Reflecting on Earth Day 2020 we thought that now was a good time to give an update about our efforts to monitor and reduce our company’s carbon footprint. At Kyan we have always been conscious of our impact on the environment and have sought to minimise the ways in which our business contributes to the overall production of waste and depletion of the Earth’s resources.
From installing LED lighting and low-flow toilet cisterns to offering a ride-to-work subsidised cycling scheme and reducing our use of single-use plastics, we’ve strived to make the office a greener place to work. However, we’ve never actually measured our impact, and without measuring it we can’t be sure that any of the schemes we put in place actually have any effect. So we thought that it was time to put that right.
Measuring our carbon footprint
Everyone on the planet and every organisation has a carbon footprint. It’s the amount of energy they consume by doing everyday things, and it's measured by the tonnes of carbon used to produce that energy. For a service-based company like Kyan, which does not have much in the way of a supply chain or industrial waste production, it’s actually pretty straightforward. Our footprint is made up largely of two areas, running and maintaining our work environment and company travel (including employee commuting).
In order to get the information we needed, we set up a Typeform survey for our team to fill out, outlining their daily commute, how far they travelled and by what mode of transport. We are lucky in that a fair number of our staff live pretty locally and so are able to get to work by walking, cycling or using Guildford's electric buses. This obviously helps our overall footprint, as car use is one of the biggest factors in our carbon consumption.
Once we had our commuting info logged we had to work out what our energy use was for running the office, including electric use for lighting and computers, as well as heating and cooling the office with air conditioning.
Overall, we calculated that in 2019 we produced 46.6 tonnes of CO2. The next steps are to set reduction targets to bring our carbon production down in 2020 and to engage in schemes to make up for the pollution that we do cause.
Becoming more carbon conscious
Originally, we wanted to support or set-up a local tree planting scheme to sequester an equivalent or greater amount of carbon than we produce. It turns out that unless you own the land that you wish to plant trees on locally, then setting up a scheme is nigh on impossible. We spoke to the local council about tree planting schemes and although they say this is something they are looking to do there isn’t anything in place currently. This doesn’t bode well for reaching the global goal of planting one trillion trees by 2050 (trilliontrees.org). We haven’t given up on our vision for a Kyan forest that we could fund, help plant and visit, but equally, we didn’t want to wait, so we looked into ready-made schemes to support.
After reviewing and rejecting a number of schemes that allowed you to plant dedicated areas of forest in the UK, we started to broaden our horizons and look at programmes that had a more global reach. Although the UK (and particularly South-east England) is very densely populated, we still have a huge amount of green space and woodland to enjoy. Surrey is, after all, the most wooded county.
In some areas of the world, deforestation and environmental pollution is having a devastating effect on natural habitats that are crucial not only to sequestering carbon but also to supporting the rich biodiversity of the planet. These areas are the ones where immediate action is needed and thus where we thought our donations could do the most good. Consequently, we decided to support the Offset Earth scheme, trusting the team there to channel our money into the most needed parts of the planet.
Since we started our Offset Earth donations in January, we have managed to plant 2,000 trees for the Rainforest Madagascar project. We understand that carbon offsetting isn't quite as simple as it sounds, and when you really dig deep into it, it's a complex issue. But we are proud to help to stem the decline in the vital mangrove coastal forests of Madagascar. Simplifying it, 2,000 trees would utlimately equate to 196 tonnes of carbon reduction in just four months, meaning that not only are we a carbon-neutral organisation but in fact we are carbon-positive, whereby we 'offset' more carbon then we produce.
Check out our page at offset.earth/kyan
Carbon in the time of COVID-19
Since we started our carbon reduction plans in 2020, the majority of the world has gone into lockdown as a consequence of the global coronavirus pandemic. We have closed the office and our wonderful team have risen to the challenge of remote working with a distributed workforce seemingly effortlessly. It helps that the majority of the software and services we use day to day are cloud-based and can be accessed from anywhere, plus the fact that Zoom and Slack were already ingrained into our daily workflow meant that the physical distance between team members is less significant than it might be for some companies.
One positive consequence of the current lockdown is the virtual cessation of business travel... well, pretty much all travel really. For our reduction goals, this is particularly significant, as like most companies, the majority of our carbon footprint is generated by areas that we can’t directly influence, known as Scope 3 GHGs (greenhouse gases). Specifically, the use of private cars and public transport in our team’s daily commute.
Who knows how long the lockdown will continue, but one thing is for sure, it will have a huge impact on our Carbon Footprint for 2020, and has the potential to influence how we do business, and particular business travel, longer into the future.