ByteDance, the company that owns the popular app TikTok, has made an exciting announcement about their efforts to combat climate change.
The Chinese-owned company has set a goal to reach net zero in their business operations by 2030. This means they want to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible.
To achieve this goal, ByteDance plans to reduce their operational emissions by 90% and use 100% renewable energy sources. They will also use carbon credits to offset any remaining emissions.
TikTok’s Emissions and Climate Commitments
TikTok is a social media platform released as an international version of a video sharing app Douyin.
The internet company ranked #6 among most popular social media networks globally by number of monthly active users as of January 2023. According to Statista, it has over 1 billion (1,051 million) users as of that period, with Facebook still in the lead with almost 3 billion users.
When it comes to carbon emissions, TikTok emits more CO2e per minute of use, 2.63g CO2e, than Facebook (0.79g of CO2e). TikTok’s users has an average daily app use of 45.8 minutes.
If we count a third of its monthly users as daily users, then the social media app will generate over 40 thousand tonnes of CO2e each day.
In comparison, a Facebook (FB) user spends about 30 minutes daily on the platform. Since FB has many more users, FB emits more CO2e per day.
To put both the social media networks’ emissions together in context, a seat on a flight from London to New York and back needs about 1.7 tCO2e. So, their CO2e emissions per year are more than what it takes to fly the whole population of London to NY and back.
Electricity use by data centers represents much of ByteDance’s carbon emissions. Its current decarbonization priority is to use renewable energy for those data centers.
For instance, ByteDance said last week that its new data center in Norway will run on 100% renewable energy.
Greenpeace East Asia, which ranks China’s cloud tech providers, reported last year that ByteDance was among the firms that got the lowest score for its climate commitments and use of renewable energy.
As seen below, the social media firm lags behind other Chinese cloud providers in climate disclosures. ByteDance hasn’t yet publicly revealed data on its carbon emissions and energy usage.
The TikTok owner got 7th place among the 9 Chinese companies ranked in terms of climate commitments. The ranking criteria include data transparency, carbon reduction efforts, renewable energy procurement, and government and industry influence.
For many years now, Greenpeace has called for the TikTok owner to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2030. With the company’s recent net zero announcement, Greenpeace East Asia Climate and Energy Project Manager, Ruiqi Ye commented:
“Finally, ByteDance is catching up with peers like Meta and Tencent, and we are thrilled to see a major internet company taking the reins in becoming sustainable. But to come through on this commitment, ByteDance needs to quickly scale up its renewable energy procurement. How ByteDance scales up renewable energy procurement around Asia will be key to its success.”
The previous commitments of ByteDance from last year as seen in the picture above only cover its own operations. It didn’t include its value chain emissions which most likely account for most of its total carbon footprint. It also didn’t fully disclose its emissions data.
So, its recent announcement is a welcome to Greenpeace and other climate campaign organizations.
TikTok Aims Net Zero by 2030
ByteDance will also work on cutting emissions within its value chain. The social networking app owner aims to reveal more on its net zero approach by the end of this year.
It is the latest Chinese tech giant to reveal a net zero pledge in support of China’s national goals of peaking GHG emissions by 2030 and hitting net zero by 2060.
Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu have all pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Apart from TikTok and its Chinese version Douyin, ByteDance also owns various online platforms such as Toutiao and Lark. It also provides cloud services and operates data centers worldwide. The company stated:
“We are mindful of our impact both on and offline. A meaningful sustainability approach is good for business, our communities and the world around us.”
The company is also considering carbon offset credits, not as replacement for direct emissions cuts but for offsetting unavoidable footprint. It’s part of TikTok’s strategy to reach its net zero goals by 2030.