Meet Ecosia – the B Corp alternative to Google
15 February 2021 at 6:14 pm
More than 7 million searches are made on Ecosia by Australians every month
With Google threatening to pull out of Australia, the founder of a search engine that plants trees when people search believes his platform can help fill this potential void as an ethical alternative.
Ecosia is a search engine based in Germany that uses ad revenue from searches to fund reforestation projects around the world.
The social business was founded by Christian Kroll in 2009 and has so far helped plant more than 119 million trees.
Kroll told Pro Bono News he first became interested in social business models when he was travelling through Nepal and tried starting a search engine that would finance development projects.
While this was unsuccessful, he said he learnt a lot and it helped renew his focus on using tech for good.
“After Nepal I travelled through South America, where I saw the devastation caused by massive deforestation and learnt the critical role of trees in reducing carbon, combating hunger and poverty, and restoring biodiversity,” Kroll said.
“When I returned to Berlin in 2009, I started Ecosia with my sister and a couple of friends. We knew from the start that we wanted to put our profits into ecological conservation projects and tree-planting was a natural choice.”
Today, Ecosia – which uses Bing’s search technology – has around 15 million active users.
In Australia, it makes up just 0.22 per cent of the search engine market.
Google meanwhile holds more than 94 per cent of the market share.
But with the company threatening to pull out of the Australian market due to proposed media bargaining code laws, Kroll believes Ecosia could help fill the search engine void.
“Ecosia already has a strong base in Australia – we’re seeing over 7 million searches made on Ecosia by Australians each month, and usership is up 30 per cent year-on-year,” he said.
“[But] there’s still plenty of room to grow. If a large number of [internet] users switched over, it would make a huge difference to the number of trees we’d be able to plant.
“It’s now in the hands of ordinary Australians who can help plant change through their everyday internet searches.”
Ecosia was the first German company to become a B Corporation and has consistently been rated among the top-performing B Corps in the world.
Kroll said meeting the highest standards of verified social impact performance was incredibly important given Ecosia’s mission to centre people before profit.
He said transparency was central to this, noting that Ecosia has been publishing its financial reports since 2014 to keep it accountable to users.
“Social impact is a thread that runs through everything we do,” he said.
“Whether it’s releasing a new product, considering green investments, or sharing content on our platforms, we aim to cultivate a more environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable world.”
Ecosia funded the planting of 26,000 trees in the Byron Bay region last year with local partner ReForest Now and has just signed a contract to double this figure.
Kroll said Ecosia was more than 350 per cent renewable in 2020, producing enough renewable energy through the seven solar power plants it has built to power its searches and help to push dirty energy out of the grid.
He also said the company has strong privacy protections.
“We’re privacy-friendly, searches are never stored permanently, no personal profiles are created based on search history, and all searches are securely encrypted and anonymised within days,” he said.
“Ecosia also never uses external tracking tools and never sells data to advertisers.
“Hopefully that’s enough to convince all Australians to use Ecosia and help us to regenerate the planet.”