Ant Financial’s Green Digital Initiative: Ant Forest
COVID-19 and China
Ant Financial received the UN's highest environmental honor. Image credit: Ant Financial

Last year, China released its new Green Industries Guidance Catalog to help promote green development through clarifying the definition of ‘green industry’ as well as harmonizing differing standards for sustainability.

This new catalog, virtually a mini-industrial plan, will be an essential step in energizing and growing the Chinese sustainable industry and services sectors.

Along with government policies and initiatives, support from the private sector is highly needed in order to achieve China’s sustainable development goals – mainly to reduce pollution and improve environmental conditions while providing the same levels of GDP growth.

Notably, China’s technology giants – such as Tencent, Baidu, ByteDance and Alibaba – play a vital role in providing financial support for sustainable development.

A great example of how crucial the private sector in bringing sustainable solutions is Ant Financial Services Group, a banking subsidiary of Alibaba. Ant Financial is a founding partner of the Green Digital Finance Alliance. This alliance aims to use digital technology to advance green finance in China.

In August 2016, Ant Financial launched ‘Ant Forest.’ The platform promotes greener lifestyles by inspiring users to reduce carbon emissions in their daily lives and better protect the environment.

Ant Forest users are encouraged to record their low-carbon footprint through daily actions like taking public transport or paying utility bills online. For each action, they receive ‘green energy’ points, and when they accumulate a certain number of points, an actual tree is planted.

Users can view images of their trees in real-time via satellite. In addition to tree-planting, users can choose to protect certain size of conservation land on Ant Forest platform, which is also exploring innovative solutions to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of local people by leveraging the power of digital technology. 

Over 200 million of Ant’s users signed up to Ant Forest, demonstrating the massive potential of Fintech for supporting sustainable development. By the end of January 2017, the approach had saved 150,000 tons of CO2.

With its NGO partners, the platform has planted around 122 million trees in some of China’s driest areas, including in arid regions in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Qinghai and Shanxi. The trees cover an area of 112,000 hectares. The project has become China’s largest private sector tree-planting initiative.

Ant Forest has also attracted a great deal of attention worldwide. “Ant Forest shows how technology can transform our world by harnessing the positive energy and innovation of global users,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program.

In September 2019, Ant Forest received a 2019 Champions of the Earth award, the UN’s highest environmental honor, for turning the green good deeds of half a billion people into real trees planted in some of China’s most arid regions. 

The success of Ant Forest highlights the importance of private sector and digital technologies in scaling up climate action. More tech companies need to invest in such initiatives.

These kinds of innovations are not only beneficial for the environment but also beneficial for building brand awareness globally. China and the world need more initiatives like Ant Forest to effectively fight against climate change while not compromising economic growth.

Editor: Luke Sheehan

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