eBay Announces First Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target: 15 Percent by 2012


eBay Inc. recently achieved a first among internet companies: it was the first such company to disclose greenhouse gas figures in 2009 to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an S&P 500 Report-affiliated ranking of corporations’ sustainability efforts. (The disclosure was also the first of its kind eBay has made.) What does the move suggest about eBay’s evolution as a company, and its potential impact on the world of green internet commerce?

According to a PR Safe Newswire press release, eBay’s goal is to trim its CO2 emissions by 15 percent (from a 2008 baseline) by 2012. It will do so by maintaining existing sustainable practices (i.e. energy efficiency and investing in renewable energy) and fostering new ones (i.e. implementing sustainable practices among its 15,000-member workforce and reducing e-waste among consumers). It will also green its data centers (per LEED standards), which (according to the press release) cause the majority of the company’s environmental impact.

As for what the greenhouse-gas-reporting decision says about eBay’s evolution as a company, the move seems to be in line with eBay’s existing push for greener-mindedness. According to a greenerideal.com post, the company sought to go greener about two years ago, when it formed the eBay Green Team. Since then, the Team has grown to include people in numerous countries worldwide, while continuing to promote eco-friendly purchasing, re-use, and disposal practices. In many ways, ebay’s success indicates that sustainability can and should be part of a profitable e-commerce operation.

To answer my own question about the impact eBay could have on the e-commerce sector by reporting its greenhouse gases, I’ll start with my initial response to finding out the news. My first question was “why did eBay decide to take the plunge?” According to the press release, eBay, like most e-commerce companies, has a relatively small carbon footprint. Yet I wondered: did the company have a secret history of environmental degradation that would soon be discovered if it didn’t change its ways? Doubtful, from what I can tell, but fuel for conversation nonetheless.) Was the move PR-motivated? Does eBay seek to be the first in its sector’s move toward greater environmental responsibility, or just to make itself relevant in the emerging green economy?

Yet at the same time, is it even important to answer questions like these? In other words, even if a company has questionable motives for jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, aren’t the end results – reduced environmental and economic damage – enough to legitimize its move?

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

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