French ethical search engine is investing profits in social projects and co-ops

Since its launch the search engine has grown to 700,000 users per month and a total number of searches of half a billion

A search engine that finances social and environmental projects, including co-operatives, has reached 30 million searches per month.

Set up in 2015, Lilo is a French search looking to take on giants like Google and Yahoo – and it has grown to 700,000 users per month and a total number of searches of half a billion.

It invests 50% of its total revenue in social and environmental projects and has distributed €220,000 to 50 projects, including social enterprises, charitable organisations and co-ops.

Each time users search on Lilo they earn a symbolic drop of water, which represents the money gained from advertising linked to the web page. They are then asked to choose a project they want to support and the drop of water gets converted into money.

One of Lilo’s key objectives is to address the issue of CO2 emissions. In 2007 the information and technology system’s global CO2 footprint accounted for 2% of all emissions, the equivalent of 830 metric tons of CO2.

The figure, comparable to the emissions of the aviation industry, is expected to double by 2020. Lilo is looking to compensate by funding projects such as Cœur de Forêt, Good Planet, Bolivia Inti Sud Soleil, et Arutam Zéro Déforestation, which specialise in Co2 capture and storage.

Other funding has gone to co-ops, including la Coopérative citoyenne pour des énergies renouvelables. The co-op develops local renewable energy projects encouraging residents, activists, associations and enterprises to join efforts.

The project was started back in 2008 by a group of 45 people in the town of Loubeyrat, north of Clermont-Ferrand. Their main aim was to involve locals in renewable energy projects. After being officially set up in 2009, the co-op opened the first photovoltaic central in 2010, which includes 4,000 sq ft photovoltaic panels. Locals invested a total of €67,000 in the project. They are now are also developing wind energy projects.

“We chose the co-op model because it corresponded with our collaborative working patterns and was more democratic. It was closer to out ideas,” explained member Stéphane Lobrégat. The co-op has grown to include 301 members with a board of 10 directors and one employee. Asked what were their plans for the future, Mr Lobrégat said the co-op aimed to remain local but was keen to help people in other areas start off similar projects. All profits are reinvested in the project to help it grow even more.

The collaboration with Lilo started two years ago when one of the members came across the search engine and realised the co-op could have qualified for funding. It has so far received over €2,100 from Lilo by receiving 993,960 drops of water.

Similarly, Les Cooperatives Jeunesse de Services, a group of young people’s co-ops, has so far raised €35 from 16, 511 drops. The co-op is made up of teenagers who work together to provide various services, from cleaning, to distributing, IT support, cooking or manufacturing artisan products. The co-op will receive the donation from Lilo once it reaches €100.

Another co-op adding drops to receive a donation from Lilo is La Chouette, a Toulouse-based supermarket democratically controlled by its members. The co-op has so far raised the equivalent of €90, through 41,659 drops donated.

It plans to allocate any funding received through the search engine to buying required technologies such as barcode scanners or printers.

Marc Haussaire, engineer and co-founder of Lilo explained: “We aim to empower internet users by proposing a quality alternative to Google.”

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