Ma pushes ahead with his vi­sion for a cleaner to­mor­row

Bil­lion­aire Alibaba boss buys $23mBran­don Park in the US as he ex­pands his in­vest­ment in en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By MENGJING mengjing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Bil­lion­aire Jack Ma has al­ways been a lead­ing ad­vo­cate of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and now he has in­vested $23 mil­lion in a pri­vate park in up state NewYork.

The ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Chi­nese e-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd last month splashed out on the 120-acre Bran­don Park in Adiron­dacks, north­ern New York state, in the United States, as part of his con­ser­va­tion plans.

Along with his wife, Zhang Ying, Ma bought the pris­tine park through his Peach Gar­den Eco­log­i­cal Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion, which he founded in April with another Chi­nese In­ter­net ty­coon PonyMa.

“Bran­don Park is a liv­ing proof of con­ser­va­tion,” a state­ment re­leased by the Alibaba Group, which is based in Hangzhou, the cap­i­tal city of Zhe­jiang province in eastern China, high­lighted.

With­out go­ing into fur­ther de­tails, the Peach Gar­den Foun­da­tion plans to set up sim­i­lar projects in China to help solve some of the coun­try’s en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems.

Ma, whose net worth is es­ti­mated to be as much as $23.9 bil­lion, has made con­sid­er­able do­na­tions to con­ser­va­tion ef­forts here, help­ing to cre­ate the Sichuan Na­ture Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion and the Lao­he­gou Na­ture Re­serve in Sichuan, South­west China.

Last year, he cre­ated a char­i­ta­ble trust that now has an en­dow­ment of $3 bil­lion.

“Pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment in China will al­ways be Jack’s first and fore­most pri­or­ity, and he will con­tinue his strong ef­forts there,” Jim Wilkin­son, a spokesman for Alibaba in the US, told The Wall Street Jour­nal.

“This in­ter­na­tional land pur­chase re­flects Jack’s belief that we all in­habit the same planet and we all breathe the same air, so we are de­pen­dent on each other for our col­lec­tive fu­ture.”

Ma ac­quired the es­tate through New Bran­don LLC. And it was once part of a na­ture re­serve cre­ated by the leg­endary 20th cen­tury US ty­coon Wil­liam A. Rock­e­feller Jr, co-founder of Stan­dard Oil.

“Bran­don Park is a par­adise,” Phil Brown, the editor of the non­profit Adiron­dack Ex­plorer, the re­gional bi­monthly which fo­cuses on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, said.

“Twenty-eight thou­sand acres with 7 miles (11.2 kilo­me­ters) of pris­tine river, 11 brook­trout ponds, and a 2,200-foot (671-me­ter) moun­tain.”

As soon as thePeach Gar­den Foun­da­tion ac­quired the park, all com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment, such as log­ging, was closed down. Ma plans to set up a con­ser­va­tion study into the park’s brook trout.

“It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of a Chi­nese en­tre­pre­neur to en­gage in en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion around the world,” Alibaba said in a state­ment. Apart from the newly founded Peach Gar­den Foun­da­tion, Ma also sits on the board of di­rec­tors of The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy, a char­i­ta­ble en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion in the US.

About 3 per­cent of Alibaba’s an­nual profit is used on public wel­fare and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion poli­cies.

But repli­cat­ing his plans for Bran­don Park in China might be more dif­fi­cult. “Due to the dif­fer­ence be­tween land own­er­ship sys­tems in the US and China, the land trust model — buy­ing a piece of land for en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion only— is more dif­fi­cult to do here,” said Zhang Boju, di­rec­tor of the Bei­jing-based Friends of Na­ture, a lead­ing non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion in con­ser­va­tion pro­tec­tion.

Still, there are sim­i­lar pi­lot projects in Sichuan province, although progress has slow. Hope­fully, that change in the fu­ture.

“Be­cause of the ef­fects of pol­lu­tion on peo­ple’s lives, more and more en­trepreneurs are fol­low­ingMa’s lead in en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion,” Zhang said.

Last year, Ma was ranked the Chi­nese main­land’s lead­ing phi­lan­thropist by Hu­run Re­search In­sti­tute. He gave away 14.65 bil­lion yuan ($2.36 bil­lion) on char­i­ta­ble causes and en­vi­ron­men­tal projects.

Ru­pert Hoogew­erf, chair­man of the Hu­run Re­port, pointed out that it was an in­ter­est­ing move by Ma to in­vest in an over­seas eco­log­i­cal ven­ture. been

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“This is a very mean­ing­ful step by Jack Ma to in­vest in con­ser­va­tion in New York,” he said. “It is a sign that Chi­nese en­trepreneurs are now look­ing out­side the coun­try.

“This is just like Bill Gates andWar­ren Buf­fett, great phi­lan­thropists and bil­lion­aires in the US. They make do­na­tions through­out the world, which in turn helped ben­e­fit the poor,” he added.

Hoogew­erf be­lieves there is a grow­ing trend among Chi­nese bil­lion­aires to in­vest in en­vi­ron­men­tal projects, or other char­i­ta­ble ven­tures, across the globe.

“What is even more bril­liant is that Ma has founded his own foun­da­tion — the Peach Gar­den Eco­log­i­cal Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion — to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

“Ma is build­ing an ecosys­tem, which will at­tract do­na­tions from other Chi­nese bil­lion­aires. This will help cre­ate change in the fu­ture. Ma is ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about con­ser­va­tion is­sues,” Hoogew­erf added.

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