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Etsy Shares 10 Social Impact Tips


If you’re hanging out in Brooklyn one night and you run into a massive craft fair with over a thousand sellers, you probably just stumbled upon the monthly craft night at the Etsy headquarters.

Not only does Etsy sell crafts that would look great on your living room wall and offer one of the only legit “you can work from home” job opportunities on the Internet, but it’s also doing amazing social impact work.

Katie Hunt-Morr, the phenomenal senior manager of values and impact at Etsy, recently spoke at The Heart Series conference, a new conference in Los Angeles where conscientious companies come together to discuss bettering the world. She also shared a wealth of insight during an interview with TriplePundit and through Etsy's progress report. Here are 10 nuggets of wisdom that can hopefully help you enhance your company’s social impact.

1. Ask employees if they're happy

Etsy’s culture and engagement team did a lot of research to create the perfect employee happiness survey. Every year it measures its employee well-being in a way that shows it cares about each person and is not just trying to improve their performance for the company’s benefit.

Once the data is collected, the information is shared with all employees. Hunt-Morr says the best practice is to “share with everybody so that everybody takes ownership."

She continued: “Executives and HR don’t comprise culture; they’re leaders, but every single person that comes into the office is bringing culture with them every day. Everyone is equally responsible and accountable.” This is different than traditional corporate engagement surveys which are analyzed by human-resources departments, read over by executives, then sometimes emails are sent to employees with the highlights.

The survey results are broken down and distributed to each team so they know what to work on. Each department may have vastly different results than the company as a whole, so it’s important for each department to see their results. Then adjustments are made to make employees happier.

2. Focus on employee philanthropy

“Supporting individual employees in the pursuit of their passions is the most important thing we can do. Because they will leave Etsy; they will go on and grow and do other things and be their own philanthropist.” Each year employees are granted 40 hours a week of paid time off to volunteer with any nonprofit. Etsy also matches employee donations up to $500.

Hunt-Morr says being a philanthropist isn’t really about giving money; it’s about sharing the mixture of your incredible skill-set, experiences, perspective and time. Etsy helps employees cultivate a deep connection to philanthropy and fully understands what it means to be a philanthropist.

3. Select sustainable vendors

“We want our money to reinforce the change we want to see in the world,” Hunt-Morr says. “If we’re going to buy food, let’s buy the right food that’s sending the right message, that’s creating change and emphasizes our mission.” To do that, Etsy created a survey for vendors to assess sustainability.

Not every purchase is from a sustainable vendor; it depends on the size of the engagement. “We don’t want to get in the way of people buying a box of pencils. A company still has to function. With larger contracts, we will assess them for values based on the survey, do an interview, and then also do our own independent research,” Hunt-Morr says.

“We look at the assessment as an opportunity to start a conversation. We’re not trying to say, ‘We only work with companies that meet this score, have certain criteria, or do really well on our assessment.' If we can find companies that are interested and not active, that’s the sweet spot. That’s where we reinvent commerce,” Hunt-Morr says. “That aptitude for moving along the path is what we’re most interested in.” Then Etsy can provide companies with tools and have a deeper conversation about how to create more sustainable practices.

Survey points are tallied up, a score is given and an analysis is written. Then the decision to purchase from that vendor is up to the department spending the money. “It’s not to say that’s how we make our purchase decisions exclusively, because we also look at all the things one would normally look at when selecting a vendor. But this piece is a critical component.”

4. Donate more than money: Share your skills and time

It makes sense to share the things we know, says Hunt-Morr. For example, if Etsy has a group that specializes in helping sellers with social-media marketing for their online businesses, then that group can help a nonprofit partner that works with low-income entrepreneurs with their own social-media marketing efforts.

If Etsy can bring that amazing skill-set to those people, not only does it help them far much more than cleaning up a local park, but it also helps Etsy employees because it shows them what incredible experts they are and gives them a much deeper sense of fulfillment, Hunt-Morr says. The ability to share a skill with another human being is transformational.

That's not to say that Etsy doesn't donate. It does, and in very cool ways. For example, according to its most recent progress report, Etsy contributed $210,000 to Hacker School grants for women in tech and minorities that are underrepresented in software engineering.

5. Be a good neighbor: Integrate into the community

Etsy’s core social impact is focused on helping entrepreneurs develop businesses because that’s what Etsy knows best. However, in addition to that, “There are cases where we just have to show up; we have to be a good neighbor,” Hunt-Morr says.

So, each office is given a discretionary budget: the Good Neighbor Fund. This allows the office to connect with its community by donating to the local Halloween festival, Gay Pride event, or whatever is important to its neighbors.

6. Reduce waste: Take bicycle rides to the compost pile

Each week, Etsy’s Office Ecologist and admin volunteers step into jumpsuits, strap on helmets, throw compost into a bicycle box and pedal over 100 pounds of organic waste to a community farm.

The farm uses the compost to help grow 14,000 pounds of vegetables for local restaurants, residents and food pantries. Etsy also donates leftover food to food banks and shelters.

This isn’t the only way in which employees take trash seriously. They’ve also conducted dumpster-dives at offices in which a group of employees sorted through compost, recycling and landfill waste. They spread it across tarps, sorted and labeled items so they could see what people were bringing into the office and how they were discarding it. To their surprise, they discovered that a lot of the landfill trash was actually recyclable or compostable, so they upgraded their waste-disposal signage.

Etsy also refurbishes used laptops and donates them to nonprofits creating educational opportunities for disadvantaged students.

7. Share social impact knowledge: Help other companies

One of the mandates of Etsy's values and impact team is to help other companies figure out how to improve their social impact. Not only does the team share the happiness survey, vendor assessment survey and handbook on nonprofit partnerships, but it also goes a step further and engages companies in conversation about the tools and how to use them.

Each company is different and needs to create tools specific to them. The knowledge Etsy shares is just to give companies an idea of what they can create for themselves, and Etsy by no means thinks any company should use these tools without serious modification.

Etsy's willingness to share is admirable. In the company's annual progress report, Hunt-Morr even boldly includes her email address. If you want more information on something in the report, you can email her directly. Such openness and transparency is truly impressive.

8. Empower your community: Buyers or sellers

More than 1.4 million people (mostly women) have small businesses on Etsy. For 30 percent of the entrepreneurs, this is their only occupation. Etsy helps them scale their businesses by partnering them with manufacturers and providing educational resources to teach them about each other.

Etsy also teaches sellers wholesale-industry lingo, tips on branding, pricing, policies and etiquette. It then helps sellers grow into a wholesale business and connects them with values-aligned retail partners. The retailers may be small boutiques or large chains such as Nordstrom. It’s an amazing opportunity for growth. A seller might start by sewing a few baby bibs and, the next thing you know, their products are in Nordstom. That’s a cool opportunity and empowers many sellers.

To help educate sellers, Etsy also sends out a success newsletter with tips and inspiration, online webinars, a Seller Handbook and guidance about how to handle the Christmas season's onslaught of orders. Sometimes Etsy also conducts in-person workshops.

9. Love dogs

Okay, okay, this list of Etsy amazingness is getting long, so here's something short: The employees love dogs at the office so much they made an adorable video about it!

10. Create a fun progress report

The report is written in a simple and engaging way. It gives high-fives and hugs to sellers and even includes a note to Martians regarding planet Earth. When legal jargon is included, it’s listed under a section entitled, “Stuff our lawyers make us say.” This is great because reading most companies' social impact reports is about as exciting as doing laundry.

The report also includes special thanks to 69 people for helping create it, which shows how supportive Etsy employees are about creating social impact.


Every company is a work in progress, but Etsy's passion, achievement and transparency make it noteworthy. The next time you need a unique artisan gift, shop on Etsy and know you're supporting a company that is making values-based decisions and re-inventing commerce to make the world a better place.

Photo credits: Etsy blog 1) Photo by Paul Strabbing, 2) Photo by Admin visiting Ursula of EarthSeaWarrior, 3) Etsy blog

Renee Farris headshotRenee Farris

Renee is a social impact strategist who works with companies to help them focus on key social and environmental opportunities. She loves connecting with people so feel free to contact her at renee.a.farris@gmail.com.

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