With the help of Green Technology, China is drawing the path of its “Green Long March”. Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, and even Meituan are some of those Chinese giants accelerating the pace of change
As the world raves about the teenage eco-activist Greta Thunberg, China is silently leading its own “Green Long March“, providing multiple environmental benefits on a global scale. The People’s Republic has identified the green economy and sustainable development as the only possible future for the country to become the world’s leader it aims to be.
Against all odds, in the last few years, the Dragon turned from one of the world’s biggest polluters to a model for global economies. It is still the world’s largest trash generator, but at the same time, it is leading the global shift to sustainability.
“China is no longer seeking economic growth at all costs,” said Xi Jinping as early as 2013. And this mantra has become one of the cornerstones of not only Beijing’s agenda but also of Chinese companies, which invest more and more in green tech, seen as the application of those advanced technologies aimed at developing a sustainable economy while containing the negative impacts of human involvement.
The Dragon already invested over $126.6 billion in renewable energy as part of its Belt and Road Initiative positioning itself as a leader in the climate space. But the country’s total investments to be directed towards the sectors of environmental protection, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable transport are estimated at $600 billion each year.
Chinese tech companies have taken a pioneering step towards promoting ordinary people to embrace a sustainable and eco-friendly way of life. They would make great contributions to the environment and public benefits in China and even the world.
Today, five of the world’s six largest solar-module manufacturers are Chinese as well as five of the largest wind turbine manufacturers. But it is China’s technology giants that play a vital role in sustainable development.
Since the launch of the shift towards electric transport to be completed by 2020, private companies have, in fact, become the driving force in the construction of both vehicles and infrastructures in the sector. Therefore, a brand-new trend has risen, that of “green entrepreneurship“.
In major cities, the country’s tech giants, as well as new startups, all joined China’s green path with enthusiasm, providing innovative solutions to fight climate disruption and to ease the shift towards the electric.
Together with Tencent and Alibaba, even Baidu and Meituan are among the world’s top internet companies that are accelerating the pace of change, thus helping to improve the Green Tech sector. Their business models that involve consumers to take part in the country’s switch to green economy create the virtuous cycle that will make China not only the world’s largest economy but also the world’s biggest sustainable economy.
1. Meituan, 美团 – Providing sustainable and eco-friendly transport
Following the motto “We Help People Eat Better, Live Better,” Meituan is the Chinese leading e-commerce platform for services, offering over 200 service categories in 2,800 cities across the country.
In order to provide services like on-demand delivery, travel booking, and car-hailing, Meituan operates numerous well-known mobile apps in China, including Dianping and Mobike. And it is precisely Mobike that has recently become one of the most visible examples of the ecological consciousness that has been taking China by storm.
Mobike is one of China’s largest dockless bike-sharing companies. It was acquired by Meituan last year and it is now changing its name to Meituan Bike as part of an ongoing integration with its parent.
In addition to ensuring that people’s movements are greener and more eco-friendly, Meituan Bike has developed a comprehensive recycling process to assemble its bicycles. The process involves reusing bicycle wheels and smart locks as well as melting and repurposing the metal parts.
An orange Mobike with yellow wheels form a Meituan bicycle and an old lock together with a brand-new seat is, therefore, the symbol of the company’s effort to provide a more sustainable and eco-friendly service.
2. Alibaba, 阿里巴巴 – Influencing people to adopt a greener lifestyle
The Alibaba Group is one of the Chinese tech giants, which are working hard to spread the sustainable lifestyle among the users. It has been allocating 0.3% of its annual revenue to an environmental fund, donating over $47 million in 2016 alone. Additionally, in 2017, the Alibaba Foundation teamed up with several environmentalist entities to form an alliance dedicated to the protection of water resources.
The group is active in switching delivery packages into sustainable materials. Moreover, leveraging the “Internet Plus” model, Alibaba’s mobile payment app Alipay not only introduced platforms for garbage sorting in 14 Chinese cities but its subsidiary, Ant Financial, has also developed a system to reward recyclers.
Ant Forest has already planted 122 million trees to date, reducing carbon emissions by 7.9 million tons and forming a tree coverage area of 112,000 hectares. With these numbers under its belt, the project has become the country’s largest private-sector tree-planting initiative.
Ant Forest is a game launched by Ant Financial on the Alipay app in 2016. It is a personal carbon footprint tracker that allows users to collect points through sustainable actions. Whenever the user engages in low-carbon activities, the reduced emissions would be counted and converted into virtual “green energy” that they can use to grow a virtual tree. When the tree is fully grown, it would be converted into a real tree and planted in order to fight desertification in some Chinese areas such as Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Qinghai, and Shanxi.
Ant Forest’s approach had already saved over 150,000 tonnes of CO2. In September, it thus received the “UN Champions of the Earth” award – UN’s highest environmental honor – for its contribution to ecological protection while influencing more than half a billion people to adopt an eco-friendly and greener lifestyle.
3. Tencent, 腾讯 – Empowering ecological conservation using digital technology
Tencent as well has also been fairly active on the ecological front, joining hands with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on “digital-driven ecological protection” and investing over $1.9 billion in American cleantech startups among many other ventures dealing with sustainability.
In 2018, the Shenzhen-based company and WWF signed a memorandum of understanding to begin a strategic partnership. The two parties will jointly work to empower ecological conservation using digital technology. Starting from the Greater Bay Area, the alliance will explore a digitally-driven approach to construct the “beautiful Bay Area”, as the first step in a broader effort of building a “Beautiful China“.
“We have entered a new age where digital technology is unleashing its immense potential in pushing forward the international motion of sustainable development. Tencent has long been committed to the digitalization of ecological conservation,” said Leon Guo, Senior Vice President and Public Charity Foundation Director of Tencent.
Edward Cheng, Vice President of Tencent, has summarized the partnership with three constituent elements, namely the convergence of global experience and local practice to create a “China Paradigm”. This represents the unity among governments, businesses, and Non-Governmental Organizations to encourage collaboration, and the synergy between digital technology and ecological conservation to explore new directions to empower the ecosystem.
Together with Alibaba and Baidu, Tencent is also one of the country’s most prominent investors in electric vehicle companies. Tencent acquired a 5% stake in Tesla for $1.78 billion in 2017. Both Tencent and Baidu have also invested in Chinese EV startup Nio.
4. Baidu, 百度 – Ensuring sustainable disposal and recycling through O2O approach
For what concerns the electronic waste, the internet company Baidu worked together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to launch a smartphone app called Baidu Recycle, which has been recognized as one of the “Global Solutions” by the UN. The app provides e-waste pick-up services helping users in the recycling process. Today, almost 6,000 people use the app monthly.
E-waste is a mounting challenge around the world, especially in China whereby around 70% of worldwide e-waste ends up according to a recent UN Report. Baidu Recycle is the first environmental solution from the UNDP-Baidu Big Data Joint Lab established in 2014. In September 2015, the upgraded Baidu Recycle 2.0 was officially launched by Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General and Robin Li, CEO of Baidu.
It aims to link consumers to government certified e-waste recycling and dismantling companies to ensure environmentally responsible disposal and recycling through the online-to-offline approach.
Nevertheless, given that China’s switch into a green economy mainly focuses on sustainable transport, Baidu is among those companies, which allocate many funds to the electronic vehicles sector. As mentioned above, the internet giant has already invested in Chinese EV startup Nio. But recently, Baidu also led Chinese EV maker WM Motor’s latest Series C funding.
MORE ON THIS TOPIC