Our 2021 Sustainability Report
Our Review, Reflections, and Goals for the Future
Today is Earth Day! It’s time to reflect on the impact we have had on the planet in 2021, and check in on our goals! This is our third Sustainability Report that we've published (you can find our 2020 report here, and our 2019 report is here).
We acknowledge that measuring and offsetting our carbon footprint for a studio like ours is a tiny drop in the ocean, and so we are in addition also working on initiatives that have a bigger impact, and aim to nudge the culture and environment that we exist in towards a more eco-friendly place.
Our 2021 Sustainability Efforts in a Nutshell
The studio grew from 25 to 34 people 👨👩👧👧
In 2021, we purchased 90t worth of carbon offsets from Climate Neutral, and spent $857.50, based on an estimate of our 2020 footprint using their BEE calculator.
As with the previous years, we calculated our studio's climate impact using the accounting framework we developed for 2019. Our emissions remain low compared to previous years as a result of our company being fully remote in 2021.
We will be purchasing 39.13 metric tons CO2e worth of carbon offsets based on our 2021 footprint. We will purchase offsets at a price of $100 per tonnes compared to the (way too low!) average market rate of $5-$15 per tonnes of CO2e.
We continued to use our developed client approval framework to ensure we aren't aiding environmentally irresponsible companies. To date, we'd estimate that the total amount of work we’ve turned down is now the best part of $1 million USD in rejected projects
We grew our Seaborne team, and we’ve some exciting projects that we’ve been working on that will be released in the near future! Make sure you’ve subscribed to our Substack, and stay tuned 👀
Garden3D's 2021 Climate Impact
Last year, for our 2020 report, we worked with Climate Neutral and used their BEE calculator to calculate and offset our carbon footprint in addition to doing our own internal reporting. This year, Climate Neutral implemented a new measurement methodology called ‘economic input/output modeling.’ This new calculation process estimated our carbon footprint based on a % of our revenue, which in the case of a digital services company like ours, was a massive over-estimation. Using this new measurement methodology, our studio’s total carbon footprint for 2021 came out to be 513 metric tons of CO2e, which is grossly inaccurate, and an incredible increase compared to our 2020 carbon footprint of 20.58 metric tons CO2e.
Therefore for our 2021 report we decided to stick to our own internal reporting and offsetting. If Climate Neutral update their process to accommodate for digital services businesses like ours in the future; we’ll consider working with them again at that point.
For our studio footprint calculations, we used the same process that we developed in 2019. Please refer to that Sustainability Report for a more detailed description of this methodology. We've captured this year's data by breaking out our emissions into the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s (GHG) three scopes in a new tab in the spreadsheet below.
As a quick reminder, this manual calculation method is based off the GHG Protocol's framework for assessing emission 'scopes.’
In Garden3D's context Scope 1 emissions are nonexistent as we do not produce any direct emissions as we for instance don’t own a company vehicle, or have any onsite refrigeration, gas burning, or other such sources of direct emissions.
Our Scope 2 emissions decreased as employees were working from home.
Our Scope 3 emissions are where the bulk of our climate impacts come from. As a software studio, cloud computing is a major source of emissions. We also offered everyone at the company a Work from Home stipend to purchase things needed that would make work life at home more comfortable and convenient. Additionally, in order to nurture our studio culture and connection between employees, we also had more frequent social dinners when possible, which all added to our scope 3 emissions.
Here are our final calculations as per the GHG Protocol:
Scope 1 (0%)
Scope 2 (3.31%)
Studio Electricity — 1,296.52 kg CO2e
Total Scope 2 Emissions = 1,296.52 kg CO2e
Scope 3 (96.69 %)
Laptops — 2,131.25 kg CO2e
Cloud Computing & Web Hosting — 13,851.47 kg CO2e
Privately owned vehicles for Employee Commuting — 357.29 kg CO2e
Employee Commuting — 82.3 kg CO2e
Miscellaneous (Studio Materials, Meals, Hotels, Phone, and more) — 21,410 kg CO2e
Total Scope 3 Emissions = 37,832.31 kg CO2e
Total Carbon Footprint Emission for 2021 = 39,128.84 kg CO2e
In comparison to 2020, where our total carbon footprint was 20.58 metric tons CO2e, our total in 2021 increased by 90.09%. This increase is primarily due to the fact that we hired more people and our team grew in 2021.
Another interesting measure to look into is the average carbon footprint per employee. In comparison to 2020, where our carbon footprint per employee was 823.50 kg CO2e, our carbon footprint per employee in 2021 increased by 39.75 %.
As mentioned, this increase was primarily due to employees using their Work from Home Stipend to buy hardware and other objects to adjust and upgrade their remote life as well as encouraging more social dinners and hangs among employees to support the studio culture. Our cloud computing and web hosting also increased as we worked on larger projects that required this software support.
As for reduction measures, the Work from Home stipend is a one-time stipend of $350 which most employees have now used, so the CO2e for hardware can be expected to be reduced for the calendar year of 2022. Beyond that there are limited opportunities for emission reduction as being a remote company is one of the more eco-friendly approaches to running a business.
Offsetting Our 2021 Carbon Footprint
It’s important to us that we always stay on the conservative side of things when calculating and buying offsets. The average market price for offsets are in our opinion currently way too low! Currently the prices are far below the level required to be able to make significant investments in emissions-mitigation measures, such as carbon removal technologies or large scale nature-based solution projects, and provide companies with an additional financial incentive to reduce their own emissions and avoid the need to purchase offset credits. For reference, in 2020 Climate Neutral charged $4.95 per ton of CO2e, and in 2021 they charged $13.50 per ton of CO2e. This is not the fault of Climate Neutral, but it’s due to carbon measurement and offsetting being a newer industry and the demand for carbon offsets being on the lower side. We expect that once the industry matures, and the public becomes more educated about carbon footprints and offsets, that the price per ton will increase as well and reflect a value that will have a more positive impact on the planet.
This year, we’ve decided that we will pay $100 per ton of CO2e. As our total carbon footprint emissions for 2021 were 39.13 metric tons CO2e that comes out to $3,913. In order to spread our effect, we’ll be spending that budget over the next six months with projects we find compelling. We will make sure to include which offsets we purchase, the amount, and the reason why we’ve chosen the specific projects.
Beyond Offsets & Looking Ahead
Client Selection Framework
We continued to use our developed client approval framework to ensure we aren't aiding environmentally irresponsible companies. So when it comes to turning away work, we refer back to our Moral Compass. Within the sustainability category of our Moral Compass, we won't work with:
Hyper-consumerist products (like fashion, cosmetics & beauty products) that can’t show a valid sustainability initiative
Hype or Desire driven industries that survive on short, focused bursts of (mass produced) cycles to sustain the business
Products that claim a level of sustainability, but obviously undermine it (aka, obvious greenwashing)
“Premium mediocre” products (cheap, mass produced) where the only value or innovation to the category is aesthetics or branding
On the flip side we wanted to make it easier to work with and support organizations that are doing good. We continue to offer an 'innovators discount' of 10% to a wide variety of organizations who illustrate a commitment to ethicality. This could mean making a product that achieves these ends, or it simply could mean having a substantial sustainability or social responsibility strategy.
In our initial emails with potential new clients, we ask them directly what their business is doing along these lines. It’s proven to be extremely efficient to weed out clients early who aren’t aligned with our values. Furthermore, the clients who have sustainability efforts and strategies in place respect us because of this requirement.
Moving forward we're looking to formalize our client selection framework even further, eventually publishing it so that other studios like ours can block the creation of products that leave the planet worse off.
Seaborne — Our Sustainability Consultancy
In 2020, Sanctuary incubated the sustainability consultancy, Seaborne, which is dedicated to sustainability strategy and accounting work. At our collective studios, Sanctuary, XXIX, and Manhattan Hydraulics, we kept running into the problem of potential clients wanting to implement sustainability efforts yet lacking the time or skills to take on this work themselves.
One of the first projects at Seaborne was for The Light Phone. We developed and open sourced a carbon accounting framework for electronic devices, and compiled it into a report Assessing and Offsetting the Light Phone II’s Carbon Emissions. We also thought about the efficacy of carbon offsets and how experimental soil regeneration might be a more effective way for Light users to deal with the carbon embedded in their devices. In the past two years, Seaborne's work with the Light Phone has raised $39,424.30 for Mother Earth which we are incredibly proud of! The data shows that 1 in every 2.9 users decided to carbon offset their Light Phone device meaning that a high percentage of the consumers are willing to pay extra in order to do good for the planet.
Additionally, Seaborne is currently working with a handful of exciting clients on their sustainability reporting, and initiatives. This is detailed work, and deep diving into supply chains takes time, but we are very excited to release these projects in the near future. Stay tuned!
Seaborne is always looking for ambitious companies to push forward what's possible with corporate sustainability. If you're interested in talking, shoot us an email at email@example.com.
Our 2022 Goals
We are actively looking for a new studio space in New York City, and once we find one we’ve plans to renovate the space. We may not have a space that we can move into until 2023, so we’re also expecting that our 2022 carbon footprint will remain low. As for our sustainability efforts, our goals are the following.
We’ll be working to pull back on some of our unnecessary cloud computing usage this year, as those emissions have grown in recent years. We’d expect this change won’t be visible until our 2023 report, however.
We’re working to keep growing Seaborne’s reputation this year! We’ve recently signed on more clients, so we’re experienced an increased demand for this type of service.
Through Seaborne, we’re committed to continue to select one client a year to do a pro-bono sustainability analysis reporting for. We are currently in the process of one right now that will be released in the very near future!
We will be releasing two essays on this topic on our Substack soon, discussing how organizations like ours can have impact beyond purchasing offsets.
We’ll continue to offer a 10% rebate to any project or client (across all garden3d studios) that can show a meaningful, substantive sustainability initiative (or commit to working with Seaborne to build one).
Let’s keep chatting!
This is all relative new to us, and we are by no means experts. We’re doing the best we can, and we will continue to be curious and learn as much as we can.
Please feel free to reach out if you’d like to chat more, or if you’d like help doing the same for your company! (firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com)
We haven’t made any corrections to the article or calculations yet, but if anyone finds misinformation or any miscalculations, please email us, and we’ll edit and list the corrections edits made here.