Understanding our impact and taking ecological responsibility seriously
The science is clear: humanity is living beyond the regenerative capabilities of our planetary boundaries. It is easy to forget when building a business, that we are also contributing to the excess. For us to create a sustainable science, we need to create a culture of sustainability thinking across economic, social, and ecological domains.
Together with sustainability expert Cathleen Berger, we estimated our baseline environmental emission impact. Building on the GHG Emission Calculation Tool, it took us circa four hours – showcasing that estimating emissions is not only possible for large corporations.
In 2020, Liberate Science’s greenhouse gas emissions amounted to around 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (mtCO2e). That’s comparable to around 24.000 kilometers driven in an average passenger vehicle – and it’s about half the average annual emissions of any one person in Germany (p. 54). For the more visual folks among us, a male African bush elephant weighs roughly 6 tons.
Emissions are typically broken down into three scopes:
1. Direct emissions (e.g., burning of fossil fuels in manufacturing or company cars)
2. Indirect emissions (e.g., purchased electricity and office heating)
3. Value chain emissions (e.g., travel, computer equipment, furniture, server costs)
We don’t own or burn fossil fuels on site, so we have no emissions in Scope 1. For Scope 2, we included our offices and remote set-ups throughout 2020. The largest contributor, around 60% of our annual impact, comes from Scope 3 emissions. For us, this includes purchased goods and services, travel and employee commute, waste, and estimates for the servers that support our products like Hypergraph.
As with any estimate, our model is not perfect. Exactly calculating emissions is complex and where estimates are required, we set broad boundary conditions, rounding up liberally in case of uncertainty (for more details, see here). This provides a baseline figure to start with.
We opted to offset these emissions through Gold Standard – making us carbon neutral in terms of climate accounting. But the climate crisis is not a matter of simply balancing numbers on a sheet, it is about making conscious behavioral and system decisions to transition to a regenerative future. Accounting for emissions is only the start.
As we continue to evolve and grow our business, we will work to implement sustainability thinking into everything we do. This will affect operating decisions such as how often we renew our devices, whether we choose to travel and how to travel, down to the food we cater for events and incentivizing our staff to switch to renewable energy providers. The goal is to internalize what has previously been considered an externality and ask how our decisions affect the environment at every step.
It will be a continuous journey, and we look forward to sharing what we learn and decide in the hopes that it may help you start your sustainability journey too.