Punchline: SearchPilot is carbon neutral. We have bought high quality permanent carbon removal for our entire emissions throughout our supply chain for the financial year 2020-2021 and are intending to continue on this path in the years to come. By combining that with efforts to reduce and limit our carbon use, we are doing our part to support the global path to carbon net zero.
One of our core values is to enjoy the journey: “we know we want to work somewhere that can be more than just a job and to build jobs we can enjoy”. Our work involves intensive data and processing activities. Now we can enjoy it knowing that we aren’t damaging the planet in the process, and might even have a positive impact bigger than ourselves.
We have assessed the carbon footprint of our entire supply chain as equivalent to 18 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the financial year 2020-2021. We have offset this with purchases of:
- 11 tonnes of capture via biochar
- 5 tonnes of capture via enhanced weathering
- 2 tonnes of capture via direct air capture (DAC)
For those who are interested in the geeky details, this refers to the total of our scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, which roughly means
- the emissions we make directly
- the emissions from energy we purchase in the form of heating, lighting, and electricity
- the emissions our suppliers make to provide us with their services
Background to the decision
Towards the end of 2021, a few things came together to convince me to act now to make SearchPilot carbon neutral: I’d recently read Bill Gates’ book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster which convinced me of a few things:
- Net zero by 2050 is more important than any “reduction by 2030” target that isn’t entirely designed to be on the path to and result in net zero
- Focusing on what he calls the “green premium” (the amount more expensive the carbon neutral options are than the prevailing technologies) is the single most powerful lever for change
- The cost reductions in green energy technologies and battery technologies have surpassed the most optimistic forecasts of even a few years ago, but the costs of direct air capture of carbon dioxide (DAC) are currently far too high to be economical
Shortly after I finished the book, a tech founder forum I’m a part of had an active discussion about what we, as founders, could most effectively do to play our part in global change. During that exchange, I was introduced to Supercritical, a consultancy focused on helping companies remove carbon from the atmosphere and get on a path to net zero. It’s a small world - the founders used to be clients of Distilled (the company SearchPilot span out from) back in 2014 at their previous company before they got into the carbon capture space.
As a result of the book, these conversations, and with Supercritical’s input, I decided that the best thing we could do would be to:
- Run SearchPilot in a truly carbon neutral way with high quality permanent carbon removal
- Do our part on the path to global net zero by supporting the carbon capture with a plan to reduce our carbon emissions
- Be early buyers of unproven and uneconomic direct carbon capture technologies (joining Stripe and Microsoft in this approach)
What about the trees?
You’ll notice that we haven’t planted any trees as part of this offset approach. That is because:
- Supercritical recommended that in order to be truly on the path to net zero, we needed medium-to-long-term capture that went beyond the relatively short-term capture possible through the planting of trees
- Our own emissions are relatively small, so the “be early buyers of uneconomic direct carbon capture technologies” part is a huge lever of influence for us. By paying above the odds, we’re helping companies and organisations spin up the capability to capture far greater amounts far more efficiently and cheaply and make these technologies attractive to more organisations in the future
What does this mean for SearchPilot customers?
Apart from the good vibes, the most concrete benefit is that we no longer have any emissions that need to be counted in their scope 3 carbon accounting. We can provide the Supercritical report summary to anyone who needs it for their own carbon auditing process.
Founders: follow our lead
I’ve learned a lot through this process, and if you are in a decision-making position at your organisation, I’d be very happy to talk it all through with you. Equally, if you’re not the decision-maker, I’m happy to share the information you might need to make a pitch to your bosses.
The process has been remarkably simple, and it has cost us a fraction of a percent of our revenue to make such a meaningful commitment - even while going for the most high quality permanent carbon removal. Drop me a line if you want to discuss it or have any questions.
Image credit: Zane Lee.