Sustainability

Our Impact Journey continues: 2021 emissions data and next steps

Our Impact Journey continues: 2021 emissions data and next steps
Photo by Jack Charles / Unsplash
In: Sustainability

Last year, we established Liberate Science’s baseline environmental impact, estimating around 6 000 kilos of carbon dioxide equivalent (or 6 mtCO2e) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the years 2019 and 2020.

For 2021, we calculated 3.29 mtCO2e – a welcome reduction (-48% overall, -30% compared to 2020). In part, this reduction is because of a smaller team and that we didn’t need (or want) to update any of our devices or office furniture.

This time around, we improved emission accounting for consulting services. This includes bookkeeping, design, and podcast production. These come in at around 2 mt. Nonetheless, the scope 3 Purchased Goods and Services category went down from 3.2 mt to 2.4 mt. In addition, we started compensating our remote employees to switch to green tariffs with 100% renewables.

💡
Fun fact: We learned that green energy compensation is not tax deductible in Germany whereas internet compensation is.

Broken down in scopes, Liberate Science’s emissions for 2021 look like this:

  • Scope 1, direct emissions: 0kg
  • Scope 2, indirect emissions: 520kg (~16%)
  • Scope 3, value chain emissions: 2 770kg (~84%)

For the nerds like us, find our methodology cheat sheet on our website and here are all the details in metric tons:

Scope Activity Type 2021 2020 2019
Scope 1 Stationary combustion 0.00 0.00 0.00
Mobile combustion 0.00 0.00 0.00
Fugitive emissions from air-conditioning 0.00 0.00 0.00
Scope 2 Purchased electricity - location based 0.07 0.00 0.00
Purchased electricity - market based 0.23 1.00 0.00
Purchased heat and steam 0.23 0.29 0.00
Scope 3 Purchased goods and services 2.43 3.15 1.63
Waste generated in operations 0.34 0.27 0
Business travel 0.00 0.00 0.00
Employee commuting 0.00 0.00 0.00
Total Emissions 3.29 4.70 1.63

What else have we learned from our 2021 assessment?

  • Practice helps. Regular assessments of environmental impact make it easier. With the lessons from last year, it took us a mere 1 hour to gather the relevant data and calculate Liberate Science’s emissions.
  • Every decision matters. We started making different decisions after our 2020 assessment – and we get feedback on the impact of our decisions. This teaches us that every decision, big and small, has economic, social, and ecological implications. Anything goes, from renewing devices every four years instead of three years to pledging 1% to Stripe Climate.
  • Reduce and mitigate. What can’t (yet) be reduced, needs to be mitigated. Similar to last year we offset our emissions using Gold Standard and invested in reforestation projects.

What do we expect for our 2022 assessment?

  • Estimating the impact of digital services, such as ResearchEquals, is going to be a challenge. Carbon accounting methodologies for the use of digital products remain underdeveloped. We hope to see more examples of this out in the wild!
  • Our value chain emissions are going to grow. It is common that value chain emissions make up 60-80% of a company’s impact. Our current 16-84 split is most likely going to become more pronounced as our value chain grows and we improve and extend the estimates for our digital products and services.
  • We'll explore making our data machine-readable according to the latest standards (if there are any) and publish the data on ResearchEquals.

Our aim from last year still stands: As we continue to evolve and grow our business, we will work to implement sustainability thinking into everything we do. Thanks for joining us on this journey!

Written by
Cathleen Berger
Political scientist by training whose work focuses on supporting others to navigate change, primarily with a view to sustainability, tech and global policies, as well as governance processes.
Chris Hartgerink
Researcher and director at Liberate Science.
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