The not-for-profit search engine Ecosia may be the world's most active (and greenest) early contributor to tech causes transitioning the world away from fossil fuels.
Not only does the organization plant a tree for each search someone runs through its engine, but it also is now plugging the profits it generates from serving up ads back into the renewable energy space.
That's on top of the $383 million investment fund (called World Fund) the Berlin-based search engine service also incubated and launched late last year.
That's a lot of lift for a startup in a space dominated by a very large multi-billion dollar advertising behemoth (Google it and we're sure you'll find the company).
Now, Ecosia is funneling more of its ad revenues into German renewable power projects -- to the tune of $30 million for startups and community energy projects, according to a report in TechCrunch.
Beyond the immediate political necessity for supporting more renewable energy and efficiency projects to cut financing to Russia's military machine, the climate crisis is still looming in the background. It looks like the war in Europe will force carbon emissions higher as nations turn away from Russian oil and methane to coal and liquefied methane for energy.
Countries in the EU and UK are racing to build more renewable supplies as well, and that's the kind of activity Ecosia is trying to boost.
The first money the German search engine is investing will go toward the Berlin-based startup Zolar, a platform which links customers wanting to install solar systems with local planning and installation businesses in Germany (the nation most reliant on Russian energy supplies), according to TechCrunch. “At the moment, we’re supporting renewable energy projects across Germany. Further investment into renewable energy will be likely as Ecosia evaluates community energy projects and pitches from founders and these may take place in other countries,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Eventually, Ecosia wants to invest proceeds into renewable agriculture alongside renewable energy generation, but given the current crisis -- the focus, for now, is on energy.
The company is also encouraging sustainability through its investment fund to back startups across Europe that are engaged in the decarbonization of industrial production and helping the world adapt to a changing climate
By October of last year, the firm had already invested in companies like the plant-based meat alternative, Juicy Marbles; the debit card that provides nature-based offsets to purchases, TreeCard; and the reusable packaging startup, Recup.
“Europe urgently needs to stop continuing business as usual, relying on the continued use of fossil fuels. This continent has the research, innovation and political awareness to lead the world in the fight against climate change," said Danijel Višević, a general partner at the fund at the time of its October debut. "However, until now, there hasn’t been the venture support to ensure these solutions go from idea to success. This is why we’re launching the World Fund, to be the ultimate partner to back the tech entrepreneurs of Europe that will create the most valuable companies of the next decade while tackling the climate crisis.”
Since then, the need for technologies to reduce energy demand and provide alternative sources of power has only grown stronger.
While Ecosia is explicitly green in its messaging and its execution, there's little doubt that other search engine businesses -- including and especially Google -- are very focused on climate change and contributing to planetary solutions.
Google's various initiatives in this area are legion -- the company has been carbon neutral since 2007 and intends to wean itself off of fossil fuels completely by 2030. The company also has invested heavily through its moonshots division in companies that are now fully independent businesses working on solving some of the world's most pressing energy problems.
And Google's cloud services and data management tools are helping provide windows into how the world's energy supply can transition to a 24-hour green grid.
At Ecosia, the commitment to sustainability means that 80% of the business' advertising profits fund reforestation projects in biodiversity hotspots around the world. As of this year it has planted 145 million trees.
That number has been super charged by Google of all places. The dominant search engine allowed Ecosia's alternative to be listed on its chrome browser back in 2020 and that was a huge driver, according to Chief Executive Christian Kroll.
“Ecosia’s growth over the last year shows just how invested users are in the fight against the climate crisis," Kroll said at the time. "Everywhere, people are weighing up the changes they can make to reduce their carbon footprint, including adopting technologies such as Ecosia.”