JD.com, the Chinese internet company founded by Richard Liu, has been given the number two spot on Fortune’s eighth annual “Change the World” list. According to Fortune, the list is based on the premise that the creativity required in the capitalistic pursuit of “a better mousetrap,” along with the continual motive of driving profits, are what make businesses “uniquely suited to address society’s biggest challenges.”
Citing the growing number of social issues the world is facing including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, the war in Ukraine, gender and racial inequities, and a lack of economic opportunity, Fortune chose to recognize just 54 companies globally for their positive social impact they have had through activities that are a part of their core business strategy. To select the companies they partnered with Shared Value Initiative, a consultancy that helps companies apply business skills to social problems, to analyze factors such as how measurable the companies’ social impact was, the benefit the socially impactful work brought to the company, in particular in terms of profitability and contribution to shareholder value, and the degree of innovation in the companies’ efforts.
Placing JD.com in one of the highest rankings of the list, Fortune said in its profile that the collaboration between the Shanghai government and JD.com to ensure its 25 million citizens were properly stocked with food and essential good during its COVID-19 lockdown this past April is what earned it one of the top spots.
As the Omicron variant presented significant challenges at a global level, in late March of 2021 Shanghai began a regime of mass testing as cases continued to uptick in spite of the city’s best efforts. Beginning in specific neighborhoods, Fortune noted that neither citizens nor the city government were fully prepared for the lockdowns that would follow, with residents failing to have enough time to gather essentials and the government lacking the enormous amount of logistical infrastructure needed to meet their needs.
By the beginning of April, JD Logistics, the logistical arm of JD, had already launched its autonomous delivery robots to provide contactless last mile deliveries. Powered by electricity, the robots are able to load over 200 pounds of goods at a time and travel 50 miles per charge, utilizing artificial intelligence technology and sensors to identify and avoid obstacles while planning its routes to the destinations. The robots also had the ability to be monitored and taken over remotely if needed, and the user-friendly technology meant that JD.com was also able to quickly train local volunteers to operate them.
Coronavirus relief efforts employed by JD.com had seen them utilize these autonomous delivery vehicles since 2020, and they had already been deployed in other cities across the country such as Wuhan, Shijiazhuang, Guangzhou, Beijing, Tianjin, Shenzhen. During the peak of the pandemic in 2020, Wuhan robots traveled over 4,000 miles in total and delivered over 13,000 packages, and one of the robots used in the city has since been added to the permanent collection at the National Museum of China in Beijing.
Recently, JD.com has sought to expand their omnichannel capabilities, creating a seamless experience between shopping online and offline for its customers. The company was also able to utilize these resources in Shanghai to ensure residents had a steady supply of fresh produce and daily necessities through their omnichannel supermarket SEVEN FRESH. Working with major producers to transport produce, flour, cooking oil, rice, milk and frozen to food to stores in Shanghai, JD.com ensured that the doubled and sometimes even tripled supply needs for the area were met as people began cooking at home rather than eating out for their meals. JD Fresh and JD Logistics also donated 68,000 items including fresh milk, fruits, vegetables, and meat products to meet the immediate demand spike.
Within the supermarkets themselves, JD.com implemented a number of virus prevention and disinfection measures throughout the process of preparing fresh produce from sorting, cleaning, cutting, packaging to labeling. Imported cold-chain products were sampled for nucleic acid tests and receipts were kept for traceability, and staff were required to get a certification in specified health and safety measures before working in the stores or delivering orders to neighborhoods.
JD.com’s other omnichannel endeavors such as local on-demand retail stores like JD Daojia and Shop Now, began to prioritize supplies and delivery manpower, and Dada Now, the on-demand delivery platform of Dada Group for which JD.com is a majority shareholder, brought in couriers across Shanghai to ensure it had sufficient delivery capabilities. JD technology was already implemented into Dada’s smart logistics system, which allowed couriers to follow an algorithm-guided delivery route in order to increase efficiency and ensure rapid deliveries. Dada Group also sent 400 boxes of disinfectants and 80 boxes of antimicrobial spray along with numerous other virus prevention materials to Shanghai Red Cross, intended to be used for schools once they reopened.
In mid-April, JD.com announced that it would supply over 16 million items to Shanghai residents, an amount it estimated would be enough for a one-month supply for its locals. The first batch of goods delivered had over 80,000 baby and maternal products such as milk powder and diapers, as well as 100,000 units of medicine and PPE materials. A portion of the milk powder shipment was also sent directly to the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center to ensure their supply demands were met.
As the outbreak continued to spread in the city, JD.com even transformed one of its warehouses in Shanghai into a mobile hospital. Working with China MCC5 Group, in less than a week the project was completed, turning the 55,000 square foot space into a campus offering roughly 2,000 beds equipped with bedding products, a lamp, and a bedside cabinet holding slippers, towels, toothbrushes, toothpaste and toilet paper.
At the same time, two temporary warehouses for daily necessities and baby and maternal products were established in Shanghai’s Jinshan and Qingpu districts, taking just nine days to become fully operational. Between the two warehouses there are over 200,000 products available, with brands transporting their goods directly to the facilities in order to eliminate middle processes and decrease possible contamination risks within the supply chain.
The company also launched a massive coordinated effort to bring over 5,000 couriers and sorters from across the country to Shanghai to assist with delivery needs. Just one day after the arrival of the much-needed aid, the number of orders fulfilled in Shanghai increased by 67 percent, and the employees all received vaccine booster shots and were provided with PPE materials, insurance and daily testing. Fortune noted that demand peaked in the city at 1.5 million orders fulfilled a day.
Although reaching number two this year on Fortune’s list, social responsibility has long been intertwined with JD.com’s business model. In 2012 Richard Liu, who was serving as CEO and president at the time, announced the authorization of a plan to mobilize the nearest JD.com warehouse should any disaster occur across the country, immediately donating and transporting its goods to meet the emergency demands without any prior approval needed.
This is only the latest in a number of lists JD.com has made of Fortune’s. It was not only the first Chinese internet company to be named to the Fortune Global 500, but also ranked number 46 on the Global 500 and broke the top 10 and number 7 on the China 500 in 2022. It was also listed on Fortune China’s first ESG Impact List.