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Alibaba changes tack ahead of Singles' Day shopping event

E-commerce giant toes party line as it hopes for Beijing's forgiveness

Alibaba appealed for support for the poor at its Singles' Day launch event in Shanghai. (Photo by Naoki Matsuda)

SHANGHAI -- China's biggest annual online shopping event on Nov. 11, known as Singles' Day, is just around the corner, but there is something different about this year. E-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which managed to rack up record sales of 498.2 billion yuan ($77.8 billion) last year despite the pandemic, is focusing on the environment.

As usual, Alibaba has been drumming up consumer appetite with a massive promotional campaign, but a kickoff event on Oct. 20 in Shanghai showed a major change in focus. Instead of just encouraging unbridled consumerism, the online mall operator says it is urging its vendors to expand their range of environmentally friendly products and shoppers to recycle old home appliances and cut wasteful consumption. It is an about-face from previous campaigns.

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