Working with two million merchants and 427 million shoppers, Alibaba says its philanthropy work has raised as much as RMB 440 million (AUD $91.4 million) to help a staggering 8.7 million people.
“As a marketplace with extensive reach in China, we have already enabled small businesses engaging with their customers and generating opportunities. We are thinking different ways to utilise the influence of our marketplace,” said Jiang Fan, the president of Taobao.
“Philanthropy is a good example of how Taobao can provide a viable channel to conduct charity initiatives creatively and effectively with just one click. The accumulation of small, thoughtful and compassionate acts from individuals each day can make a big difference at the end,” Fan continued.
According to Alibaba, its four key initiatives, and the results garnered in each over the last 12-months, make Taobao “China’s largest online philanthropy platform, in terms of participation”.
The online marketplace says the money and resources it raised in 2018 went towards helping the less fortunate in China, Ethiopia and Myanmar. The causes Alibaba Group supported included poverty alleviation, educational and environmental protection, childcare and animal protection, as well as illness and disaster relief.
Through the online giant’s four philanthropy programs: ‘Goods for Good’, ‘Online Charity Stores’, ‘Three-Hour Voluntary Service Platform’ and ‘Steps for Charity’, Taobao says that 427 million users performed 7.9 billion charitable actions in 2018. These actions encompassed donations of both money and time.
The company’s ‘Goods for Good’ program saw two million merchants raise RMB364 million (AUD$75.6 million) in donations, on what the business says was an average of 20 million transactions per day over the 12-month period. Each merchant was able to choose a cause to support, and every time a consumer made a purchase, the Taobao platform automatically transferred a portion of each sale to that seller’s chosen organisation.
During Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in November last year, more than 300 million charitable transactions were made by 100 million consumers in a brief 24-hour window.
‘Online Charity Stores’ was also a high-performing venture on Alibaba’s key marketplace last year. In a statement, the business said consumers were able to purchase goods from stores set-up by not-for-profit organisations, with revenue going towards helping those in need. Specifically, the ‘Free Lunch’ project provided more than 56.5 million free meals to school children in rural communities in 2018. Meanwhile, the ‘Online Charity Stores’ program as a whole raised RMB 75.43 million (AUD $ 15.7 million). Interestingly, of the 2.73 million consumers that contributed to this figure, more than half were millennials born in the 1990s.
Moving a little closer to home, the ‘Three-Hour Voluntary Service Platform’ reportedly saw Alibaba employees and consumers providing voluntary services to charitable organisations. In 2018, 17 million users engaged with 1,100 organisations that were offering more than two million volunteering opportunities.
In a period as brief as six months, Alibaba’s ‘Steps for Charity’ initiative also saw participants take more than 90 billion ‘steps’ – enough to circle the earth 1,125 times. Each step was matched by merchants and corporates with monetary donations, which were used to build jogging paths for schools in poverty-stricken regions in China.
Alibaba isn’t the only retail-based business assisting charities, with Australia’s own Retail Global also raising enough funds to build a hospital in Haiti at its Gold Coast conference in mid-2018.
At the time, Phil Leahy, the CEO of Retail Global said that the fundraiser far out-weighed the company’s expectations. “We were aiming to raise $80,000 so we could finish that hospital, and we ended up with $150,000 so we’re going to add a building of seven new houses,” he said. This part of the conference is what Leahy refers to as the “magical part”, where the e-commerce community can give back and walk away feeling good about themselves.