Alibaba's Jack Ma At AsiaD: 'If It Hurts The Environment, It's Not Good For Society'

10/20/2011 09:00 am ET | Updated Dec 20, 2011

By Adam Najberg, Wall Street Journal

Jack Ma may be no Bill Gates, but he says his views on philanthropy and the social responsibility of companies have been vastly misunderstood.

“I probably spend a lot of money and efforts,” Mr. Ma told interviewer Peter Kafka in Hong Kong on Thursday at AsiaD — a conference organized by AllThingsDigital, an online publishing partner of The Wall Street Journal. “I keep it private and do not tell the public.”

Last month, the self-styled “Yangtze Crocodile” and founder of China’s Alibaba Group — whose net worth is somewhere around $1.6 billion, according to the latest Forbes Billionares list, which ranks him at No. 782 — drew some fire for not funneling the bulk of his personal wealth to philanthropic causes, à la Warren Buffett.

In comments reported by the China Daily, Mr. Ma noted the Sage of Omaha made his very-public giveaway decision when he was 75, while Chinese executives around his age, 47, are still busy creating wealth, not necessarily thinking about how to donate it to charity.

But Mr. Ma’s pronouncement wasn’t a Gekko-esque “greed is good” screed. The China Daily also quoted him as saying those C-suite execs who accumulated 100 million yuan (about $16 million) had a “duty to manage it wisely, as it has become a common property…and I believe there is no other person who can manage it better than me.”

Combined with his comments at AsiaD on Thursday, the Alibaba chairman and CEO is building an interesting case study of where rising Chinese companies place social responsibility on their list of priorities. Surprisingly, it ranks right up there with profitability — at least according to Mr. Ma.

Your business model, it should create value and be good to society,” he said, noting that Alibaba contributes 0.3% of its revenue to environmental protection, though he didn’t specify where or how.

Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal.

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