TikTok Parent ByteDance ‘Not Keeping Up With Its Peers’ On Climate Commitments, Report Finds

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Despite being one of the most popular places to find content about climate change and sustainability, TikTok parent company ByteDance is failing on its cloud climate commitments, according to a new report from Greenpeace.

In its third East Asia rankings on cloud providers, Greenpeace says TikTok parent company ByteDance received one of the lowest overall scores. The company, which has seen meteoric growth in the last two years as the social app’s popularity skyrocketed during covid, has not disclosed any energy usage data, nor has it announced any carbon neutrality or renewable energy use goals.

“ByteDance is not keeping up with its peers in China when it comes to climate commitments and renewable energy use,” Greenpeace East Asia Climate and Energy Project Manager Ruiqi Ye said in a statement.

The rankings

“To date, eight major tech companies in China have committed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, representing huge progress for the industry,” Ye said. “Tech giants like Tencent and GDS have set ambitious targets and are starting to procure renewable energy at scale, but ByteDance has not even disclosed the greenhouse gas emissions from its own operations.”

tiktok on phone
Photo by May Gauthier via Unsplash

According to the rankings, tech giants including Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu earned the top three spots for their climate commitment disclosure, increasing renewable energy procurement, and transparency.

“Over the past year, a growing number of Chinese tech companies have disclosed energy usage data, but few companies have disclosed emissions data for their supply chains (Scope 3),” reads the report accompanying the rankings. “As of June 2022, more than half of ranked companies had disclosed environmental data, including electricity consumption and Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions. Out of the companies that have disclosed environmental data, 71 percent have improved the reliability of data disclosure through third-party assurance or GHG emissions verification statements.”

The report cites eight major Chinese companies that have recently made commitments to achieve carbon neutrality on Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Tencent, one of the highest grossing multimedia companies in the world based, has also made a Scope 3 supply chain emissions pledge. Nearly 80 percent of the Asian tech companies have not made disclosures on their Scope 3 emissions.

Renewable power for cloud and data centers

Six companies say they will hit 100 percent renewable energy use by 2030; only one made that same commitment last year. But these rates remain low for all ranked companies when compared to global competitors, Greenpeace says. Data center operator GDS is the only major Chinese tech company that reported a renewable energy use ratio above 30 percent in 2021.

Nearly 90 percent of ranked companies have actively explored modes of renewable power usage at data centers; 14 out of the 24 companies ranked have deployed photovoltaic projects; seven have participated in green power trading; three have directly procured green power certificates; and only one has constructed a centralized photovoltaic power plant, the report notes.

data center
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledged in 2020 to reach peak emissions by 2030 before reaching net-zero emissions by 2060. But the report highlights the lag from the country’s largest cloud services and data center providers. Greenpeace is encouraging the tech giants to lead the way forward with pledges to achieve 100 percent renewable energy and carbon neutrality—including Scope 3 emissions—by 2030.

“When companies set carbon neutrality targets it’s critical that their entire supply chain is included, not just their own operations. In addition, companies should focus on direct procurement methods such as green power trading and constructing wind and solar power plants. Carbon offsets are not a substitute for direct emissions cuts and should not serve as an excuse for continued fossil fuel reliance,” said Ye.


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