Two years ago, Christian and Tim Schumacher, Ecosia’s co-owner, gave away their shares in the company to the Purpose Foundation, creating a “steward ownership” structure to assure that Ecosia can never be sold and that no one, including Christian as the founder, can make a profit or receive dividends from the company.
The company’s dedication to the environment, transparency, and ethics earned it certification in 2014 as Germany’s first B Corporation, which meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Among the many plaudits Ecosia has won, it was a finalist in the 2015 Social Innovation Tournament, run by the EIB Institute to help entrepreneurs tackles society’s problems.
Immense destruction of planet
The genesis of Ecosia came after Christian finished university in Germany. He spent more than a year traveling, first in Nepal and then in South America during 2007 and 2008. He saw first-hand the poverty in which much of the world lives, and had to confront some ugly realities.
“I saw the immense destruction that we’re doing to our planet, cutting down vast areas of rain forests for cattle farming or soy farming,” he says. It was also during these travels that he learned about climate change and saw the impact with his own eyes.
“I realised this is the biggest challenge of humanity approaching us … and if nobody’s doing anything about it, then probably I should do something about it,” he says. “I realised that planting trees is good for helping nature, it's good for helping people. And it’s also really good to address climate change.”
During his studies, Christian had created a website for comparing banking services; if someone signed up for one of the services, he earned a commission. The site supported his travels and gave him the initial idea to build a search engine as a way to support his mission.
“I realised that most of the money that I'm earning, I was actually giving back to Google for advertisements,” he recalls. “Google has a very clever business model, and has the power to decide who gets visibility and who doesn't. And that is an important power to have, hopefully, a power that will not be abused. But if you use it in the right way, you can actually also enable people to ideally have more climate-friendly behaviours.”
His initial effort, based in Nepal, didn’t pan out. But he continued to develop the idea until Ecosia was born in 2009.