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Is it time for a search engine rebellion?

Googling is a habitual and daily chore, and there is no other option – or is there? The German search engine, Ecosia has tried to change consumers search engine behavior over a decade, by inviting the online surfer to join its journey in making a better planet with every search.


Sari Haavisto

opettaja, yrittäjyys ja liiketoiminnan uudistaminen
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 07.12.2022

Google has an unwarranted power to affect consumers’ digital information search and a buyer’s journey. Over 90 % of Finns use Google as their primary search engine and the other search engines’ market shares are marginal. Hence, Google has a firm grip on consumers lives.

As the information search behavior has changed over the years, Google has become an essential marketing channel to businesses. Each company has to ensure that the potential consumers find effortlessly their path to the company’s digital address. Doing so, the company has a possibility to create interest and desire for the product and services it offers. The desired outcome is the consumer making the actual purchase.

Ensuring findability in Google is as easy as stacking hay

Do we understand that satisfying our basic needs may not necessarily be a given in the future? We are to some extent scraping the earth’s virgin raw materials, destroying forests and building factories and apartment buildings on farmlands.

Fortunately, there are multiple parties involved in trying to increase the general understanding of how both consumers and companies should move towards circular economy business models and green transition. In the front line we have the circular economy experts from multiple fields. We have companies, which consider not just the well-being of owners, but multiple stakeholders. Consumers have awoken and question the actions of companies, and demanding them to participate in saving our planet.

Could we save a small part of our planet by changing our own behavior?

As earlier stated, most of us Finns use Google. It is free of charge, as Google’s turnover is mainly generated with advertising income. The cornerstone of advertising is to be present and share information on a product or service in the environment, where the consumers spend time. In the digital search engine arena, this includes advertising in Google. Googling is a habitual and daily chore, and there is no other option – or is there?

The German search engine, Ecosia has tried to change consumers search engine behavior over a decade. Ecosia does not invest extensively in marketing to attract users. They rather convince us to the change by promising that trees will be planted. Ecosia states on its website, that it has planted 162 million trees with the help of its 20 million users. The planting operations are possible, as the revenue from advertisers are used for this purpose.

The skeptical Finn gets to know the other option

Ecosia’s market share is marginal even in Germany, its country of origin. Only little over 1 % of the Germans use it as their search engine. This share is roughly also applicable in France.

According to Statista, Ecosia invests about 80 % of its profit to planting trees. As a skeptic person you might demand more evidence. This evidence can be found in Ecosia’s blogs. They tell stories of planting trees in areas, where the trees can grow and have good conditions to thrive. Stories, pictures and videos are available for example from Burkina Faso.

Ecosia’s founder Christian Kroll, tell in an interview by Forbes, that in their non-profit organization, shares are only available to the employees. The shares cannot be sold forward. Hence, even if Google or Microsoft would offer giant sums of money, a deal would not be possible. Ecosia invites the online surfer to join their journey with the words ”Ecosia, a better planet with every search”. They promise the users of their search engine, that 45 searches enables one tree to be planted. Thus, the user participates in the mission to save our precious planet.

The article was written as part of the Climate and Circular Economy Factory program coordinated by Haaga-Helia and co-created with Novia and JAMK. The program is financed by Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland. The objective is to create a mutual platform, Circular Economy Competence Center, for all universities to support an accelerated transition for companies and businesses to enter the circular economy network and its ecosystems.