Lost and found again: Cainiao brings back soaked books from flood as envelopes

In late February, a netizen on Xiaohongshu (RED) posted that the envelope on the parcel they received from the delivery platform Cainiao said it was made from soaked books from the Zhuozhou flood in 2023. This post quickly went viral and received over 12,800 likes on the platform. On 6 March, Cainiao confirmed the news by commenting on the post. It later announced that it had bought 30 tonnes of soaked books and made them into 200,000 envelopes for document delivery.

In late July and August 2023, Beijing and surrounding areas experienced the heaviest rainfall since records began 140 years ago. Zhuozhou, Hebei, a county-level city near the capital was heavily hit by the flood with 133,913 people being affected. Nearly a million people were displaced across Beijing and Hebei, and the water in Zhuozhou was as deep as 7 metres at one time.

Zhuozhou was also home to many book warehouses by nearly a hundred publishers, distributors, libraries and retailers. Handling over 20 billion RMB (2.78 billion USD) worth of books in 2021, it handled over 20% of the entire book market for China that year. Millions of books were destroyed or damaged with some warehouses losing over 80% of its stock.

At the time, netizens mobilised to buy readable damaged books as some beloved book platforms such as Books China were in crisis due to the destruction of stock. That is one of the reasons why Cainiao’s move was so welcomed on Xiaohongshu. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, the topic “Soaked books in Zhuozhou remade into file envelopes” (#涿州水泡图书再造成文件封归来#) gained 8.51 million views. Netizens expressed that they were touched by the move. Cainiao states that making envelopes from recycled paper has been a part of its sustainable ESG programme for 7 years. This time, Cainiao’s quiet effort paid off after being discovered by a customer, and is an example of ESG marketing having the best effect by not being publicised.


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