An internet search engine is not the first thing that people would come up with as a way to combat deforestation, yet Ecosia has managed to bring about the planting of 75 million trees over the last decade.
The year is 2002. Christian Kroll has just graduated with a degree in business administration from Nuremburg university and, like a lot of his peers, intends to take a gap year to tour the world before embarking on his career. Yet everywhere he went, from Brazil to Nepal, the young German was confronted by the effects of deforestation. After returning home, he decided to do something about it and in 2009 set up Ecosia, a search engine like no other.
The objective of Ecosia? To help bring about a more economically, socially and environmentally stable planet. Kroll had done his homework. A search engine, if used by enough people, can generate significant amounts from banner advertising.
When someone clicks on an ad on Ecosia, money flows into the coffers of the Berlin based firm. 80% of Ecosia’s profits are given to organizations that work to preserve the world’s forests, particularly those in equatorial regions. In essence, Ecosia users are contributing to a fund for planting trees.
While the search engine is less exhaustive than Google, which has 90% of the market, Ecosia works well enough that people have confidence in it and are not just sympathy-clicking.
The Amazon fire effect
By the start of 2020, Ecosia boasted 8 million users and had planted more than 75 million trees. The fires which rage across the world in 2019, in the Amazon then in Australia saw spikes in traffic to the site. In just one day, from August 22nd to 23rd, Ecosia went from 20,000 to 250,000 users, an over 1,000% increase which, theoretically, translates as a new tree planted every 0.8 seconds. During the same 24-hour period in France, the Ecosia app was the most downloaded on IOS.
Reacting to the surge in support for his site, Kroll said “On the one hand, we are delighted at the response of the people out there, but on the other we are deeply troubled to see the forests of the world in flames. It is both exciting and tragic.”
Despite the newfound success of his company, Kroll is a reclusive as ever, rarely making forays into the public eye, seldom giving interviews or commenting on social media. He does not want to feed the cult of personality or be seen as a ‘green-guru’ of modern day management. Adept at delegating, he spends his time at grassroots level, planting trees on various continents.
Ecosia was the first German company to earn the B Corp certification. If Kroll’s compatriots follow his example, he is unlikely to be the last.