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Why Alibaba’s 11.11 Shopping Festival Is Going Green This Year

Alibaba’s annual 11.11 shopping extravaganza is going green this year.

The festival of record-breaking sales and rock-bottom prices isn’t curbing its focus on growth, however.

On the night of Nov. 10, Alibaba will host a “star-studded gala” in Shanghai to precede the explosion of shopping that takes place every year, starting on Nov. 11 or “11.11.” As the years go by, the 11-day “double eleven” festival (which takes place on the unofficial Chinese holiday, Singles’ Day) has expanded significantly, racking up more than $30 billion in sales over the event’s first 24 hours in 2018.

In 2019, president of Alibaba-owned Taobao and Tmall Fan Jiang said 11.11 will still focus its efforts on growth, adding that “given its scale, minimizing environmental impact is essential,” this year and in the years to come.

Cainiao, a Chinese logistics company, will lead the way on Nov. 20 by converting 75,000 locations into cardboard recycling stations to combat the inevitable rise in packaging waste that accompanies the massive volume of orders fulfilled through Alibaba’s online platforms. Cainiao will also work with express courier companies to pick up boxes and wrapping in certain locations.

Consumers will receive “green energy points” on the entertainment app “Ant Forest” as an incentive to  recycle and Alibaba Cloud expects to save 200,000 kilowatt-hours of energy during 11.11, thanks to the use of renewable energy and other environmentally friendly technology at its data centers.

While sustainability will play a larger role during 11.11 than it has in the past, Jiang said that Alibaba’s goal remains to continue to grow consumption and support local businesses. The group said it expects tremendous growth in the less-developed markets within China, which have contributed more than 70 percent of Alibaba’s new active consumers over the past year.

“Our goal is to stimulate consumption demand and support lifestyle upgrade in China through new brands and products,” Fan said. “We will enable merchants in China and around the world to grow their businesses through data-driven product innovation and consumer insights, as well as leverage our recommendation technology and content-driven user engagement to delight consumers in urban coastal cities and less-developed areas of China.”

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In total, Alibaba expects 200,000 brands to participate in the festival, bringing in more than 1 million new electronics, fashion and lifestyle products to sell to the more than half a billion users expected to take part. The group kicked things off on Monday night with a two-hour livestream, powered by “See Now, Buy Now” technology enabling viewers to buy products directly from the stream.

Alibaba touted the upgrade of its platform services to “Tmall Flagship Store 2.0,” which rolled out months ago and offers “new features and tools” designed to make it easier for merchants to customize their online stores. Thousands of merchants have already upgraded their sites with the platform, said Alibaba, which expects that several thousand more will join over the next year.

The group is also quick to point out that 11.11 is not just a Chinese shopping holiday but also a global event that will feature more than 22,000 international brands from all over the world. Aliexpress, an Alibaba platform that connects local businesses with international markets, will facilitate the participation of Russian, Spanish, Italian and Turkish consumers for the first time in 2019.