F20: Welcome Dr. Biao Yang, it’s a pleasure to have you with us today. Thanks for taking your time! SEE Foundation has been a very close partner of F20 in the past years and we’d be delighted to learn more about the work that you do as foundation especially when it comes to finding an intersectional response to the climate crisis.
Dr. Yang: Thanks. Delighted to be here. As SEE Foundation we’ve been involved with F20 since it’s very inauguration in 2017 and are a member of the steering group. The exchange about climate policy development, entrepreneurship and about concrete activities with fellow foundations from around the world is of great value for us.
F20: Yes, indeed. It’s an asset for us to have SEE Foundation as a member in the F20 Steering Group. For those who are not familiar with the work of your foundation, can you give us a brief overview of your organization and its objectives?
Dr. Yang: Sure. SEE Foundation is one of the most influential environmental NGOs in China. It was initiated and established by SEE in 2008. SEE is a membership-based organization, bringing together cumulatively around 900 Chinese entrepreneurs to address China’s most pressing environmental challenges.
The foundation is primarily governed by SEE’s entrepreneur members. We focus on five areas of work including desertification prevention, climate change and business sustainability, biodiversity conservation, marine conservation, as well as capacity building and scaling-up of China’s environmental NGO sector.
F20: That is quite an impressive number of members and very interesting. Since our main theme of this conversation is “Resilience in action: an intersectional response to the climate crisis” I would love to hear about SEE’s engagement from an intersectional lens. Can you elaborate?
Dr. Yang: Yes of course. I would like to share with you one of our intersectional initiatives on climate change and corporate responsibility which is the Green Supply Chain Action in the Real Estate Industry in China. Taking advantage of our solid base of entrepreneur members from the real estate sector, we launched this initiative jointly with China Urban Realty Association, China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce, Vanke Enterprise Co., Ltd., and Landsea Holding Group in 2016. Apart from this, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, WWF and China Association of Building Energy Efficiency etc. are engaged as third-party organizations to provide technical support in this initiative. This initiative brings together multiple stakeholders including environmental NGOs, enterprises along the real estate supply chain, industrial associations to spur and accelerate the green transition of China’s real estate sector.
F20: That is indeed a broad network with various actors being involved. Do you feel it is suited and equipped to address the challenge of reducing pollution of China’s real estate sector?
Dr. Yang: In order to answer that, let me first provide some background information. China’s real estate sector and its supply chain represent around 51.3% of China’s total CO2 emission and are major sources of industrial pollutants. Sectors such as steel, cement and aluminum along the supply chain are resource and energy-intensive. Therefore, greening the supply chain in real estate holds great potential to contribute to China’s green and sustainable transition.
F20: How exactly does the Green Supply Chain Action help to reduce these emissions?
Dr. Yang: The Green Supply Chain Action in the Real Estate Industry in China encourages voluntary actions of participating Chinese real estate developers to reduce carbon emissions and minimize negative environmental impact via green supply chain management. It enables participating property developers to implement green procurement based on a whitelist of recommended suppliers and a greenlist of recommended suppliers.
A back list of suppliers is also created to be excluded from the procurement of participating property developers. Relying on the collective expertise of experts, property developers, environmental NGOs and third-party organizations, this initiative has developed enrollment criteria for white list suppliers for 19 categories of building material and enrollment criteria for green list suppliers for 17 categories of building material. These enrollment criteria cover resource use such as forests and water, discharge of toxic and hazardous pollutants, energy saving, GHG abatement, as well as consumer health etc.. White list suppliers are those who are compliant with environmental laws and regulations. Higher environmental performance standards are required for green list suppliers.
F20: How do building companies and suppliers respond to and use these different types of listings? Does it convince companies and suppliers to become rather sustainable and choose or join the white and green lists?
Dr. Yang: In fact, the initiative rewards environmentally well-performing suppliers and provides them with greater business opportunities. Likewise, the initiative has also been implementing an empowerment scheme to help potential suppliers become green list suppliers. In this scheme, our experts provide training and guidance, agree with them on technical upgrading plans, and help them meet the criteria for green list suppliers. As of now, 10 suppliers have become green list suppliers through the empowerment scheme.
F20: Thus, one can assume the empowerment scheme is a successful tool to motivate suppliers to produce and work environmentally friendly. How many suppliers are targeted by the Green Supply Chain Action?
Dr. Yang: Currently, we have more than 1 million white list suppliers and 58 green list suppliers. Again, whitelist suppliers are already much better on environmental terms than common practice in the past. More than 100 large property developers in China have also joined this initiative to implement green procurement, exerting leverage on upstream suppliers to enhance their environment compliance and performance. The accumulated value of green procurement under this initiative rises from USD$0.15 billion in 2017 to USD$5.2 billion as of now. We have prepared jointly with HSBC and Carbonstop a series of reports on carbon reduction performance of green list suppliers, and according to this evaluation a carbon reduction of 7.4 million tCO2e in 2020 and 2021, compared to sectoral carbon reduction baselines was achieved. Going forward, green list suppliers have huge carbon reduction potential.
F20: There seems to be great potential of expanding your organization’s actions and to further reduce China’s carbon footprint! I assume these actions have been internationally acknowledged?
Dr. Yang: Yes, indeed. Our initiative spurs green innovation, reduces carbon and environmental footprint, with the ultimate aim to contribute to building sustainable and resilient supply chains in China’s real estate sector. It is also well recognized by the international community, winning the Constellation Award of Asian Venture Philanthropy Network in 2021.
F20: Congratulations on that! What are your further plans with SEE and the Green Supply Chain Action?
Dr. Yang: Based on the successful model of this initiative, SEE Foundation is now expanding this initiative to supply chains in sectors of electronics and textile, encouraging suppliers’ voluntary emissions reduction and better environmental performance. To conclude, I would like to reiterate our continued commitment to engaging with all stakeholders, both domestic and abroad, in delivering on our mission of leveraging entrepreneurship for lucid waters and lush mountains.
F20: We wish you all the best for SEE’s further actions and expanding the Green Supply Chain Action model to reduce the carbon and environmental footprint in different sectors of China’s economy. Many thanks for the interview!
Dr. Yang: It’s been my pleasure. I look forward to having more exchanges with all of you in the future. Thank you as well and all the best for your ongoing work at F20!