Etsy open-sources its sustainability software to developers

Dive Brief:

  • Etsy is releasing software tools that have been used to power its own waste management programs on open source repository Github, as part of a broader aim to expand its sustainability efforts and encourage other businesses to do the same.

  • The online marketplace’s DIVERTsy software helps Etsy track and measure waste streams — landfill, recycling, and compost — in its buildings, as well as manage other outgoing materials, such as electronic waste, food scraps and textiles, according to Fortune.

  • Etsy also announced a company-wide strategy to achieve “zero waste” operations for its 10 offices throughout the world by 2020. Etsy’s Brooklyn, NY headquarters recently earned a new sustainability standard certification, known as the "Living Building Challenge Petal." Etsy claimed its headquarters is the largest building of its kind in the world to have earned this certification.

Dive Insight:

Etsy's move to open-source its sustainability software comes as we have seen several large retailers push sustainability programs on several fronts in recent times: Wal-Mart has become a leader in this area, while competitor Amazon has embraced fuel cell technology and announced a plan to outfit its fulfillment centers with solar panels. Etsy's own sustainability ambitions don't come entirely out of the blue, as the company earned "B Corp" status more than two years ago, and has discussed sustainability efforts on earnings calls in the recent past.

A lot of good can come from corporate efforts to improve and expand sustainability programs. At the same time, sustainability efforts have become a point of competitive differentiation in their own right in the sector. As more companies pursue one kind of sustainability program or another, we may see a game of one-upsmanship develop. The steps Etsy is taking are no doubt positive for the environment, but they also serve to enhance its image and reputation as a sustainability leader.

The move to make Etsy's software open source is progressive as well. Etsy is not the first big brand to put software tools and code on Github, as Wal-Mart and NIke have done the same in recent months, but it's still a difficult decision for many companies to make. The competitive thinking for so long has been that all proprietary developments should remain proprietary. Why give the competition a glimpse at something you believe makes your company better? 

Kudos to Etsy for recognizing that waste management and tracking software is not key to how its going to beat Amazon and other e-commerce sites. The beauty of the open source community is that other companies using these tools may go out on their own and improve these tools, or develop new solutions based on them that Etsy hadn't thought of itself. Etsy may find interesting open source advancements on its own contributions that it ultimately may bring back into its own house.

We often write about the myriad ways in which Etsy and its competitors try to cut one another off at the knees. This story doesn't have any of that, but it's worth spreading all the same. It's the story of a double dose of good karma, and it's something the world could always use a little more of.

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