EthicalTree: Ottawa’s ethical business directory sets example for consumer choice
Note: I originally had this article published on Apartment 613 on May 23, 2017
Siavash Ghazvinian, Frank Ferris, and Willy Collins are the team operating one of Ottawa’s newest digital social enterprises, EthicalTree. The purpose of EthicalTree is simple: an online business directory where people can connect with businesses that sell products and services that align with their personal values. This spans a wide range of choices, including vegetarian/vegan-friendly options, fair trade, organic, woman-owned and more. Consumers use the service for free, while businesses register and affordably advertise with the site. The goal to make it easier for consumers to make value-based buying decisions while supporting businesses that align with those values. They also offer consulting services to businesses to help them better attract ethical consumers.
The idea for EthicalTree was originally the brainchild of Frank, who throughout university found it difficult to find businesses that sold fair trade and vegetarian products. After completing university, Frank realized that there was a huge market of similar consumers who faced the challenge of align their purchases with their values. Frank and Siavash began testing the EthicalTree platform in early 2016 and it has since significantly evolved. More recently, the EthicalTree team enrolled in Impact Hub Ottawa’s social enterprise incubator, Impact Academy, where they refined how they measure social impact and help local ethically-oriented businesses.
Since the beginning of this year, the enterprise has seen a steady growth in users and client businesses. “There has been this huge growth in momentum and response from the community,” says Siavash. One big sign of their growth and progress has been the award of a grant by Ottawa funding group, JustChange, who awards small grants to deserving startup businesses, initiatives, nonprofits, and social enterprises. They plan to use their funds to help market their enterprise, culminating in an event that they plan to host downtown later this year that will be a celebration of local businesses. Along with the Hub and Just Change, they are also especially grateful for Jonathan Wade of Social Delta, who has provided a wealth of help and expertise as EthicalTree has grown and evolved.
In the future, the EthicalTree team has plans to expand their list of ethical preferences on the website, including locally-sourced and wheelchair accessible. They also have ambitions to grow beyond Ottawa, and it could soon be a possible to use EthicalTree to find the ethical business of your choice in Montreal, Kingston, and Toronto.