When Christian Kroll, founder, and CEO of search engine Ecosia, sought after new business opportunities, he did what most entrepreneurs today do not. He didn’t try to maximize ROI as to how much money he could make. He maximized ROI on the impact he could make on social communities and within our natural world.
Let’s dive deep into the background of both Kroll and Ecosia. In this post, we will uncover how this style of eco-entrepreneurship has geared up to become a new opportunity for business owners to seek well-rounded success.
Ecosia & Tree Restoration
After making various trips to India, Nepal, Thailand, and other third world countries Christian Kroll was driven to help remediate the problems he witnessed happening around the globe. His first goal was to focus his attention on helping to mitigate excess CO2 levels in our atmosphere. To do this, he wanted to start a business in which a large portion of their profits gets donated to tree restoration.
In 2008, Kroll founded a browser extension called Ecosia. His goal was to utilize the demand for online searches and money from advertising to create a business that would not only make money but also improve our climate.
Much like Google or Yahoo, Ecosia allows its users to conduct searches on just about any page or site. What is unique about Ecosia, though, is that for every 45 searches a user performs, a tree is planted on behalf of their queries. Hubspot has said that the average person conducts between three and four searches each day. So, by using Ecosia, you could help plant a new tree every 2 weeks.
Just ponder that for a moment…
Ecosia donates 80% of its profits from advertising revenue to support tree planting projects, while the rest is put into backup reserves for any unforeseen events. And, if it happens that those reserves are not used, they are then channeled back into the company’s tree-planting fund. Ecosia does not pay out any dividends to its owners.
Internally, Ecosia assures its legitimacy by posting a variety of reports and updates about their efforts online. They even post video updates of how well their trees are doing and the state of forests where their trees have been planted. According to their facts and figures page, 55% of their revenue from 2019 was put into programs like tree restoration, green investments (such as their servers, who are all powered by alternative sources of energy), and paying out equitable wages to their partners.
By the time you read this, Ecosia will have planted over 100 million trees, removed roughly 3 million tonnes of CO2 from our atmosphere, and restored 80,000+ hectares of land.
This is no small feat. So how was Kroll, a young entrepreneur at the time, able to combat one of our planet’s biggest threats? Through his determination to put the planet over profits. He knew how important it was to help fix the planet, and he wasn’t going to let anyone get in his way.
And it’s through the belief that he can use his companies profits to plant millions of trees why users continue to use them. People don’t use Ecosia because it is a search engine. They use it because they too want to help fight for a cleaner planet.
What is an Eco-Entrepreneur?
Beyond Kroll and Ecosia, there are thousands of entrepreneurs looking to dominate the “giving a f*ck about our planet” market.
Eco-Entrepreneurship, also called environmental entrepreneurship or ecopreneurship, focuses on solutions to environmental issues through products, services, and educational resources.
This facet of entrepreneurship is unique, in that there is no correct way on how to execute or build your business. According to Deanna Pratt of EcoAlly, “there are generally three main types of sustainable businesses you can start: an online business, a service-based business, and a product-based business.”
Pratt, an eco-entrepreneur herself, states, “the goal of eco-entrepreneurship is either to mitigate environmental issues or to address their consequences. So, by nature, a business started by an eco-entrepreneur must be either a Tier 3 or Tier 4 sustainable business… Tier 3+ businesses often release yearly environmental impact reports to show their stakeholders the progress they’re making towards increased sustainability. These businesses are generally eligible for benefit corp & B Corp certifications.”
See how brand activism can help level up an eco-entrepreneur’s business marketing objectives.
Back to the Basics: Where to Start?
So, you’ve decided to take the road of becoming an eco-entrepreneur. This may be because you care deeply about sustainability, or because you’ve been inspired by others like Kroll to get your hands dirty helping the environment. Where do you start, then?
As with any entrepreneur, the process of developing both your business idea and plan can be very daunting. And, it’s honestly not too different here.
Begin to ask yourself, “what issues are important to me, and how sustainable can both myself and my business be?” You really need to come to terms with how much you want to handle.
Although it’d be amazing to become the next Greta Thunberg, the famous teen climate activist, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.
Next, consider taking pen to paper and drafting some ideas of areas you think you’d cater to best. This is espicially powerful if they are in areas lacking a voice for sustainability. For example, Ecosia recognized Google’s dominance in the search engine market. He decided to change the direction of his business model and focus on people instead of profits.
Once you’ve developed an idea, take the next steps, and evaluate how you’d like to manage your business plan. Consider other competitors in the market, and explore your financial situation before you lift off. Here are some questions to consider:
- How much money did it take similar companies to start their business?
- How big is the market in which I am entering?
- Who are the biggest competitors in the space?
- What is my why? Why am I doing what I am doing and how can I make that clear from the get-go?
A great tool to use before entering any market is Porter’s 5 forces to assess industry competitiveness. Feel free to take a look at our post on Porter’s 5 forces and how you can use it.
Our world is changing. Business is not. The structure at which businesses operate today still put profits over our planet. Chris Kroll’s Ecosia is a perfect example of how the entrepreneurial spirit has the potential to not only improve an industry but the environment as a whole.
Eco-entrepreneurship gives meaning to those looking to not just make a profit, but a difference. It provides an opportunity to kill two birds with one moral-ethical stone. For those looking to dip their toes in the water, you can make it happen as long as you carefully plan your business, and find a group of loyal customers who believe in your mission.