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Ecosia Takes its Environmental Work a Step Further With Launch of the World Fund

Luca Bravo

Deforestation is one of the world’s biggest contributors to increased carbon emissions and biodiversity loss. An estimated 420 million hectares of forest – roughly 1 billion acres – has been felled over the past three decades, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The only long-term solution to this problem is to plant more trees to replace those that have been lost.

Photo Courtesy Gryffyn M

That’s the mission at Ecosia, a German nonprofit search engine that uses its ad revenue to finance tree-planting projects worldwide.

The company, founded in 2009, has planted roughly 138 million trees in more than 30 countries around the world.

In 2014, it became the first German firm to become a Certified B Corporation, meaning it has a legal obligation to weigh how its business decisions impact people and the planet.

Ecosia’s work spans a wide variety of projects. Their commitments include, but aren’t limited to,  replanting areas affected by the Terwilliger fire in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, helping indigenous communities in the Philippines plant native seedlings, and planting trees in Cameroon to restore biodiversity while promoting better livelihoods for local communities.

The company’s business model is pretty simple. Its search ads generate income, and it uses that income to plant trees. Ecosia boasts more than 15 million users and dedicates 100% of its profits to climate action by helping to restore and protect biodiversity hotspots. At least 80% of its money goes toward tree-planting projects.

This is important work given how many trees are cut down every year. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year, according to the FAO. That actually represents an improvement from earlier decades, but still has a big negative impact on the environment.

To help counter the problem, Ecosia recently launched the World Fund, a climate technology fund that aims to raise 350 million euros ($407 million) for investment focused on sustainable solutions. As of late October, more than half of the World Fund’s investment target had been committed.

Photo Courtesy Loic Furhoff

The fund has already attracted about 60 investors, Reuters reported. Backers include Trivago founder Rolf Schrömgens and soccer player Mario Götze. If it reaches its financial target, it would be the biggest climate tech fund in Europe.

The World Fund will use its own Climate Performance Potential methodology to evaluate companies. A special emphasis will be put on startups with the potential to reduce at least 100 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions a year in industries such as food, construction, transportation, and energy.

The goal is to save two gigatons of emissions by 2040, or roughly the equivalent of 4% of all global emissions.

“Europe urgently needs to stop continuing business as usual, relying on the continued use of fossil fuels,” Danijel Višević, the World Fund’s co-founder and general partner, said in a press release. “This continent has the research, innovation, and political awareness to lead the world in the fight against climate change. 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.”

Other co-founders include Tim Schumacher, Daria Saharova, and Craig Douglas. The World Fund will finance early-stage technologies with investments of about 1 million to 3.5 million euros each, and later-stage technologies with investments of about 5 million to 8 million euros, according to Forbes.

So far, three beneficiaries are listed on the World Fund website: QOA, a cocoa-free chocolate maker; Recup, a supplier of environmentally friendly coffee cups; and Juicy Marbles, which makes plant-based meats. 

“There’s a huge opportunity to back the startups helping to roll back the clock on the climate crisis and transform the way whole sectors operate,” World Fund General Partner Daria Saharova said. “From farming startups to battery technology, startups addressing climate change need more funds with deep pockets and a commitment to support dynamic companies, to ensure they can fulfill their potential.”

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