The present and future sustainable search engine
Newton’s third law states that «every action is always opposed by an equal reaction but in the opposite direction».
This is exactly what Ecosia does. This online search engine is the alter ego with awareness and sustainable commitment of those other giants whose goal is far from the social responsibility required by the digital and climate era.
This initiative, already a great reality that does not stop growing, tries to change the world from its native Berlin. Formed by a multidisciplinary team of people, all with the clear objective of helping to save the planet, we have talked with them about their ambitious project.
Hello team, could you tell us What is Ecosia? How do we attract the public to get involved with Ecosia?
Ecosia is a web search engine that invests all its profits in tree planting. In other words, we take advantage of the fact that millions of people search online every day to do something good for the planet. In a way we are also trying to redefine the business world.
That’s why this year the founder, Christian Kroll, has decided to make it legally impossible for him or anyone in the company ever to sell Ecosia or make a profit from the company (here the article in our blog about it).
How to attract the public to Ecosia?
I think we all instinctively understand that planting trees is not a crazy idea. In addition, I think that at the latest this year many people have realised that climate change is imminent.
We’re feeling it in Spain – Andalusia is running out of water, it’s warmer in the winter months and we’re starting to see extreme natural phenomena like this year’s torrential rains. Perhaps it’s also a matter of thinking about Google’s monopoly and what that entails in terms of access to information.
In short, I think that at the end of the day we all agree that we have to do something to stop climate change. But it’s a complex problem and sometimes we get so big and incomprehensible that we get paralysed and don’t know where to start.
With Ecosia we are giving a first answer – start by planting trees simply by doing what you usually do every day.
Is Ecosia the competition or does it want to be the competition of the big internet search engines or isn’t its objective? What is the perception you want the general public to have of your company?
When we talk about Ecosia to people who don’t know it yet, there is usually a point in the conversation where they say «but clearly we have to talk about the big elephant in the room – Google».
I don’t know if Google is the «elephant in the room», that expression means that there is a big problem that everyone tries to ignore but that there is holding back your goals. On the one hand, it is true, we can not deny the omnipotence of Google in the market and this we do consider a problem.
Well, any monopoly is worrying and if it turns out that there is a company that has a monopoly on how we consume our information and the access we have to it, the problem is serious. But on the other hand, Ecosia is also a completely different company.
Another comment that is often made to us is what we would do if Google decided to plant trees. If Google used to plant trees, not 100% of its profits – as Ecosia does – but a simple 1%, we would have already solved the problem and Ecosia could move on to work on another cause. But in Ecosia we are doing more than that. Yes, we are in direct competition with Google.
But we are also a different product: green search engine, social enterprise, environmental movement. Notice that planting trees has a multiplier effect that goes beyond the trees themselves – trees give us water, shelter, more fertile soils. Ecosia is a bit like a tree.
We put a small seed so that in this way we all change towards a greener world, more tolerant, more in harmony with each other and with nature.
As in other major search engines, Ecosia will have a large amount of data from its users. What is the company’s policy in this regard? Do you store these data? How do you use them?
The issue of privacy is very important to us and has been since the beginning. At Ecosia we do not store our users’ searches, we do not sell their data to advertisers, we do not use external tracking tools and we also give the user the option to select a completely private mode – without any tracking, not even the minimum necessary (e.g. cookies, IP) for the most basic statistics.
In fact, that’s how we wrote it: the communication team asked the developers a thousand times what each element meant until we also understood what «third party integration», «IMEI» or «conversion tracking» meant.
Is Ecosia Profitability or Corporate Social Responsibility? Could we talk about Ecosia as a non-profit company?
Yes, Ecosia is a complete – and totally social, non-profit company and this year (see first answer) we have made sure to make it legally binding.
What has it meant for Ecosia to become a B-corporation? How has it influenced, if at all, the present and future of the company?
The BCorp movement in Europe has not hit as hard as in the United States and Latin America. Perhaps because the Nordic countries – and Germany specifically – have traditionally had a fairly strong environmental movement.
In addition, the strict laws of the European Union and good social service makes the BCorporation, in comparison, equal or in its principles almost weaker than European standards. Therefore, the moment when BCorp breaks into Europe actually comes a little late. Even so, it is a very important movement and we applaud it, which is why we decided to become the first BCorp in Germany and one of the first in Europe.
Moreover, being also present in the United States, it seemed important to us to belong to a group of companies that also have the social good in their DNA.
The protection of the environment and the fight against poverty are intrinsically linked. How do the fight for the environment and poverty coexist and interrelate in the projects carried out by Ecosia? Do you consider environmental actions from the premise of sustainable development of the communities or regions in which you operate?
The connection between trees and poverty is very close, indeed. It is estimated that currently about 250 million people depend on forests for their survival.
At Ecosia our mission is not simply to plant trees. We want to create almost micro economies, systems by which, for the population of the territory on which we work, it is more beneficial to let their trees grow, than to cut them down and destroy forests.
We work closely with communities to understand their needs and find alternatives to logging (for example, investing in improved stoves to avoid cutting more trees). However, each region in which we work is very different, so we have to take into account the major causes of deforestation to try to eradicate the problem from the root.
The objective is set by those billion trees planted by 2020 and you set it as an objective in the five continents. What is the criterion for choosing the areas where to reforest?
We live in a time of climate emergency and our selection of projects reflects this need to act quickly. At the moment in Ecosia we are focusing on reforesting what are known as the «biodiversity hotspots». That is, those areas in the world that still contain the greatest biodiversity in flora and fauna and are in danger of disappearing.
There are important studies that mark as one of the fundamental poles of action against global warming and climate change to cities, which are and will be even more in the coming decades the main actors of emissions. Urban tree planting is already one of the fundamental instruments for improving environmental quality, not only urban but also on the planet. Does Ecosia intend to act in this environment? Do you collaborate with public entities in the objectives you have set? How do these public entities participate in the Ecosia project?
This is a very important point, of course. At the moment we are not working on any project dedicated to urban tree planting. As I say, for the moment we are focusing on protecting and restoring those green points of diversity. As we said recently in this blog article, humanity has to change the agricultural system if we want to survive as a human species.
The Hambach forest is the umpteenth symbol of the fight for the environment. This time in Germany, but all over the planet, the situation of environmental destruction is continuous. What repercussions do you think your project has in the defence of the environment against the powerful lobbies against and a society that is not committed to a more sustainable lifestyle?
We don’t know about the repercussion we have yet, although the effort we put into trying to save the Hambach forest showed us that we can indeed have a positive impact. We take very seriously the effect we can have and the responsibility that comes with it. At Ecosia our goal is to create a world where the planet no longer needs to be protected from ourselves. It is a utopia, but we are fully committed to the environmental cause and what it entails, including the need to create empathy among human beings.
Seven million active users are moving Ecosia right now. They seem few in view of the important mission it has. It is foreseen that in 2018 there will be 4000 million internet users in the world (50%). What is the expansion objective of the company? Is the objective in the active users or in the reforestation projects materialized?
Our objective is to reforest the planet and to do it in a sustainable way. That is to say, finding solutions that serve both nature and human beings, to ensure that we protect it. Obviously, in order to generate more income for reforestation, we are going to need all the users we can acquire. It will therefore be a combination of the two. We will continue to research how to create the most efficient reforestation projects possible on the one hand, and how to create useful technological products for our users on the other.
At Ekohunters we admire all those projects in which, each to the extent of its possibilities, tries to do its bit towards a better world, towards a more sustainable economy, towards a fairer society.
Ecosia is all the planet, its people, its communities. It is, in the globalized, connected and disproportionate consumption world in which we live, the quintessence of sustainable development. An example, an inspiration for all of us who fight every day for our planet.
From today Ekohunters adheres to your project. We want to be ECOSIA, and we want every internet user to surf with Ecosia.What are you waiting for to set Ecosia as your default search engine?.
Every little gesture counts.Ecosia is a small step for you but a big step for humanity.