The CEO of Etsy believes business should be conducted as if people and place matter.
Etsy is an online global marketplace and community of 900,000 creative people around the world. The focus is on handmade, artisan and vintage crafts and goods. Etsy is now a $1billion company – 96.5% of the sales revenues are retained by the producers. Etsy’s success is dependent on the success of its community.
It’s easy to see the harm that commercial activity can have on the world – environmental damage, the human tragedies of factory fires, child labour and poverty. But Chad Dickerson, CEO of Etsy is an optimist. He believes that people centred business can be profitable and create social good. On an individual level, the success of microbusinesses on the Etsy platform means that hundreds of thousands of individuals are making a living doing something they love, working flexibly, and integrating family life with work. They are making a life, not just a living.
The power of community
There are self-organised Etsy communities all around the globe. Groups of people come together in cities, towns and across borders to trade tips, collaborate, support each other and join forces to buy supplies. In Italy, a community decided they wanted Etsy’s site to be available in Italian. Working with Etsy, the community co-created an Italian site in a couple of weeks and this process is being replicated in other countries.
In Rockford Illinois the Mayor tweeted about the potential value of an ‘Etsy economy’ for the economically challenged town. Within 24 hours, Dickerson had replied to the Mayor and the local Etsy community had also made contact. Working with other local community leaders, a curriculum has been created to help local people develop and run successful Etsy businesses. Existing human capital and knowledge have been leveraged in a new way and an online community became a ‘real-world’ team.
Making human-centred business work
It’s easy to say you are a human-centred, values driven organisation but how do you measure it? Etsy joined the growing B-Corporation movement which provides an independent assessment of how business measure up as forces for social good. Businesses are measured on everything from their provisions for workers (Etsy has conducted a happiness audit of its employees) to their environmental impact. Etsy barely made the grade – yet Dickerson celebrates this. The process has identified deficiencies and has helped them set a challenging target – to move from the barely scraped pass-mark of 80% to 100% in two years.
Chad Dickerson was speaking at the RSA in London.
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