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Unit8 is now a carbon-neutral company

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We want to share our journey to potentially help others to take the plunge. We also want to reflect and think of what to do next.

End of 2020, our colleague Gael started a discussion on making Unit8 carbon neutral and found it mattered to other Unit8ers. An internal survey highlighted that 93% of Unit8 collaborators are making personal efforts to lower their emissions, for instance reducing meat consumption, car trips, and/or flights. Besides, many of our biggest customers set a target to be carbon neutral in a few years or net-zero carbon in the coming decades.

We started learning about the topic, from scopes to labels. As an IT service company, most of our emissions are in scope 3. We then compared organizations on their compensation projects, labels, process, and establishment, and went with myclimate. Following this, we had to gather all the necessary data to assess our carbon footprint. As a service company, the main categories were: Business Trips and accommodation, Employee commute, heating, electricity, and IT hardware

General greenhouse gases emissions by scope

Emissions by category

Despite being a digital native company with numerous tools to collect this, it is still quite laborious and manual. For example, do you know what source of energy your office uses for heating and electricity? How much effort would you need to get the details of all the business trip flights in your company last year?

As a company leveraging data to build value, we see clear room for automating part of the data collection. This is probably a necessary step to reduce the entry barrier for other companies to do it. Actually, multiple projects currently attempt to tackle this. If you are facing similar challenges, we are happy to hear about them, so drop us a line.

We got our results for 2020. On average a Unit8er emitted 1.5 tCO2e during the year. Our biggest emissions, not so surprisingly, come from business travels, commuting, and heating/cooling. Note that the comparison with other years will be challenging given Covid-19 had a clear impact on the emissions. We communicated our results internally together with recommendations on how to reduce our emissions.

Such recommendations included preferring trains over flights for business trips including short flights, highlighting the potential gain in usable time. 86% of Unit8ers walk, cycle, or use public transport. We hope that our new central office in Lausanne and that spreading knowledge of subsidies for alternatives may increase this number even further. To attempt reducing waste, we bought food containers and listed takeaways accepting them.

Modes of transport used

To compensate our emissions, we chose to support two projects: provide clean drinking water for schools and households in Uganda and reduce deforestation of the rainforest due to efficient cook stoves in Kenya. Both projects help the environment by reducing the amount of wood needed, meaning less deforestation and less CO2. And they help the local population reduce their time and money saving and collecting wood, plus they reduce the indoor pollution. Clean water also means less illness, so more time for children to study.

MyClimate certificate delivered to Unit8

We know that reducing beats compensating, nonetheless financing low-hanging fruits could yield great benefits. For instance, methane accounts for about one-third of global warming, and a report from McKinsey highlights that 90% of methane emissions could be reduced at a cost of less than 25$/tCO2e.

And data & AI can help. Better monitoring, reporting, and verification is one of their spearheads. Last year in a Microsoft hackathon Unit8 won the carbon track for implementing a solution to detect new potential methane leaks by clustering abnormal emissions and linking them to the fossil infrastructure.

Our next step is to collect the data for 2021, understand what to improve, and implement adequate solutions. Meanwhile, we are creating a global and per office space to exchange opinions and foster initiatives. Those are simple actions we took to trigger changes, and we hope that it gives you a better idea of the steps and time involved to kick-start your own journey.

Have you started the same process? Share your feedback and follow us to be updated on our carbon-neutral journey.

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