Our Journey to Carbon Neutrality Part 2 – Measuring Emissions

So how hard is it for a digital agency to measure its carbon footprint? Honestly, not that hard. But it did take a bit of time, persistence, and “best judgment” math.

We did not find a single tool that was a good fit for us – perhaps others can, but we decided to start with a spreadsheet that followed the GHG protocol structure which had three scopes to review.

Scope 1: Our Direct Emissions

Easy – zero. 

Being a technology service-based business and not a manufacturer, we did not have any direct emissions from making things in our own factories.

Scope 1: Direct Emissions

Direct Emissions

0 Mt

Stationary combustion

0 Mt

Mobile combustion

0 Mt

Fugitive emissions

0 Mt

Process emissions

0 Mt (Metric tons)

Total Direct Emissions

Scope 2: Indirect Emissions – Owned

This was the largest component of our carbon footprint. 

We used the Terapass Carbon Calculator which seemed straightforward (and sophisticated enough to understand the carbon footprint of our local energy utility) for us to measure indirect carbon emissions. 

As you would expect it was mostly office electricity, heating and cooling. Our footprint was almost 60% due to electricity usage and 40% gas usage for heating.

Scope 2: Indirect Emissions – Owned

93 Mt

Purchased energy

Scope 3: Our Indirect Emissions – Not Owned

This is the most complex area that took the majority of time to calculate. From our research, this is also sometimes ignored in some company carbon footprints. This scope includes emissions from two types of activities – upstream activities toward suppliers and downstream activities for our customers.

Upstream Activities 

First, the easy part… (i) we had no “business travel’‘ in 2021, in fact we never really have as we deliver 99% of our work to our clients remotely, (ii) we had no “employee commuting”, we did in the past, but … thanks COVID, (iii) we have no “waste generated in operations”.

For “purchased goods and services – production related” we included our AWS cloud usage for development (measured using https://www.cloudcarbonfootprint.org), contractor home office energy consumption (calculated at 20% of the local home energy footprint). Also included were SaaS development vendor footprints (Atlassian, Adobe, Harvest, etc) for which we made custom calculations based on the level of data shared by each vendor.

Under purchased goods and services – Non-production related” we included our back office SaaS tools like Xero, Zendesk, Stripe and Google (again custom calculations). 

We have no “transportation or distribution” costs. 

Under “Fuel and energy related activities not captured above” we included our home office costs for US employees – again calculated at 20% of the local market standard home carbon footprint. This is an area we will focus on in 2022 as an opportunity to introduce employee incentives for adoption of clean energy.

Under “Capital Goods” we included all the phones, laptops, monitors purchased for the team in 2021. Kudos to Apple for providing clear and precise carbon footprint numbers for each product.

Scope 3: Indirect Emissions – Not Owned

Upstream activities

0 Mt

Business travel

0 Mt

Employee commuting

0 Mt

Waste generated in operations

17 Mt

Purchased goods and services – production related

1 Mt

Purchased goods and services – non-production related

0 Mt

Transportation and distribution

29 Mt

Fuel and energy related activities not captured above

2 Mt

Capital goods

49 Mt

Total Indirect Upstream Emissions

Downstream Activities 

We only had one entry in the “downstream activities” section – no investments, no franchises, no leased assets or end-of-life treatment costs. But we did have “use of sold products” with the AWS footprint of hosting solutions included for some clients (again we used Cloud Carbon Footprint to calculate these costs).  

Scope 3: Indirect Emissions – Not Owned

Downstream activities

0 Mt

Investments

0 Mt

Franchises

0 Mt

Leased assets

2 Mt

Use of sold products

0 Mt

End of life treatment

2 Mt

Total Indirect Downstream Emissions

145 Mt

Total Emissions

So, as you might expect, our office was the biggest carbon emission generator by quite some distance – followed by home offices. We are looking hard at each and exploring actions we can take as a team to reduce our collective carbon footprint.

In our next post, we will review our planning and decision process around buying carbon offsets to make Valtira a carbon neutral company.

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