Image: Etsy headquarters in Brooklyn, New York.
Data increasingly demonstrates the bottom-line benefits of diversity in tech: Annual returns at highly gender-diverse tech companies are 5.4 percent higher on average, according to a 2017 report from Morgan Stanley. Yet today’s tech workers are still overwhelmingly white and male. Men hold 76 percent of U.S. technical jobs, and 95 percent of the American tech workforce is white.
At e-commerce trailblazer Etsy, however, the numbers tell a different story. Chief among the accomplishments detailed in its 2017 Impact Report are the company’s impressive gender diversity numbers, which stand out among its peers and the Fortune 500 at large.
As of last year, 55 percent of Etsy’s employees were women, dwarfing fellow tech companies like Facebook (36 percent women) and eBay (40 percent). It’s also one of the only public companies whose board and executive teams are evenly split along gender lines, and its engineering team is nearly 30 percent women—double most of its peers.
Powered by a historically diverse team and a culture rooted in purpose, Etsy was among the first certified B Corps to go public and by far the largest, with a 2015 IPO valued at $3.38 billion. But the company had its fair share of growing pains since then.
According to news reports, investors became impatient after a few unimpressive quarters, and rumors of a looming sale began to circulate last spring. The company didn’t sell, but the dramatic shake-ups that followed—namely sweeping layoffs and the ouster of beloved CEO Chad Dickerson—rocked the culture at Etsy.
Veteran business reporter David Gelles chronicled the changes in the New York Times in November. His aptly titled piece, “Inside the Revolution at Etsy,” paints a picture of a company in flux. Etsy opted to let its B Corp certification lapse last year, rather than change its corporate structure, and current and former employees wondered how the company could balance its purposeful roots with the short-term pressures of Wall Street. For his part, eBay alum Josh Silverman—who replaced Dickerson as CEO in May 2017—said Etsy is still a mission-driven company that simply shifted its focus more squarely on growth.
And grow it did: Etsy reported positive revenue growth in four consecutive quarters and generated $3.3 billion for its sellers last year. Silverman insists Etsy’s impact continues to build alongside the company. “Our financial and impact goals are highly complementary,” he wrote in a company blog post last week. “Our business drives our positive impact, and our impact initiatives drive our business.”
Along with progress on gender diversity, Etsy’s latest impact report reveals the company is doubling down on its commitments to the environment. It plans to power all of its operations with renewable energy by 2020 and is part of the RE100, a cohort of companies committed to source 100 percent clean power with the help of CDP and the Climate Group.
Thanks to a power purchase agreement with fellow RE100 members Apple, Swiss Re and Akamai, the company is poised to meet that goal on schedule. The agreement will finance two new wind and solar farms, providing 290 megawatts of power to the companies and surrounding communities. The 4.5 megawatts Etsy plans to source from a solar project outside Fredericksburg, Virginia, will be enough to reach its 100 percent goal when the plant comes online in December 2019.
The company also plans to be entirely zero waste in less than two years, and it diverted nearly 90 percent of its waste from landfills in 2017.
While Etsy’s future remains unwritten, the fact that a company founded on purpose even managed to go public—and that it still takes impact seriously after three years of investor pressure—may be a signal on its own. “Etsy clearly demonstrated investor appetite for a new kind of company,” Nikita T. Mitchell, founder of the weekly sustainable business newsletter Above the Bottom Line, wrote on Quartz in December. “Its successful debut as a publicly-traded company provides some powerful examples to emulate—from explicitly articulating its purpose-driven ethos in its prospectus to providing vendors and small investors access to the IPO.”
In an apparent nod to the company’s rocky recent history and its plans for the future, Silverman wrote: “While we are proud of our efforts to date, we recognize that being a socially responsible company is a journey. We know we have more work ahead of us.”
Image credit: Etsy
Mary Mazzoni has reported on sustainability in business for over a decade and now serves as managing editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of brands and organizations on sustainability storytelling. Along with 3p, Mary's recent work can be found in publications like Conscious Company, Salon and Vice's Motherboard. She also works with nonprofits on media projects, including the women's entrepreneurship coaching organization Street Business School. She is an alumna of Temple University in Philadelphia and lives in the city with her partner and two spoiled dogs.