Oct 13, 2020|

JD ESG & the Intrinsic Bind: Sustainability Is Profitability


by Ella Kidron

One of the many things COVID-19 has shined a light on is the importance of sustainable development and building a sustainable, resilient future. In an in-depth leadership feature in the Wall Street Journal published this week, Ilham Kadri, CEO of nearly 160-year-old Belgian chemical company Solvay explained succinctly explained the link between business performance and sustainability, “sustainability is profitability”. The idea of developing a sustainable approach firmly rooted in the core identity of the business is something JD has practiced for years, and a position the company continues to prioritize and strengthen.

In May 2020, in a letter explaining where the company has come from and where it is going, founder and CEO Richard Liu announced JD’s updated mission: Powered by technology for a more productive and sustainable world. Liu wrote, “Sustainability refers to our desire as partners: to share business success with partners, to provide a platform for fair and balanced development for employees, to protect the ecological balance, and to be a grateful and responsible corporate citizen, achieving a balance of people, planet and profit, and to do our part for the sustainable development of the world”. He added that, with technology as the cornerstone for development, JD will pursue maximum social value and uphold its long-term philosophy to create a sustainable world with its partners.

According to WSJ, CEOs increasingly are embracing the idea that a company’s environmental, social and governance practices will play a role in its future success. The article cites a PWC survey which demonstrates that a quarter of CEOs now strongly agree that investing in climate-change initiatives could lead to significant new product and service opportunities for their businesses, up from 13% in 2010. The Journal recently released a list of the top 100 most sustainable companies in the world following the framework of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), further emphasizing the critical importance of ESG to the future of business development.

For JD, ESG (Environment, Social and corporate Governance) is not just a commitment to shareholders, but a commitment to society and the world we all live in, to deliver trust. This trust extends across the business. Take logistics as an example. JD’s Green Stream Initiative sustainability strategy aims to galvanize partners and collectively make the supply chain greener. The project was named as one of the World Economic Forum’s Lighthouse projects for 2020 demonstrating innovation and investment across key areas of social value. It also won the Sustainable Retailing Initiative of the Year” award administered by the World Retail Congress. JD also joined the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), an ambitious global campaign aimed at driving corporate action on climate change.

Recognizing that a company is only as good as its people, the company has continued to pursue different talent and training mechanism enhancements. Last year, JD instituted employee surveys through its internal communication tools on a daily basis, covering a broad range of topics such as company culture, team cooperation, compensation satisfaction and other areas. The surveys enable employees to provide feedback on the state of their individual departments, allowing for a channel to turn the feedback into actionable changes.

JD has also participated in extensive poverty alleviation efforts in rural areas. The company has pioneered its rural e-commerce strategy, aiming to make agricultural products in rural areas available online, while allowing authentic, quality products to reach residents in rural areas. JD has helped launch over 279 poverty relief specialty malls on its platform, selling over three million local specialty items, with sales exceeding RMB 75 billion yuan, and contributing to helping over 900,000 households earn a living so far.