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A sustainability update in honour of Earth Day 2021

Vince Cox
Software Engineer
15th Apr 2021

It’s Earth Day 2021 so what better time is there to share with you how at Rocketmakers we’ve been ramping up our sustainability efforts? Since starting on this journey earlier this year, we’ve been focussing on answering four questions:

  1. How can we measure our impact?
  2. What can we do immediately to make the biggest difference?
  3. How can we help our clients to be as sustainable as possible?
  4. How can we make the new normal as sustainable as possible?

How can we measure our impact?

Working out our carbon footprint seemed simple on the surface. Look at all the company’s activities and assets, and work out how much carbon each of those produces. Once we have that, it’s just a matter of adding them all up and we’ve got the number.

It seemed straightforward, but there are actually a number of complications. Reporting on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is split into three scopes. Roughly speaking, scope 1 is the direct impact from things like company buildings and vehicles. Scope 2 covers purchased electricity and gas. Scope 3 covers the indirect emissions coming from the value chain. This can include things like the products we make and their use, commuting, purchased services… the list goes on! It was very tricky to know where the boundary ought to be, let alone where it actually is. And then, when we figured that out, we found it’s sometimes not very easy to get the information we need - particularly during a national lockdown when access to people, items, and documentation was more limited.

Value/Effort Matrix

What can we do immediately to make the biggest difference?

Ambitious and insufferable middle managers in my past often spouted phrases like, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it!”. Bunk, I say! With the application of some simple common sense, you can certainly improve the situation. Granted, you won’t know by how much, but it will be an improvement nonetheless.

We did this by gathering a group of climate passionate colleagues and asking ourselves two questions:

  • What do we know works to lower GHG emissions?
  • Which of those aren’t we doing at the moment as a company?

We then clustered those responses and prioritised them using a value / effort matrix, and started picking items off the top. Some of the actions this exercise has given us include looking at ways to encourage more use of sustainable commuting travel options, investigating ways we use cloud computing in order to reduce waste, encouraging colleagues to look into ethical pension funds, and creating a policy to ensure office electronics are switched off when we’re not using them.

How can we help our clients to be as sustainable as possible?

At Rocketmakers we like to work very closely with our clients. We don’t hide our engineers away from them because we believe that a better understanding for both parties produces a better product. Tech decisions are collaborative—as we are often the only tech partner to our clients we feel it’s important to not only explain the pros and cons of a decision in a vacuum, but how it relates specifically to the unique domain and business constraints of our clients. We want to equip our clients with all the information they need in order to succeed, and we recognise that climate awareness is increasingly important.

To this end, we are currently working on producing a set of comprehensive green tech guidelines which we can use to develop our own products, and share with not only our clients but you, dear reader, as well. Keep an eye out on the blog for updates on this!

How can we make the new normal as sustainable as possible?

At the start of the first lockdown last year, many of us noticed the dramatic change in air quality. I, for one, had become so accustomed to the smells of pollution that I only realised how bad it was when it went away. What was business-as-usual simply won’t cut the mustard anymore, now that we’ve had a taste of how it could be.

We want to do our part to contribute to this as best we can, and we’re taking steps towards it. When the country begins to open up again, we’re implementing a new flexible work policy where colleagues can choose to work an amount of days from home. We’re also looking into incentives for using sustainable commuting options for when we do go into the office, and ensuring that our office space itself is as sustainable as it can be.

That’s a quick introduction to the start of our road to becoming carbon neutral, and there have already been some speed bumps. At times it has felt like we’re stumbling and blindfolded, but we recognise that this is one of the most important roads we must take. Climate change is an existential threat to humanity; we all have to start walking.

Have a look at the Earth Day website for events in your area and ways you can get involved in some climate action. (link) Also, this brilliant performance by Bristol based performance company Mechanimal is a beautiful piece that really underpins the wonder of our planet and biodiversity that is at risk of being lost.