What does sustainability mean to you? Perhaps you bring reusable bags with you when shopping for groceries or have a personal water bottle handy at the office or gym. But when was the last time you stopped to consider the environmental impact of your online shopping behavior? For Rakuten Sustainability expert Takayuki Mamabe, it’s a question that he believes will help us all become more environmentally friendly.
Mamabe joined Rakuten in mid-2015, and has been working on sustainability initiatives ever since. In 2018, he oversaw the launch of Earth Mall with Rakuten, which has been dedicated to ensuring a sustainable future for internet shoppers, where they can feel good about the environmental impact of the purchasing decisions they’re making. He has also been closely involved with Rakuten’s support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, more recently, the company’s participation in the RE100 corporate renewable energy initiative. We recently caught up with Mamabe to discuss Rakuten’s sustainability goals.
Ambitious targets and a sense of responsibility
RE100 is an international environmental initiative that encourages businesses to operate using 100% renewable electricity. The initiative is the result of a partnership between two NPOs: The Climate Group, which is an international environmental NPO driving ambitious climate action, and the Carbon Disclosure Project, which runs the global disclosure system for companies to manage their environmental impact. In order to participate in RE100, companies must declare when their 100% renewable electricity goals will be achieved. While most companies are setting their sights between 2030 and 2050, Rakuten is targeting a closer goal of 2025.
Why set such an ambitious short-term target? “Rakuten already reached 50% in 2019,” explains Mamabe. “We’ve purchased credits derived from solar power generation facilities in households across Japan via the government-administered J-Credit scheme where credit purchasers can give financial support for climate-related actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
“What’s really amazing,” says Mamabe, “is that Rakuten Ichiba has already reached 100% renewable electricity usage. So, looking ahead to 2025, I think we’ll have no trouble hitting our target. When we were originally deciding whether to participate in RE100, and discussing what our target should be, we based our considerations on the electricity Rakuten was already using for its business, and established a realistic, but ambitious target that we’d be able to reach quickly with dedication.”
Supporting shifts in user awareness
Reflecting on how Earth Mall has grown since its launch, Mamabe says, “While the number of products being sold through has dramatically increased, so has the number of people choosing sustainable products. It really feels as though sustainable shopping is gradually becoming commonplace. It makes me happy to be able to feel the change in user awareness through this service.”
As a leading tech company, Mamabe also believes that Rakuten has a responsibility to encourage sustainable practices through its services. “Internet service companies like Rakuten actually require more electricity than you’d think. By using renewable energy in our business, internet companies like us can take on the challenge of reducing the burden on the environment along with the customers who use our services. Rakuten’s commitment to RE100 isn’t only about reducing our environmental impact as a single corporate entity. Rather, you could say that it’s a sustainable initiative that involves our customers as well.”
Invisible factors, shaping a more sustainable future
While significant progress has been made, Mamabe is cognizant that there is much work still left to be done. “Rakuten offers more than 70 different services. From shopping to travel to cashless payments, we’re involved in people’s everyday lives, which means we’re well-positioned to support them in their efforts to lead more sustainable lives. This initiative is still in its infancy, but while collaborating with the shops on Rakuten Ichiba and Rakuten Travel’s hospitality providers, I want to take on the challenge of making Rakuten’s services even more sustainable, and offering our customers more sustainable options as well.”
“At Rakuten, 17 of our services are operated using 100% renewable electricity, which means that when searching and shopping with those services, zero carbon dioxide is emitted. By focusing on these invisible factors, we give our customers the opportunity to gradually start incorporating sustainable behavior into their daily lives. Of course, making sustainability a part of your daily life is important, but you’ve got to start with what you, personally, can manage.”