eBay’s Path to Sustainable Commerce

Climate change is a problem that affects everyone.  Even large corporations cannot ignore existential threats to the planet.  If companies want to continue serving customers in future generations, they need a habitable planet on which they can operate.  For this reason, businesses should view sustainability initiatives as they would any other investment into their future.

One company that understands this responsibility is eBay.  The e-commerce giant has taken several steps in recent years to become a greener company.  In their words, “we work to integrate environmental best practices across our global business to support a healthier planet for our community and generations to come. Across our offices, we invest in clean energy, divert waste from landfills and create efficiencies in water usage. We also encourage responsible consumption through the resale of items on our platform, helping to preserve the world’s finite resources.”

eBay’s popularity as a resale site gave them a natural place to start in helping the environment.  By keeping products in circulation longer, eBay is helping to create a circular economy that reduces waste.  For every product bought on eBay, that’s one less item in a landfill AND one less new product that needs to be made.  In the areas of electronics and apparel alone, resales made on eBay conserved 720,000 metric tons of carbon emissions.  That’s more than the annual emissions of Puerto Rico, a territory with more than three million people. 

In pursuit of a sustainable company, eBay isn’t only pursuing initiatives that come naturally to them.  Using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs for short) as a guide, eBay is pursuing a wide variety of climate-based initiatives.  For example, SDG #7 promotes the spread of affordable and clean energy.  eBay has the goal of powering their offices and data centers with 100% renewable energy by 2025.  As of 2020, they are 74% of the way towards their goal.  eBay has helped encourage the spread of clean energy by partnering with other companies.  In a recent collaboration with McDonalds, both companies promised to purchase power from Lightsource bp, the largest solar project in Louisiana.  The more large companies agree to purchase power from renewable sources, the more widespread demand and infrastructure for clean energy becomes.

Another ambitious target eBay has set for itself is the reduction of company emissions.  They want to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions 90% by 2030, using 2019 as their base year.  The company already has a commitment to be carbon neutral by the end of 2021.  Their greatest source of emissions from down the value chain, counted under Scope 3 emissions, will also see reductions by 20% over the next decade.  eBay’s goals seem dramatic, but they are what science agrees are necessary.

As eBay’s example demonstrates, sustainability and business growth can go hand in hand.  All throughout these projects, eBay has maintained its commitments to customers, sellers, and shareholders alike.  Only by preserving the planet all humans share can businesses continue their success in the decades ahead.