The Business of Climate Change

One can never stress, highly enough, the significance of the climate change talk hosted by US President Barack Obama with Alibaba CEO Jack Ma and Filipino scientist Aisa Mijeno, at the APEC 2015 CEO Summit held in Manila, Philippines.

The segment highlighted climate change from the perspective of two entrepreneurs — from their concerns, to the solutions they have come up with to address the global environmental issue, while inspiring others in the process. For this post, I would like to focus on Jack Ma’s wise words, as I find it very interesting to hear from a man who is worth the fortune most people work their entire lives for, who now shares with the world the most valuable of all, our earth, our environment.

It is Jack Ma’s concern that started his advocacy for the environment. He recalled being able to swim on one particular lake when he was 12, which fast forward to 2010, has all dried up. He worried about how a lot of people now have cancer. He echoed what all of us, working class, have been worrying about — we work so hard all our lives but our earnings would usually just end up on hospitals and medicines because we would have all these diseases. Prevention is always better (and cheaper) than cure. Investing on our environment is securing our generation’s future. If we do not do this, no matter how much money we make, we would all just face, as Jack Ma says it, disaster.

So what did he do?

Six years ago, they have allocated .3% of the total Alibaba revenue to fund people who could come up with creative solutions to solve the problem. The money, as he said, is not enough but with it, they try to wake up people’s consciousness and make them more aware that there is a climate change problem, that trickles down to food and water concerns.

Alibaba believes that opportunity always lies where people worry. The greatest opportunity is when you solve the worry problem.

The quality of air in Beijing also dramatically changed the way the government and entrepreneurs do business in China in the past four years. Environment now has become a focus. Jack Ma, with other businessmen, even started a Paradise International Foundation, where they invested resources for environmental protection and rehabilitation. They were able to successfully raise funds through a painting auction in Hongkong last month where his “Paradise” painting (with Zeng Fanzhi) alone got sold for $5.4 million.

Aside from this, Jack Ma also has bought a forest to study and learn, taking from the US experience in keeping their forests alive, as he envisions to do the same in China. Oh, and he partnered with Bill Gates to join forces in investing on clean technology.

Partnership is indeed key, as we always say. From the words of Jack Ma, this means

  • Scientists should tell us how to do things properly.
  • Business should tell us how to get things done efficiently.
  • The Government should provide a good environment, and fund the needed researches.
  • Media should tell people how to do it.

Hopefully, Jack Ma’s sensible perspective on climate change shows the direction the world’s powerful businessmen are taking to address the issue. At the very least, businessmen all over the world — and even “ordinary folks” (like myself) — would take this as an inspiration and a reminder that reaching the top is not the end goal, nor is it the most important thing in the world. Rather, it is in doing what is right.

You can’t be on top if we are all dead.

Let this be a lesson for us all.


Here’s the full video, credit goes to Rappler.

*Featured image is a screenshot of Rappler’s video

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