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Alibaba Focuses on Sustainability, Inclusiveness for Singles’ Day 2021

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The world’s largest online shopping festival — Singles’ Day — is just around the corner, and sustainability and inclusiveness are the two key focuses of this year’s event.

Falling on November 11 each year, the mega shopping event is also called ‘Double 11’ (11.11). Primarily taking place on Taobao, an Alibaba ecommerce site, 11.11 has surpassed the sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Last year, Alibaba raked in a record-breaking 498.2 billion RMB. And the gross merchandise volume (GMV) in the first 30 minutes of the shopping holiday was a whopping 372.3 billion RMB, roughly the same amount as Singapore’s GDP in 2019.

More than 290,000 brands signed up for the shopping event on Taobao this year, the most in the festival’s history. And while Alibaba has kept some arrangements from last year, such as dividing the festival into two shopping periods, this year’s event will shift its focus to sustainability and inclusiveness.

Chris Tung, chief marketing officer of Alibaba Group, shared that instead of focusing solely on growth, the company is now focusing on sustainable growth. As part of this goal, Alibaba’s online marketplace Tmall launched a green alliance with 14 brands, promoting greener production and consumption habits.

“Tmall is collaborating with brands in taking a bigger step towards carbon emission reduction, not only because it wants to pursue carbon neutrality, but also because it is being responsive to consumer choices,” said Zheng Liqing, Tmall’s head of consumer marketing.

tamll green

Consumers can earn points for buying environmentally-friendly home appliances. Image via Alibaba Group

In addition, by using a new feature from Alibaba’s logistic group Cainiao Network, consumers can now track and share their progress reducing their carbon footprint after adopting green measures, such as using recycled shipping boxes.

Besides sustainability, Alibaba also made inclusiveness a central theme for this year’s shopping festival. Although Taobao already has features tailored for elders, such as a peer-to-peer chat function, to further improve elders’ shopping experiences, Taobao released a ‘senior mode’ with larger text and voice-assisted technology.

Moreover, Tmall launched the ‘One Shoe Program’ (一只鞋计划) for people with disabilities, and several footwear companies such as Skechers and Reebok have already participated. Under the program, consumers have the option to buy only one shoe and pay half the price of a pair.

one shoe project

Image via Alibaba Group

Alibaba’s new emphasis on sustainability can be viewed as a much-needed response to the environmental damage inflicted by previous Singles’ Days.

Greenpeace estimated the 2017 Double 11 shopping festival generated 52,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide, primarily from delivery transportation and packaging materials. Equally troubling is sellers often opt for low-cost and nonrecyclable materials for packaging, producing a concerning amount of waste.

The impact of Alibaba’s sustainability efforts remains to be seen. But it’s worth noting that the sustainability-focused retailer Everlane left China last month due to its inability to resonate with Chinese consumers.

Regardless, it’s encouraging that companies with influence of this scale are shifting their focus to an important topic like sustainability.

On a lighter note, this year’s highly-anticipated Singles’ Day Gala will feature the English actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who told netizens last week, “Let’s look forward in the pursuit of happiness.”

Cover image via Depositphotos

Kayla He
    Born and raised in China, Kayla received her BA in Communications and Public Service from the University of Pennsylvania. You can find her exploring coffee shops and running between spin classes in her free time.
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