Our journey of becoming carbon neutral

Melanie Hartl
Melanie Hartl

Growing up on an organic farm in the mountains made me realize early on that taking care of animals, the forest, and the environment has a direct effect on their well-being. It is extremely gratifying to see life flourish through your personal effort. Every action has a reaction; therefore, it is our responsibility to treat animals fairly, take care of the land, and always put the environment first.

When running a business, the results of our personal or business actions might not always be plainly visible. However, they are there and affect the world around us positively or negatively. Many people, including myself, nowadays strive to work for a company that is aiming to create a positive impact in the world, whether through its products or by taking on social or environmental responsibility. In fact, the majority of people (62%) actually want to work for a company that has a positive impact in the world, and 50% would even work harder if their work benefits others. I can certainly relate to this as I find it very motivating to work for a company that cares about the people and the community.

I joined MOSTLY AI because I believe in its mission of protecting people’s privacy and promoting a positive change throughout the industry. Startups have always fascinated me as they can disrupt an entire system and become a major force when promoting change or, as in this case, creating sustainability. According to George Serafeim in a Harvard Business Review article, there is significant evidence that sustainable companies are the future. They not only deliver innovative approaches to products and business models, but they can also change the way things work, including how we combat climate change. They attract better talent and outperform companies with low sustainability levels in terms of performance and financial returns on investment. Therefore, so-called environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing as a means to sustainable value creation is on an upward trend. Creating a sustainable business can increase your business value significantly.

MOSTLY AI recognizes the importance of taking on responsibility not only for our people but also for the environment. As it is impossible to have zero emissions, we aim to be at least carbon neutral. When the environmental initiative became a topic, I was eager to join the efforts of making MOSTLY AI carbon neutral and shortly afterward became our Climate Officer. In this role, I became directly responsible for measuring our climate impact and initiating measures to decrease our carbon footprint.

We have already taken very important and efficient steps towards sustainability and continue to work on making MOSTLY AI the greenest possible version of itself. Here are the steps we have taken so far, and we hope that our efforts will motivate others to follow in our footsteps.

Be part of a community that helps and supports you on your mission.

Working in a startup means that there is a high workload and a lot of things to keep track of on a constant basis. Joining a community that supports you during this mission can make progress way easier and keep you on track with your environmental objectives.

MOSTLY AI joined Leaders for Climate Action (LCFA), an entrepreneurial community that drives efforts to combat climate change. LFCA has created a network of leaders throughout the industry to make the fight against climate change their common goal. So far, over 900 companies have joined, and they have reduced over 360,000 tons of CO2. It goes without saying that these numbers are huge, and it proves that one company alone cannot achieve much, but bringing all of us together can make a real difference.

By joining LFCA, we were able to focus on the initiatives that really matter, have experts in the field support us in our mission, and be a part of a like-minded community of entrepreneurs. If you are reading this article, I assume that you are already passionate about the environment, and I encourage you to put joining this initiative as an action item on the agenda of your next team or management meeting.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

The first step towards becoming carbon neutral is knowing the actual emissions your company produces every year. There are many calculators out there that can help you assess your personal and company-wide carbon footprint, such as the WWF or the Federal Environment Agency calculators. This process is a bit tiresome, but there are a lot of insights you will gain from it. Not only will you consciously evaluate all the past years’ bills regarding your environmental impact, but you will also experience eye-opening moments when discovering the largest drivers of emissions. Just to mention one example: an economy flight from Vienna to New York causes emissions of about 4 tons of CO2. To put this in perspective, it is more than double what a family car emits in a year. It is critical to evaluate the factors driving your company’s emissions before taking decisive action to reduce them.

Reduce travel whenever possible.

As mentioned above, travel is one of the biggest factors when it comes to CO2 emissions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, travel has pretty much decreased automatically. There are lessons to be learned and questions to be asked when life returns to “normal.” One of them is: “Do I have to go to this meeting in person, or can I make a video call instead?” Switching to video conferencing whenever possible is a simple but effective step towards reducing unnecessary emissions.

At MOSTLY AI, our employees are flexible in how and where they work. This means that Zoom and Hangouts are our most important means of communication, particularly during the pandemic. Our workforce is encouraged to use environmentally friendly means of transportation. This includes our ‘trains over planes rule,’ which means that public transportation is always the preferable choice—unless, of course, you can walk or bike to your meeting.

Traveling by public transport or train whenever possible has a significant impact on our carbon footprint. The same is true for commuting to work. At MOSTLY AI, everyone can work remotely, thus preventing emissions caused by commuting. Nevertheless, if people prefer to work from our centrally located office in Vienna, they usually commute by means of public transport; a yearly ticket is provided by the company.

Change starts within your team.

Your team is the driving force in this process. Ask them to actively participate in making your company greener or, in other words, more environmentally friendly. This can involve transport to the office but also being privately active in reducing their carbon footprints.

With the support of our team, we’ve made a few changes within our office. One of them was to go completely paperless by introducing electronic signatures. If it’s necessary to print, we use 100% recycled paper. Recycled paper is comprised of 100% waste paper and therefore saves both water and resources. Producing it takes two to three times less energy. Moreover, we’ve introduced a proper waste separation system and ask our employees to minimize waste in the first place. Since half of all plastic products are designed to be used only once, stressing the importance of minimizing plastic waste can lead to a significant drop in the use of plastic (bottles, food delivery packaging). This movement has been extremely smooth and successful. Everybody recognized its importance and was eager to participate.

Take a close look at your current vendors.

As an artificial intelligence and machine-learning tech startup, one must not dismiss the emissions associated with using electricity to train the underlying models. Training neural networks requires high computing power because multiple calculations have to be simultaneously carried out. Therefore, cloud computing and the associated data centers are major environmental concerns. In fact, a single data center can take more power than a medium-size town. Measuring the direct impact of emissions caused by cloud computing is impossible at this point. There is a great lack of data from the respective cloud providers and a huge need for more regulation and environmental controls. Despite this lack of transparency, the big cloud providers are starting to become more environmentally friendly. AWS aims to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2025 and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is already 100% green. It is up to all of us as startups and big companies to demand green energy and more transparency from service providers.

A first step to achieving this requires looking at your own current service providers. MOSTLY AI switched to a green energy provider that obtains 100% CO2-free green electricity from renewable energy sources. Switching to renewable energy sources can have a significant effect on reducing the CO2 footprint and saving natural resources such as fossil fuels.

Moreover, don’t forget to encourage your employees to be energy conscious at work. Remind them to switch off lights, computers, AC, heating, etc. when not in use, and to be active in looking for ways to reduce their personal carbon emissions. If you take things one step further, you can install motion detection lighting systems in office hallways and rooms that are less frequented. Moreover, turning off your camera in video calls could cut energy consumption by 96%.

Offset it with certified partners ONLY.

Climate neutrality is an environmental policy goal that aims to reduce emissions caused by companies through production and consumption so that they don’t have any influence on the climate. This is based on the assumption that the climate system can buffer a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions without having any significant impact. Products, services, or companies can be climate-neutral if, after determining CO2 balance, the emissions are offset.

For the climate, it is not important where greenhouse gases are emitted or avoided as they are distributed evenly in the atmosphere. For this reason, emissions that were caused at one place can be offset by saving at another. Developing countries are often the most affected regions when it comes to CO2 emissions. (Kyoto Protocol) Therefore, carbon offset projects aim to promote sustainable development in the most affected areas in the world. Through forest protection, reforestation, and renewable energy, these projects (among others) significantly reduce carbon emissions and counteract global warming.

Such projects must meet internationally recognized standards such as the Gold Standard or the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). The Gold Standard is among the leading standards to define the quality of a carbon offset project. If you are looking into offsetting projects, always require one of the above standards to make the most out of your initiative.

To achieve a basic carbon-neutrality, we have addressed our direct carbon emissions with an organization called natureOffice Gmbh. They help reduce carbon emissions via forest ecology projects in Africa and South America in combination with regional forest ecology projects in Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands. While the actual offset of our emissions takes place in Brazil, our local environment is supported through the important work of the mountain forest project in the Montafon. It can be tracked here.

Change starts today.

Having an environmentally responsible business in 2021 leads to healthy, productive, and forward-thinking employees without jeopardizing growth and profitability. Companies like ours are the future, and we believe that by implementing environmentally conscious efforts early on, we can create long-term sustainability.

At MOSTLY AI, we believe in creating a positive impact on the world around us through our products and the people working with and for us. We strongly believe that it is our responsibility to act and promote a sustainable working culture. We believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to act consciously and to do the right thing for ourselves, the people around us, and for our planet. Change starts today but doesn’t stop there. In the future, we plan to reduce our carbon footprint further by optimizing our business processes to further reduce emissions. Change starts now!

Eager to find out more about MOSTLY AI’s carbon reduction measures? Then take action now!

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