In the ten years since Engine was founded, much has changed about awareness of the fragile nature of the world and the impact of businesses within it. Many have already started their own journeys on the path of greater understanding of our collective environmental impact and we decided it was time to begin our own.
It can be overwhelming and also alienating, especially for smaller businesses to begin the process of understanding their carbon impact. In particular, one of the aspects we found in our initial research is how much of the information available is often aimed at large corporations.
If we can offer any advice from this process, our main takeaway would be to remember the values at the heart of your business — most of us have a shared goal to create work for good that benefits as many people as possible. There are a lot of great resources available, however, we also found many environmental ventures that provided unclear methods of proposed ‘climate action’. Ultimately the goal is about a collective change. How we make continued progress is going to be unique to every company and is likely to change as businesses grow. With that in mind, here are a few of our insights.
Calculating our impact
Anyone starting out on this journey will know that the first step is to calculate your impact. That’s easier said than done for most, especially those without in-house specialists. However, there are a lot of resources available online that help to break down the basic elements of what you’ll need to know. In a nutshell, you’ll need to think about the resources your business utilises to operate at a basic level, then dive in to look at how much impact your output will accumulate over time. You’ll often find that these are referred to as scope 1, 2, and 3. When you make these calculations, it’s important to decide on figures that are representative of your normal working environment.
All direct emissions such as company facilities and company vehicles. We have no company vehicles, so our emissions calculated for this scope were the fuel used on-site in our office within a coworking space. To do this, we took the annual gas bill for the entire building and calculated our portion of usage based on the size of our designated office space. In CO2 emissions, this amounted to 0.4 tonnes annually.
Indirect emissions such as purchased electricity. Much like the Scope 1 emissions, we were able to calculate a figure based on the information provided in our building electricity bills. Once again, we took the annual electricity bill for the entire building and calculated our portion based on the size of our designated office space. In CO2 emissions, this amounted to 1.4 tonnes.
Note: Engine operates a flexible working policy, with team members working from home and a co-working space that runs on renewable energy.
These are much harder to quantify but include business travel, and employee commuting as a starting point. As a small, semi-remote team, we keep all our travel to an absolute minimum and rarely have a need for flights and trains. However, we wanted to be as transparent as possible so included our employee commuting and train travel in this. To do this, we simply calculated the individual distance travelled by each employee to and from work on an annual basis. As we’re based in the countryside, each employee relies on the use of their own car. At the time of this calculation, our impact on CO2 emissions amounted to 3.15 tonnes. We have since replaced one vehicle with electric so anticipate this figure will be lower next year.
As we said, we wanted to be as transparent as possible when calculating our emissions. With a small team and limited travel, we knew our carbon footprint on a basic level might not be enormous. However, we are also aware that we work within an industry that contributes a huge amount of impact to the environment. To account for this, we calculated the cumulative emissions of our servers and cloud apps.
While this is almost impossible to quantify exactly, we were confident we could at least form a baseline of each. In doing this, we found our servers with Digital Ocean emit at least 7.2 tonnes of carbon annually (though the server centres do run on renewable energy). Our calculation of services such as Google Cloud amounted to a total of 3.65 tonnes.
As we continue our journey, we'll be sharing more of the resources we find and progress we make to become a carbon negative business.