I have a confession to make.
Despite climate change and sustainability being our driving force for over ten years, we’ve never measured our own business’ carbon or ecological footprint, nor set any targets to reduce it.
Up until now.
And we’re making up for it by going bold.
By 2030, we aim to help our users save 1,000 tonnes of carbon for every 1 tonne we emit ourselves.
Do Nation’s mission is to make sustainable living mainstream, and we achieve that through our platform where people can make simple pledges, or run campaigns to raise pledges – pledges to do things like cycling to work, wasting less food, or switching energy supplier. Since launching in 2011, we’ve measured the carbon (and more recently water and waste) saved by every single pledge. That’s part of our USP.
So impact measurement has always run deep in what we do. We’ve produced an annual impact report since year one (2019’s is underway – watch this space), setting targets for pledges made and carbon saved.
Needless to say, we all do our best to follow our own advice and minimise our impact on the environment (trust me, some of our team take it to the next level!), and so I didn’t feel that formal reporting of our own carbon emissions would be a particularly good use of our time.
But things have changed. It’s time we walk the talk.
While our day job is helping organisations to engage their employees in sustainability, recently we’ve become more proactive about encouraging businesses to step up ambition on climate change at a strategic level too.
Firstly, in 2019 we declared a climate emergency and helped B Lab UK to produce their How to Declare a Climate Emergency Playbook. Then at COP25 in Madrid, we joined over 500 B Corps in setting a target to be Net Zero by 2030. Finally, this January I joined the steering group setting up the UK’s B Corp Climate Collective.
I couldn’t go on encouraging others to set bold reduction targets without doing it ourselves, no matter how small our footprint may be. So last month I dug out my data nerd hat and started crunching the numbers…
To set the scene – in 2019, our users’ confirmed savings of 714 tonnes of carbon through their pledges.
As for our own operational footprint, that came out at 1.89 tonnes of carbon. Yes, we’re a tiny organisation. Our footprint consists of three main elements: office energy, travel, and the website itself – more on how we calculated each of those is below. You might be surprised by how it breaks down though.
We worked with Climate and Sustainable Development experts ClimateCare to support projects that cut carbon emissions and improve the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest communities, fully ‘offsetting’ these operational emissions. That means that we officially achieved Net Zero in 2019.
It seems our target to be net zero by 2030 was lacking in ambition, so we’ve set a new, bolder target: by 2030, we aim to have lowered our own emissions to 1 tonne of CO2 for every 1,000 tonnes CO2 that we help our users to save.
That’s including scope 1 – 3 GHG emissions for our own footprint, and our user’s confirmed annual savings for our their impact.
This represents a 62% reduction in carbon intensity from a 2019 baseline. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure exactly how we’ll achieve it given the low baseline we’re working from, but it’s likely to be a result of three main factors:
- Dramatically scaling our impact, helping 100,000’s more people to take climate action (that’s where you come in).
- A large reduction in the carbon intensity of electricity where our servers and offices are based.
- Improving the efficiency of our website, following sustainable web design practices.
It’s not just about carbon though. We’ve also set a target to be zero waste to landfill. We could well be there already, but given our home-office set-up I’m not entirely sure how we’re going to measure it. That can be a challenge for 2021!
How we measured our carbon footprint
Our user’s impact:
ERM have helped us to develop a carbon calculator that is built into our pledge platform, enabling us to automatically measure the carbon, water, and waste saved by (almost) every pledge made. We’ve been doing this since 2011, and in December 2019 gave the data and models behind the calculator a huge update (man am I glad that hefty chunk of work is behind us!).
Our operational impact:
There are three main sources of our own emissions:
- Our offices (Scope 2 emissions). We don’t have an office. Our people either work from home full time, or a mixture of home and co-working spaces. For home offices and where the energy data from co-working spaces simply wasn’t available, we used a calculation based on home energy bills, apportioning the relevant emissions to Do Nation following advice from Green Element.
- Our travel (Scope 3 emissions). For Team Do, travel to the office tends to mean walking from one room to another, so commuting emissions are a big fat zero. However, our team is distributed between France, Scotland, and England, with clients all over the UK; as a result I travelled between London and Chamonix for work 12 times in 2019, taking the train for 11 of those journeys, and flying once. We used Defra 2019 emissions data to calculate the footprint of these journeys.
- Our website (Scope 3 emissions). The internet is a growing source of carbon emissions, thanks to energy-hungry data centres, transmission networks, and the devices you access it through. We used Website Carbon to calculate the emissions per page-view of the most visited types of page on Do Nation, and then calculated a site average which we could scale up to determine the estimated footprint of our entire site.
If you want to learn more about any of this, please leave a comment below or get in touch.
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We aim to publish updates on our emissions and targets annually.