The tree planting search engine
An alternative search engine, Ecosia uses the profits it generates from search queries to plant trees in areas most impacted by deforestation. Since 2009 Ecosia has successfully planted more than 60 million trees in 15 countries. It currently has roughly 8 million regular users and a team of 40 employees.
Environmentalism with a business mindset
Christian Kroll founded Ecosia in 2009 after a trip around the world exposed him to the environmental and social impact of deforestation. Although non-profits are an effective solution for some leaders and organizations, Christian wanted to bring a business mindset to environmentalism. He structured Ecosia as a for-profit social enterprise, which has given him and his team the entrepreneurial freedom to experiment, invest in the product, and iterate on business solutions.
After nearly a decade of significant growth, Christian and co-owner Tim Schumacher started to wonder: What would become of Ecosia if something happened to one of us? How do we ensure that the company, which would theoretically be worth millions of dollars on the market, is never sold? How do we protect its mission and independence for the long-term?
Ecosia is rapidly becoming one of the biggest environmental movements in the world. We believe that a movement should not be owned by a single person and therefore steward-ownership is the perfect solution for us. Our new ownership model protects our mission but also provides entrepreneurial freedom.
The limits of non-profit
The team considered several alternative ownership solutions to address these questions, including converting the business to a German non-profit and establishing a foundation. Both of these solutions had constraints, though, and neither offered the mixture of entrepreneurial flexibility and structure security they sought.