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UPDATED: November 21, 2014 NO. 41 OCTOBER 9, 2014
Open Sesame
Alibaba cracks the U.S. market with a massive IPO
By Corrie Dosh

The ethical consumer

The listing of Alibaba has heralded the new era of global commerce. China has firmly taken its place with a global brand, and an army of middle-class consumers to shift buying power to the East. The door that Alibaba is opening swings both ways. The company will raise billions in funding from the West, and global manufacturers will increasingly target Alibaba's growing customer base. Already, companies like Apple and Starbucks are seen adjusting their products to target Chinese customers. The age of the Chinese consumer is at hand.

The implications of China's dominance in the global economy are many. As the world's biggest customer, what responsibilities does China have in terms of ethical trade, labor conditions, environmental impact and the use of natural resources? Chinese consumers have the power to change the world. It's not enough just to consume—China has to lead.

Google was founded under a tongue-in-cheek slogan: "Don't be evil." Alibaba would do well to follow a similar creed. As the company matures, it must now follow the guidelines of corporate social responsibility. As the labor market for the world, China already knows the dangers of unchecked profit maximization. Now is Alibaba's chance to establish a new precedent.

The era of the informed, ethical consumer has arrived. In a recent survey by Penn Schoen Berland, 82 percent of consumers in China indicated that they would be willing to spend more on green products and services. If Alibaba truly wants to be a market leader, it will anticipate these ethical needs of its customer base and influence the market in a positive direction.

The author is a contributing writer to Beijing Review, living in New York City

Email us at: yushujun@bjreview.com

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