commerce platforms to take on greater social responsibility for protecting the environment and sustainable development.

Professor Guo Yi, the secretary of the international management campus at Beijing Technology and Business University, called on e-commerce platforms to lead the way in guiding ecofriendly consumer values, such as reducing the use of single-use products, reducing food waste and excessive packaging.

A 2021 survey of MSCI’s 200 global investors showed that close to 80 percent will use climate data to manage investment risks. A further 62 percent of investors felt that climate change and diversified ESG will be the future investment trend.

Syntao’s vice president and partner, Lang Hua, argued that the green transformation of retail e-commerce can obtain better investment opportunities through capital markets. In order to improve their level of environmental management, the e-commerce industry should work in co-ordination with the supply chain to head towards green development. Industries also need to consider how to use their branding influence to encourage more people to take on a greener lifestyle.

The ESG representative of Alibaba’s Tmall, Hao Zizi, shared the firm’s exploration of green consumer trends. Results show that 83 percent of interviewees think the brand needs to take further steps to make sustainable purchasing and consumption more convenient. According to Hao Zizi, Tmall has already marked over 1.4 million green products to better benchmark production and encourage consumers to purchase low-carbon products.

Zhang Youwen, secretary-general of the Hangzhou E-commerce Association, stressed the need for online retail to exert influence on its business ecosystem and reduce the overall environmental impact. This is important for combating climate change and protecting the environment.

“We hope that more e-commerce businesses will take part and actively implement this initiative in the future, helping to achieve the dual carbon goal, and together work hard to protect our beautiful planet!”