Sanctuary Computer had one goal. Understand and mitigate their impact, so they could lead clients and peers in doing the same.
We worked with NYC’s Sanctuary Computer (our sibling studio @ garden3d) to develop a simple and easy to use approach to measuring their carbon emissions. As a client services business, they don’t produce a physical product, and for that reason, the don’t have the same size impact under their supply chain as similar sized product companies.
Corporate Sustainability & the GHG Protocol
Given Sanctuary Computer doesn’t have a supply chain; we chose to focus our attention on the company’s corporate sustainability strategy. That means understanding all of the sources of emissions in their day-to-day operations.
We chose to use the Greenhouse Gas Protocol to measure impact. This involved working with each team member to calculate their individual energy consumption via their laptops, commutes, and modes of transport.
At the time we started working together, Sanctuary was full time in-person in their NYC studio, so we studied everything down how much toilet paper they were ordering each month.
Next — we worked through their data transfer and cloud computing needs. This turned out to be the most challenging portion of the work — cloud computing platforms tend to run a lot of virtual computers on a single, physical machine. In order to ensure our estimates were sound, we based our per-server compute on a real, individual server; and in cases when those platforms were even more abstract (ie, serverless), relied primarily on data transfer at the edge.
Finally, we packaged up everything into a convenient spreadsheet for them to use each year, going forward!
Meaningful Climate Action
Sanctuary Computer’s goal has been to push climate action and leadership as far as they can in their industry. They’ve built on the initial work we’ve done here, and implemented the following policies:
Backdated Emissions Accounting
Sanctuary Computer used their 2019 data to gain an understanding of their per-employee-per-year emissions, and working backwards from their payroll records, bought carbon offsets dating back to their founded in 2015.
While our process includes a safety factor for unknowns, Sanctuary Computer also wanted to offset more carbon than they use; so in their offsetting process, they’ve added a 50% safety factor to their final numbers.
Offsetting carbon is a tricky game. While it's a valid tool in the evironmentalist toolkit; years of scammers, greenwashers, and double counting has given the broader community reason to doubt their effectiveness.
So that Sanctuary Computer could be sure that their money was going to a good place, we helped them prepare the following guidelines for vetting offsets:
- Transparency — We expect that any offset we purchase can prove without doubt and in the open that an individual credit can not be "double counted", or purchased more than once.
- Permanence — We do not buy credits when there is not a strong guarantee that the unit or drawdown will not be permanent, or is liable to be undone.
- Additionality — We only buy credits when the supplier can clearly prove that by facilitating this activity, more carbon was drawn down than would have been.
- Monitoring & Verification — Credit minters that take all of the above seriously will take steps to clearly publish their processes for ensuring captured carbon stays where it should.
In addition to Sanctuary Computer’s offsetting program, they also committed to making meaningful donations to environmental groups. To date, they've donated over
$6,000 to the LES Ecology Center, Climate Justice Alliance and the Sunrise Movement.
To better support early movers in the space, Sanctuary Computer now offers a 10% discount on their services for up to 12 months when a client can show a meaningful commitment to the climate.
In order to help Sanctuary Computer decide if a client was a good fit for their values; they implemented their Moral Compass, which filters our Greenwashers & Cheap, Mass Produced Products.
Transparency & Open Source
It’s been clear since day one that Sanctuary Computer’s carbon footprint is relatively small when compared to the emissions impact of their clients; so rather than focus too heavily on their individual footprint, we instead worked with the team using their new-found fluency in the subject to design and build a microsite that celebrates their work; and helps similar agencies do the same.
Additionally, Sanctuary Computer & garden3d also release a yearly environmental report; detailing their progress with goal setting, and describing the steps they took each year; further holding them accountable in a public square, and giving momentum to keep building on their work.