Why Alibaba, Chinas internet giant, should become a green internet leader

by David Pomerantz

May 12, 2014

Outside of China, Alibaba is not a household name like Amazon, eBay or Facebook. But it might become bigger than all of these companies when it goes public on the New York Stock exchange. Alibabas market value was estimated at $168 billion on the company, which would make it the most valuable internet company after Google, according to Bloomberg. As Alibaba expands outside of China and competes for new market share, here are 4 reasons why Alibaba should be a green internet leader:

Size: Alibaba is already a huge player in the Chinese internet market, which is the fastest growing market in the world. It accounts for 80% of ecommerce in China, with 231 million active buyers and $248 billion of total merchandise volume in 2013. Its cloud computing service, Aliyun, the largest cloud computing platform in China, now owns 980 thousand users with revenue of $ 90 million from April to December in 2013. With rapid growth comes a rapidly growing energy footprint and increasing urgency for that growth to be driving the expansion of clean, not dirty, energy sources.

Transparency: By going public, Alibaba will have to be more transparent about its operations and energy demand. eBay, Facebook and Google all explain exactly how much and what type of energy they consume, setting the bar for Alibaba to meet. Otherwise its going to risk the same bad publicity Amazon is now receiving for failing to disclose any information about its energy use.

Green competition: If Alibaba wants to capture market share and users, and build its brand outside of China, the company needs to join Facebook, Apple and Google in committing to grow using renewable energy. Investments in renewable energy in China would also distinguish Alibaba from domestic competitors like Tencent and Baidu.

Leadership: Alibaba Founder Jack Ma is one of the most admired business leaders in China. In 2013, he stepped down from the CEO role, announcing he wanted to spend more time addressing Chinas most urgent problems public welfare and environmental protection. In 2010, Jack Ma announced that Alibaba would invest 0.3 percent of its annual revenue to environmental protection activities around the world. With renewable energy growing fast in China and other internet leaders showing how it can be done, theres never been a better time for a company like Alibaba to buy into the renewable future.

Chinas size and projected growth make it the country where we most desperately need the renewable energy revolution to happen quickly enough to keep climate change from spiraling out of control. Wind and solar energy are growing there, and the Chinese government is supporting renewable energy development. The central government is now acting to cap the growth of coal power in key regions to tackle its air pollution crisis. But a renewable energy future wont happen quickly enough without private sector leadership.

Alibaba can provide that leadership by following or even outdoing its US peers, like Apple, Facebook and Google, and powering its impressive growth with renewable energy.

To read about why Alibaba should become a green internet leader in Chinese, see our Greenpeace East Asia blog.

David Pomerantz

By David Pomerantz

David Pomerantz is a former Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, based in San Francisco. He helps lead Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100% renewable energy.

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