Posted by: Mike Clarke
If you can change something, don't wait until next week or next month - act now. This is the mantra of all great coaches. Change doesn't just happen; you have to make it happen. At Greenlight, we pledged to become NetZero, and we aren't waiting for that to happen over the next 30 years. We're diving in headfirst and tackling this complex issue head-on.
Tackling emissions on a business level is a three-step process: identify, offset and reduce. We began by looking internally at who we are, what we consume both directly and indirectly, and how we tackle this complex problem.
Identifying the problem
Identifying emissions across an entire business can be a complex task, particularly for those that involve manufacturing processes. In those cases there are many companies that offer a service to provide a deep dive into every aspect of your operation to give you a figure. In our case, things are a bit simpler.
Firstly, we had to evaluate the carbon footprint of our staff. We calculated this by dividing our staff into normal and high carbon footprint employees, i.e. those who do lots of travelling as part of their role, now that that’s a thing again. We have opted to be fully inclusive rather than going with a reduced figure per staff member. We are looking to account for their life, not just their working hours and this especially makes sense while we’re predominantly working from home. Adding it up worked out at just short of 10 tonnes of co2 emissions that needed to be offset every month.
Secondly, we examined the energy use of our data centres in Leeds and Glasgow as well as our offsite backup centre. For this we needed to access reports on energy use per rack, which was a lot easier for us given that we don’t use the likes of AWS or Azure for hosting (the costs of compute power would mean that running the volume of real-time reports and back-end processing that we do for our customers would be impossible). Once this was tallied up, we came to a figure of a further 12 tonnes per month, which we padded by an extra 10% just to be on the safe side.
Compared to this, the third element, office use, was fairly light. We’ve recently consolidated into a single new office, and this adds an extra half tonne a month based on our current energy usage. Seeing as most of the team are still working from home, we’ll keep an eye on this as and when we return to more frequent office-based working and see if this requires an update.
Adding all this up meant that we need to offset 286 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. This gave us our target which we needed to find a way to reduce or offset so that the net result of our business activities is zero impact on the environment. Beyond this though, we want to ensure measurable steps are taken and be an example of ethical practice, encouraging others to embark on this journey with us. Individually we only have a small impact. Together we can change the world.
Unfortunately, when operating a business and employing staff, there isn't a switch we can flick to stop generating emissions instantly and wipe away the emissions we have caused to date. However, we can work with partners to help offset this.
The climate crisis is a global issue, which allows us to offset on a worldwide stage. Working through our partners, we have tackled this month's emissions by investing in the development of wind turbines in Thailand and Vietnam. Both countries focus on burning fossil fuels to generate the energy they require. They are beginning to invest in their renewable energy supply and this goes a long way to reducing the countries reliance on non-renewable energy sources. On top of this we’ve funded planting nearly 150 trees in Madagascar, Kenya and Uganda, a number that will continue to increase every month of the year.
So far, we have offset 9.71t of emissions, which will grow month on month. To put that 9.71t into perspective:
- 9.71t is 7 Long haul flights.
- 9.71t is 29 metres2 of sea ice saved.
- 9.71t is 24,091 miles driven in a car.
For many of us, thinking of emissions in terms of tonnes is vague, and when you consider the 34 billion tonnes generated globally each year, our 9.71t seems almost pointless. However, visualizing it in real-world activities shows the scale of the problem we are facing and how much we can all do to make a difference.
Reducing Our Footprint
When we looked at our existing footprint, we looked at our energy suppliers, offices and our hardware and it became apparent quickly that our headcount was a significant share of our emissions. No, we aren't spending our days off burning down the rainforest, but naturally, as people living in the world, we generate emissions by extension.
We are looking to become accredited but we are not environmental experts. We are experts in business telephony, call centre software and customer service. We ask companies to come to us when they take the next step in growing their business, so it's only fitting to do the same and lean on experts.
Earlier this month, we had a very productive meeting with PlanetMark. We discussed their involvement with projects we also partner with. We took feedback on what we've done so far and where we go next to begin our formal route. The overlap in our experiences and the companies we engaged with helped reinforce the reality that we are in this together.
We look forward to obtaining our accreditation and working closely with so many great companies acting in such a responsible way.
Let's Make Things Greener
While offsetting is an effective start to addressing our contribution to the climate crisis, it’s critical that it doesn’t become the be-all and end-all of our approach. At Greenlight, we accept the reality that the trees we plant today won't be fully effective for another 20 years, and even then, 15-20% of the tree's we plant won't survive. However, we must take part and grow our forests – and we aim to plant over 3000 trees this year so that 20 years down the line, our children (and their children) have the environment we enjoyed ourselves during our childhood.
And this is perhaps the key point. Solving the carbon crisis is not just about science and it’s not just about numbers. It's about an experience we had as children and preserving as much of it as possible for future generations. We hope learning about our adventure encourages you to consider your own.
If you have any ideas for us or would like to be connected with our partners, please get in touch. Acting together any goal can be achieved.