The search engine that plants trees and nourishes communities

Berlin, GermanyBaliata, Burkina Faso
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Ecosia is THE search engine that plants trees. Ecosia empowers its users to plant trees and nourish communities by searching the web. This works because Ecosia donates at least 80% of its surplus income from search ad revenue and online shopping to a tree planting program.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if planting trees was as easy as searching the web?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

With so many negative news about climate change and deforestation hitting us every day, people feel petrified, because the problem seems so much bigger than themselves. We need to offer easy, free of cost and fun ways to support environmental and social projects, to empower people to take action. Climate change may be too big of a problem to be solved by individuals, but if we motivate people to join powers, we can actually achieve great things.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Ecosia is a CO2-neutral search engine that donates 80% of its surplus search ad and online shopping income to a tree planting program in Burkina Faso. By combining everyday technology and a good cause, Ecosia empowers users to have a positive impact with something as simple as online search. By capitalising on a daily habit, Ecosia offers a win-win situation to users: Next to receiving high quality results users can donate to a good cause for free, simply by searching the web or shopping online.


BCorp, SXSW Eco finalist, EIB Tournament finalist + public's favorit, GSBS social entrepreneurship contest, Utopia Award, Land der Ideen
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

If a user searches for something like "credit" or "hotel in Berlin" on Ecosia and then clicks on one of the sponsored "EcoAds", Ecosia earns revenue share. The average of revenue we earn per search is 0,5 Euro cents. The same goes for online shopping. Whenever users search for something they want to buy - like "sneakers", "washing machine" or "flight to Hawaii" and choose from the available "EcoLinks", they are directed to on one of 200 online shops like Amazon, Ebay, Trip Advisor or Macy's. If a user then makes an online purchase, our cooperation with these shops will earn us a commission. We donate at least 80% of our surplus income from search ad revenue and shopping commission to our tree planting program, currently in Burkina Faso.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Since our founding in 2009, we've donated $5 million for the environment with which we've planted 3 million trees. However, to us tree planting is about so much more than just planting a number of trees. Planting trees in a heavily deforested area of Burkina Faso means bringing life back to the desert. The roots of the trees brings water back to the surface, restarting the water cycles, animals and plants return to the land and with fertile soil, sustainable agriculture is made possible again. Local communities can plant crops and feed cattle, they can use forest goods for their own consumption or sell them on the local markets. With both parents earning a dependable income from the tree planting program, children can go back to school. What was achieved in Burkina Faso, is also possible in other deforested countries all over the world. Our mission is to plant 1 billion trees until 2020.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

As part of our mission, we want to reverse the tide of deforestation by empowering people to do good with simple solutions. This is why we have made it our goal to plant 1 billion trees until 2020. At the moment we are planting roughly 3 million trees a year. So to reach our goal, we will have to scale and institutionalise Ecosia to make it a global thing. Next to marketing efforts and continuously improving the product, this involves contacting like-minded institutions, NGOs, browsers and hardware producers to convince them to install Ecosia as their default search engine.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our business model has been self-sustaining so far. We donate at least 80% of our profits from search ad revenue but cover costs like wages, server and hosting costs, office rent, marketing etc first. We've done a great job on monetisation so far, but there is no room to implement new product features or hire additional team members to significantly scale and make Ecosia a global movement.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are search engines like GoodSearch and Benefind who allow their users to choose from a range of 100.000 registered organizations to donate their profits (about 50% of income) to. We at Ecosia however decided to concentrate on one project at a time, so we could offer our users the most transparency and could assure the sustainability of the program we're supporting. To us, positive impact is what is most important, which is why we decided to channel our financial support to benefit one good cause which in our case is sustainable tree planting.

Founding Story

After his business administration studies in Nuremberg, Christian Kroll, CEO and founder of Ecosia, traveled to Nepal where he tried to establish “Xabbel”, a search engine that should generate funds for local NGO projects. With four hours of electricity per day, the Nepali search came to an end, but the idea for a search engine with a positive impact was born. Later on in Argentina, Kroll learnt about reforestation in the Atlantic Rainforest and he read Thomas L. Friedman’s book “Hot, Flat and Crowded”. It inspired him to concentrate on tree planting and build a positive impact search engine to mitigate climate change. In December 2009, Ecosia was founded an launched in Berlin, Germany.


Ecosia currently consists of an international team of nine full-time and two part-time employees plus one investor, who as a serial entrepreneur works closely with the team to share his experience. The team composition is product driven and there is a focus on development, UX, and IT (five people), supported by a media relations and community outreach team (2 people), as well as a business development team (2 people, one of them being CEO Christian Kroll). One part-time colleague concentrates on accounting, the other part-time colleague is Ecosia's happiness officer. We do not work with interns as we believe in only employing new team members, if we can offer them fair compensation.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Ashoka Europe network

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Jacey Bingler, Head of Media Relations, applying on behalf of founder Christian Kroll

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Znout, Forestle, Xabble, allversity

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We are woking very closely with our partners at Microsoft Bing who provide us with search results, search ads and highly sophisticated search technology. Our project partners for the planting program in Burkina Faso are WeForest, a Belgian NGO engaged in tree planting programs all over the world, we are an active part of the BCorporation Europe network, organizing events with the German delegates. Our investor and advisor Tim Schumacher is represented by TS ventures GmbH, his experience in start-ups and building businesses is highly valuable to us.