For this article we considered 4 main options for platforms to build a site :
- Square Space
Shopify and Big Commerce
Let’s talk about Shopify and BigCommerce first. Both are platforms that make it easy for a person or company to set up on online store and start selling without any technical knowledge.
For all intents and purposes, they are pretty much the same. I’m sure they each have their relative strengths, but nothing significant enough to outweigh any ethical considerations.
Pricing wise, Shopify charges about 1% more per transaction but the monthly costly are the same. The cost difference becomes more noticeable, however, as you move up the plans, as BigCommerce removes the transaction fees altogether for its higher-volume stores.
I googled a variety of ‘green’, ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ search terms for both Shopify and Big Commerce and to be honest, not much came up at all.
For BigCommerce, I found this article: http://blog.bigcommerce.com/sustainable-products/ so I guess it’s good they’re talking about it – even though the blog post kind of seems like they just regurgitated a press release (from a company that doesn’t seem to exist anymore).
For Shopify, I only could find their code of conduct which refers to things like “ethical conduct” and their “no assholes” rule. But this could all be buzz words.
What do either of these companies do in practice? Have they considered carbon offsetting? How are they involved with the community? Do they donate (financially or in-kind) to any non-for-profit organizations?
If they do, why don’t they advertise it? Why is it so hard to find?
I emailed them both to find out.
I’ll let you know how they respond, if and when they do.
Now for WordPress
My googling didn’t turn up any useful information about their ethics.
Here’s what I know about WordPress that is relevant for this article:
- It’s open source
- It’s free
- It’s relatively transparent
- It would be extremely hard to ascertain the ethical status of every theme or plugin that we wish to use.
- If we used WordPress, we would have to research our own ethical hosting options (which I’ve done anyway…)
In relation to WordPress.com, I enjoyed listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast with the founder Matt Mullenweg (of Automattic which owns WordPress.com). I liked his transparent approach to hiring which, is all done over chat to remove subconscious biases that are normally present when you meet someone or talk with them over the phone. I like that they are a distributed team and pay for the role, not the location the person is in – so they don’t discriminate by geography.
We like WordPress and indeed, that’s the platform Fair Marketeers is currently on.
I’m also keeping in mind that when we sold our first business the fact it was on the Shopify platform was hugely appealing to the buyer, who was not remotely tech savvy. I understand that there is some value to running your business from your iPhone for some people. Indeed, this seems also be a popular choice for the websites that sell through Flippa.com.
They are considerable cheaper than Shopify and BigCommerce.
They also seem to be by far the best option for taking a sustainable approach. They are the only company to make their Environmental Policy accessible (and maybe the only company to have one?). You can read more here: http://www.squarespace.com/green/.
It’s great to see in addition to using green energy they are carbon offsetting and implementing a number of initiatives within their own office to reduce their environment footprint.
We sent these Shopify and Big Commerce pretty much the same email asking about their ethical and green policies.
Shopify responded extremely quickly and in such a friendly manner that it was almost perky, if an email can in fact be such.
Here’s the upshot from Shopify:
As suggested I emailed their Press team to find out more about their green initiatives. It’s been 10 days and I haven’t received a response.
So while they seem like they hire their support staff well and apparently are a great employer, I’m going to have to presume that due to the lack of information available and the non-response from the press team that carbon-offsetting or the like is not within their realm at the moment. A shame, really.
Meanwhile, Big Commerce hasn’t responded at all. I’ve waited over 2 weeks, which I think is ample opportunity. Since my Google searching didn’t turn up anything there I’m just going to leave that there with no further comment.
Square Space has impressive green credentials, however as they don’t support eCommerce globally at this stage. The main merits of WordPress are it’s transparent and open source nature. If you decide to use WordPress, you’ll need your own hosting. You can read about ethical hosting here, or what we decided here.