Ecosia: a search engine that plants trees
Ecosia and Dr. Bronner’s are kindred spirits, so it makes sense that the two companies would team up to work on a project together. Both companies have sought to harness the power of business to create social and environmental benefit. Both companies are seeking to redefine capitalist enterprises, changing them from being extractive models that exploit land and communities, to being regenerative models that nurture people and the Earth—what we call Constructive Capitalism.
If you are unfamiliar with Ecosia, the simplest introduction is that Ecosia is a search engine “that plants trees.” How does it work exactly? It’s fairly simple. Ecosia is a search engine like any other: users type in searches, and Ecosia returns results of what it thinks the user is looking for. The search engine makes money through advertisements that appear on the search page, like most search engines. The difference with Ecosia is that any money not needed to operate the business is put towards planting trees. Lots of trees. To date, Ecosia, together with its users, have planted over 144 million trees around the world. These tree planting projects are intended to help combat climate change and improve the livelihoods of their surrounding communities. Just as importantly, Ecosia gives its users a simple, tangible action they can take to combat climate change—just by using the Ecosia search engine!
Along with being a certified B Corp (the first German B Corp), Ecosia has structured itself in a way that ensures it will be used for public benefit and not private profit. In 2018, the founder of Ecosia, Christian Kroll, made a legally binding commitment that no company shares could be sold or owned by people outside of the company, and that no profits could be taken out of the company. Much like Dr. Bronner’s 5-to-1 cap on executive salaries, this ensures that there are plenty of funds to put towards social and environmental good.
Like Dr. Bronner’s, Ecosia has a keen interest in regenerative organic agriculture and dynamic agroforestry. While their early initiatives were geared towards planting as many trees as possible, more recent endeavors have focused on tree-planting projects that offer clear economic and material benefit for the communities nearby. These communities are the long-term stewards and caretakers of the trees, so it is crucial that they have some skin in the game. That’s why Ecosia is working with rubber farmers in Thailand, for example, to transform monoculture plantations into diverse and profitable habitats—and working with communities in Burkina Faso and Mali to re-green the desert, to give hope to those who are struggling with the most extreme impacts of climate change. These are just a couple of the many such projects that Ecosia funds.
Serendipalm and Ecosia—dynamic agroforestry at work
Our sister company Serendipalm in Ghana, that currently supplies Regenerative Organic Certified palm oil for our bar soaps and regenerative organic certified cocoa for our Magic All-One Chocolate, is just the kind of project and community that Ecosia seeks to partner with. So when Serendipalm needed financing to expand its dynamic agroforestry holdings, Ecosia stepped in to provide a low-interest loan that would give Serendipalm the ability to purchase a 200-acre plot.
Dynamic agroforestry (or mixed agroforestry) is a farming method in which a variety of crops are carefully planted together so as to maximize their benefit to one another. Larger trees, like papaya or lumber, can provide cover for shade-loving trees like cocoa. Fast-growing crops, like banana or plantain, provide mulch for the entire system and early returns for farmers as they wait for longer-term crops to mature. Ground crops—like ginger, turmeric, or peanuts—can grow in the understory. Farmers can plant crops more densely, avoid the pest pressure that comes with monoculture plantations, and contribute meaningfully to climate resilience through the carbon sequestration that dynamic agroforestry provides.
Serendipalm’s new farmland is a large plot that will help dramatically expand their dynamic agroforestry activities. With this land, Serendipalm staff can begin experimenting to determine which is the right mix of crops to plant in this region of Ghana—as dynamic agroforestry should always be adapted to the specific climactic, economic, and cultural needs of any region. Additionally, the Serendipalm enterprise will now be expanding beyond palm oil and cocoa, to offer crops like cassava, plantains, and turmeric. This diversification will make Serendipalm less reliant on one crop (palm oil) or one customer (Dr. Bronner’s), and help make the company more financially resilient in the long-term.
A major goal for both Ecosia and Dr. Bronner’s / Serendipalm is to demonstrate the economic viability of dynamic agroforestry. To this end, Serendipalm will be working to identify customers and markets for these new crops. In addition, Serendipalm staff will gain expertise in managing mixed agroforestry systems and be able to offer consultation to local farmers who see the benefits and want to make the switch to this kind of farming. Ultimately, the goal is to expand the adoption of dynamic agroforestry and other regenerative organic practices throughout the region.
We are proud to partner with the Ecosia on this project, and look forward to more collaborations in the future!