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Vikas Vij headshot

China’s Largest Retailer Commits to Inclusive Business

By Vikas Vij
JD.com's recent sustainability report showcases efforts to stand out on social and environmental sustainability in China. 

JD.com's recent sustainability report showcases efforts to stand out on social and environmental sustainability in China. 

At 1.42 billion people, China constitutes nearly 20 percent of the world’s population. Hence, we can make the argument that when China truly embraces sustainability, the impact can scale up and become global. One company says it stands out among Chinese enterprises when it comes to integrating environmental and social sustainability across its entire business operations.

Could more Chinese companies issue more sustainability-related disclosures? Possibly, depending on the response to one of the country’s largest retailers, which recently issued such a report.

JD.com recently published its corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, which highlights what the company says is a focus on achieving sustainability while contributing added value to society. JD is launching large-scale projects that the company claims will reduce emissions and waste, while at the same time, could help promote the idea of sustainable consumption among the Chinese consumers.

Reducing the company’s environmental footprint

Becoming more energy efficient is an important part of JD’s long-term sustainability plan. The company has built and installed a solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation system on the roof of its Shanghai Asia No. 1 logistics center. The system became operational in June 2018 and is one component of the company’s drive to reduce carbon emissions.

JD claims it has ambitious plans to scale up its reliance on solar power. By 2030, the company says it will create the world’s largest ecosystem of rooftop photovoltaic power by teaming up with global players. The goal is to create a photovoltaic power generation area of more than 200 million square meters (over 77 square miles).

On the transportation front, JD discloses what it says is the ongoing deployment of more than 5,000 “new energy” vehicles in several cities across China. This nationwide fleet refers to any vehicle that uses some form of renewable fuel or alternative power train, including all-electric, hybrid and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Examples run the gamut from electric vans, solar-powered tricycles and hydrogen-powered delivery trucks that emit only water. Within two years, the company’s entire nationwide fleet of direct-sale delivery trucks will be upgraded to these next-gen vehicles.

In June 2017, JD Logistics says it brought together industry peers to launch the Green Stream Initiative, a joint green supply chain campaign to improve resource utilization and reduce emissions. The company has launched a 1 billion RMB ($147 million) JD Logistics Green Fund to drive environmental innovation and promote more sustainable consumption.

As part of the initiative, JD used 100,000 recyclable “green boxes” to deliver goods in 2017. These boxes are reusable packing containers made from what JD describes as strong but lightweight thermoplastic resin. A company representative explained that this material allows the boxes to be re-used with greater frequency and efficiency, reducing overall paper usage as well as the company’s carbon footprint.

Empowering rural communities and youth

JD claims it has recruited 25,000 employees from the poorest counties, in addition to nearly 60,000 “village promoters” in rural areas. The company also stakes the claim on being the first e-commerce company to set up a platform selling products from rural regions across China. Over three million products sourced from rural areas are now offered online and have achieved sales volume of 20 billion RMB ($3 million), benefiting more than 300,000 people from 832 of China’s poorest counties. The company has also launched a program in tandem with L'Oréal that recruits prospective employees who have disabilities.

As explained by JD in an email exchange with TriplePundit, JD employees traveled around the country to numerous villages specifically and actively to recruit local workers using tactics such as job fairs. “By providing jobs in these rural areas, where opportunities are few and often revolve around subsistence agriculture, we have helped improve the lives of many and helped lift thousands of families out of poverty,” said a company spokesperson.

Across these rural areas, JD offers jobs in functions such as delivery distribution, warehousing and customer service. Broadly speaking, employees in these areas can earn an average of over 6,000 RMB ($900) monthly, or more than double their previous income, according to local statistics cited by JD. Furthermore, the company says these workers no longer need to migrate to urban areas to seek jobs, which generates more local economic growth in these areas and improves the quality of life for families who no longer need to be separated from each other for much of the year.

Meanwhile, online, JD has launched 188 local specialty malls on its platform, which the company insists benefit 90 percent of the poorest counties in China. These online shops source unique local items from poor areas and make them available for purchase to all of JD’s more than 300 million customers across the country, vastly expanding the market for these suppliers. The company cites that it has conducted more than 630 e-commerce training sessions, benefiting more than 100,000 people across China. To promote the startup culture for youth, JD has established 103 e-commerce incubators for young entrepreneurs.

JD Giving Platform

JD has built a user-friendly online donation platform to provide integrated support to various charities. Charities are able to use the platform not just to raise funds, but also to leverage the company’s extensive supply and distribution network, customer service and technical support to ensure the money reaches the intended recipients.

“Success is unsustainable if a company offers no additional value to the society,” said Richard Liu, founder and CEO of JD.com in his message to the stakeholders. “JD does this by creating an ecosystem in which every part of our footprint, from the creation of a product, to its packaging, sale and delivery, is executed with the expectation that our impact on society and the environment will always be positive,” he said.

Image credit: JD.com

Vikas Vij headshot

Vikas is an MBA with 25 years of managerial and entrepreneurial experience. He is the author of “The Power of Money” (Scholars, 2003), a book that presents a revolutionary monetary economic theory on poverty alleviation in the developing world. Vikas runs a digital content development company, and personally loves to write on global sustainability issues.

Read more stories by Vikas Vij