In July 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed the website of Ebay Inc. looking for information on what the company was doing to tackle climate change. Ethical Consumer was looking for the following:
1. For the company to discuss its areas of climate impact, and to discuss plausible ways it has cut them in the past, and ways that it will cut them in the future. For the company to not be involved in any particularly damaging projects like tar sands, oil or aviation, to not be subject to damning secondary criticism regarding its climate actions, and to have relevant sector-specific climate policies in place.
2. For the company to report annually on its scope 1&2 greenhouse gas emissions (direct emissions by the company), and,
3. to go some way towards reporting on its scope 3 emissions (emissions from the supply chain, investments and sold products).
4. For the company to have a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with international agreements (counted as the equivalent of at least 2.5% cut per year in scope 1&2 emissions), and to not count offsetting towards this target.
If a company met all of these criteria it would receive a best rating. If it met parts 1&2 (impacts and annual reporting CO2e) it would receive a middle rating. Otherwise it would receive a worst rating.
1. Ethical Consumer found Ebay’s ‘Sustainable Commerce’ webpage which provided information regarding its ‘environmental footprint’. Ebay stated that its key climate-related impact was its energy use “similar to other tech and ecommerce companies”. The company stated that the majority of its ‘corporate footprint’ originates from its data centers which “comprise the majority of our emissions at 80 percent, and offices contribute 20 percent.” The energy mix was comprised of majority electricity, then natural gas and then ‘other energy’ which was not defined.
In terms of past emissions cuts, eBay stated that “From 2019 to 2020, we increased our MWhs of renewable energy supply by 9 percent, and thus far, we have achieved 74 percent renewable energy for all of our data centers and offices. “ This is compared to 52% renewable energy in 2018. It stated that it had been receiving renewable energy credits in 2020 after it had signed its first virtual purchase power agreement with other tech companies for the ‘White Mesa Wind Project in Texas”. In terms of plausible future plans to make cuts to emissions, Ebay stated that it continues to “implement energy-saving strategies in the operations of all of our facilities.” Ebay was a member of RE100 and stated that it had set a goal to attain 100% renewable energy by 2025 in its electricity supply at eBay-controlled data centres and offices. It aimed to do this by its “continued participation in green power programs and power purchase agreements”.
2. Ethical Consumer viewed eBay’s ‘Impact Report 2020’ which provided annual reporting of its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions. Its Scope 1 emissions had reduced from 24,743 in 2016 to 18,847 in 2020 (million tonnes of co2 equivalent). Its Scope 2 emissions had reduced from 95,176 in 2016 to 47,715 in 2020 (million tonnes of co2 equivalent).
3. Ebay also reported its Scope 3 emissions which it stated “includes emissions from activities up and down our value chain. This year, we included our sellers’ delivery footprint as part of our reported Scope 3 categories. Currently, this only includes U.S. delivery, but we are working to expand this calculation globally in subsequent years.”
4. Ethical Consumer also viewed the document ‘CDP Climate Change Responses 2020’ found on eBay Inc’s website. This stated that the company had “reaffirmed corporate commitment to reducing carbon emissions by signing on to the “We Are Still In” initiative, which is a collection of over 1,200 policymakers, businesses, investors, and higher education institutions that support the Paris Climate Agreement.” The company also stated that it would “decrease our carbon emissions by 50%” by 2025 which is “Applicable for eBay's owned and leased facilities where eBay currently has procurement control, which is defined as those sites where eBay receives invoices and pays for energy”. Whilst eBay did mention that “This target considers the IPCC 1.5 degree scenario” it also stated that “this a science-based target, but this target has not been approved as science-based by the Science-Based Targets initiative.” One way that Ebay stated it would achieve its emissions reductions target was through a Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA), based in Texas, “which will cover ~10% of our global footprint once it is up and running”. However, the company did not make it clear if this target included offsetting or not.
The company met parts 1-3 of the criteria but did not adequately meet part 4. Overall, Ebay received Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for carbon management and reporting and lost half a mark under Climate Change.