Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial turns purchasing power into desert tree planting

Ant Financial Services, the online payment technology company of Alibaba which owns the Alipay, released its first annual corporate social responsibility report on May 20th, titled as “Moving towards a better society for the future”.

Started with the Alipay business in 2004, Ant Financial had expanded its business from one single payment system to multiple inclusive finance services including wealth management, credit reporting, private banking and cloud computing services.

In 2016, Ant Financial received 4.5 Billion in its B-round financing and the company’s valuation has reached 60 billion US dollars, became one of the largest fin-tech IPO in the market.

The CEO of Ant Financial, Eric Jing said in its first social responsibility report that:

“Science and Technology are the Greatest Drivers of Public Welfare in our Age. Some have asked me which product of our company in 2016 am I most satisfied with. My answer is Ant Forest and our visual impairment function ‘Listen to Ali-pay’.”

(photo from Alipay’s report)

Ant Forest is a product that combines green lifestyle with users’ daily consumption activities, which encourages users to choose green lifestyles in ways like taking public transit, paying utility bills and booking tickets online.

According to the report, as of April 2017, Ant Forest had over 220 million users, contributing carbon emission reduction 5,000 tons per day. It has planted a total of 8.45 million trees, reducing more than 2,500 tons of carbon emissions every day.

What behind its social and environmental impact is a strong algorithm.

The idea of “Ant Forest” originates from the “carbon account” of Alipay, which is by far the largest platform for personal carbon accounts in the world. Currently, common global practices in energy conservation and emission reduction adopt a “top-down” model.

By contrast, the personal carbon account is the first “bottom-up” approach in the world that encourages hundreds of millions of people to lead a low-carbon life.

In January 2017, Ant Financial and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) launched the world’s first “Green Digital Finance Alliance” at the World Economic Forum in Davos to promote the extension of green finance throughout the entire global financial system.

The Alliance will seek to extend Ant Forest’s carbon account to the global level.

How does Ant Forest work?

Ant Forest is a project cooperated with the Alxa SEE foundation. Users open the Alipay app on their phone, click the Ant Forest interface, then will be able to claim a virtual seedling. When users choose to stat the tree-planting activity, they need to continue implementing low-carbon consumption behaviors, to lowering their carbon credits and to be able to grow the virtual tree.

Many low-carbon behaviors could be counted as green energy supplies to the tree seedling, includes: walking to your office, non-cash payment in-store using Alipay, paying off utility bill or booking airplane and train tickets online, etc. Believe or not, you can also steal your friends’ energy amount or use your energy to watering their virtual plants.

After the green energy supplies reached 17.9KG, the virtual tree will turn into a real Haloxylon tree in the desert of Alashan desert of Inner Mongolia.

(Photo credit to Alxa See Foundation)

What’s the social impact of Ant Forest?

Helping to achieve “carbon finance” in the future

Carbon account has been listed as one of the three Alipay Account, along with the cash account and the credit account, to measure users low-carbon activities. Ant Financials believes that the future of finance is green finance and is dedicated to make the “Carbon Account” a globalized carbon measurement, trade and sharing platform.

Helping users to develop “low-carbon” lifestyle and behaviors

The carbon account brings people the satisfaction of maintaining sustainable behaviors. If one user complete 3 tasks in one day, including walking to workplace, pay water and utility bills and using Ali-pay at supermarket, he/she could reduce carbon footprint about 142g/day.

Here’s a short video…

On May 20th, 13 top CSR authorities, including international institution officers, governmental officials, scholars, NGO officials and technology firms leaders together proposed to set May 20th of every year the “Social Responsibility Day”.