Online retail giant Alibaba targets carbon-neutral operations by 2030

E-commerce major Alibaba has pledged to achieve carbon-neutrality for its direct (Scope 1) and power-related (Scope 2) emissions by the end of the decade and signalled its intention to develop science-based climate targets in line with 1.5C.

Online retail giant Alibaba targets carbon-neutral operations by 2030

Pictured: Onsite solar at Alibaba's corporate campus in Hangzhou

The Chinese business, which owns platforms including AliExpress, has stated that it will plot a “systematic and science-based approach” to reducing its operational emissions in line with the new targets. It has committed to having the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) verifying new emissions reductions goals within 24 months, ensuring that carbon reduction is prioritised over removals and offsetting.

Specific percentage goals for reduction, removals and offsetting have not been published. However, Alibaba has confirmed several new emissions reductions initiatives. All vehicles used for short-haul trips will be replaced with pure electric vehicles (EVs) by the end of the decade. The firm will also scale up “intelligent” transport solutions which improve efficiency, including autonomous vehicles.

Additionally, new renewable electricity procurement initiatives and schemes to improve energy efficiency in offices, other physical locations and Cloud computing are under development.

Alibaba has also pledged to halve the emissions intensity of its indirect (Scope 3) activities this decade. Combined with the goal for operational emissions, and the savings which it will enable through the sale of low-carbon solutions and products, it estimates that 1.5 gigatonnes of emissions will be mitigated across its value chain by 2035.

Workstreams for reducing Scope 3 emissions include renewable electricity purchasing; low-carbon heat adoption; electric transport adoption; resource efficiency in packaging and efficient transport. Data and progress will be tracked using new supplier management plans and systems.

Alibaba’s vice-president and the chair of its sustainability steering committee, Chen Long, said its ‘Scope 3+’ approach “is based on the potential of leveraging our digital platforms to influence and advocate for low carbon products, services and behaviour among a wider group of stakeholders in our ecosystem, and share energy-efficient technologies and innovative business tools with customers and business partners to reduce the carbon footprint together”. 

However, the company may need to tighten its Scope 3 approach to receive SBTi validation. The initiative requires targets to reduce Scope 3 emissions, in absolute terms, in line with climate science, for 1.5C verification,

Moreover, it is likely that the firm will continue to face questions from investors about its broader sustainability approach and its plans for maintaining financial success amid increased competition.

To the former, Alibaba received criticism for emphasising sustainability in the promotion of its Singles Day shopping event on 11 November. The holiday, first created by and foee Chinese university students, has quickly grown into a global retail event accused of promoting overconsumption.

To the latter, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Alibaba’s shares on the New York Stock Exchange have fallen by around 50% over the last year, following an anti-monopoly fine and the growing success of competitors such as Shein.

Sarah George

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