Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy, makes no distinction between achieving his company’s social impact and business impact goals. In his view, they are the same and deeply linked. Silverman became head of the artisanal goods e-commerce marketplace in May 2017, two years after an IPO and a difficult start as a public company.
- What are the advantages of companies aligning mission, guiding principles, and business strategy? Why don’t more companies integrate their sustainability reporting with financial reporting?
- Etsy is the first global e-commerce company to offset 100% of carbon emissions generated by shipping. With shipping projected to play an increasing role in global emissions, how can the public and private sectors help address this societal issue?
- Etsy ispart of the BlackRock Emergency Savings Initiative to help one million people establish a financial safety net. What other assistance can the company offer sellers and their families to manage the financial challenges that come with self-employment?
- Etsy’s CEO asked his team, “Where are we uniquely positioned to have influence in the world?’ There are a lot of problems in the world. There’s a million things we could chase. Let’s pick a few and do them with excellence.”
- The company decided to relinquish its B Corp status due to the complications of converting public C Corporations incorporated in Delaware to a benefit corporation. However, Etsy and B Lab still share a long-term vision for the role of business in society and the positive impact companies can, and should, have on the world.
- In February, Etsy announced it would be the first e-commerce company to offset the climate effects of shipping—and it paid for a day of offsets for all e-commerce on the internet to inspire others to follow suit.
Previously CEO at both Skype and Evite, Silverman rejects the notion that companies can either live their social values or focus on shareholder value. Early in his tenure at Etsy, Silverman decided to fine-tune the company’s focus on its social impact. He challenged his employees to define what was meant by living their values. “We had a thousand employees and a thousand answers to that,” he says. This led to a highly fragmented approach to social impact.
Etsy ultimately selected three ideas for its social impact efforts: economic empowerment, workplace diversity, and environmental sustainability. The first two are complementary since eighty-seven percent of their sellers are women, and roughly 80 percent of their buyers are women. Etsy is a leader in gender diversity – their board is 50% male, 50% female – with an executive team well over 50% female. Even the company’s engineering team is over one-third female, unique for a tech company of their size.
Silverman took the remarkable step of publishing his company’s performance against its social-impact goals in Etsy’s 2018 annual report filed with the SEC, giving them equal weight to the company’s financials. “We’re one of the first public companies to publish an integrated report,” Silverman says, “Where we publish these social metrics. And I think that has sharpened our urgency.”
Silverman believes that measurement is key to social impact. “So the whole world can hold us accountable to doing better and better and better. I think that’s more powerful than any other form of good intent.”