How to Become a Carbon-Neutral Small Business

How to Become a Carbon-Neutral Small Business

May 2020 update: We've automated our carbon offsetting program! We now work with Ecologi to plant trees and extract carbon emissions monthly.

We offset our carbon footprint via Ecologi

When thinking of our environmental impact, we’re used to focussing on our role as individuals. But as entrepreneurs, we are also responsible for what our companies emit. Even though Hunter doesn’t build a physical product, we are a team of five with dozens of servers and regular business travels. Our impact is undeniable.

Hunter is a software company. By design, we aren’t focused on fighting global emissions. Yet, we acknowledge the problem exists and try to be part of the solution.

« Not doing the environment any harm through our business » means becoming a carbon neutral company.

What exactly is a carbon neutral company?

Most of what companies do indirectly generates emissions: the energy used by offices, manufacturing of laptops everyone has, business travels, etc. Keeping those emissions under control is important, but of course, the only way to bring them down to 0 is to close shop!

The next best thing to have a neutral impact is to compensate for someone else’s emissions. For example, poor communities in developing countries might still be using coal to generate energy when renewables could work most of the time. By helping these communities switch to greener alternatives they would otherwise have trouble financing, we offset our own emissions.

Those investments generally also have a positive social impact. For example, the project we finance also has the goal of improving health, sanitation, employment and forest health in rural communities in Honduras (you can learn more here).

How emissions are measured

Multiple gases contribute to global warming: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, etc. To simplify measuring our emissions, we’ll be using TCO2E (or tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent). Using this general unit simplifies a lot of calculations.

In our case, the biggest contributors to our emissions are:

  • Our business travels (we do company retreats 3 times a year)
  • Our servers
  • The energy used by our team’s home offices

Let’s be honest, there’s some guesswork involved here! For example, it’s difficult to precisely know the emissions of a server in a data center you don’t own. To solve this problem we are:

  1. Making our calculations transparent. So you can call us out if we’re getting it wrong. Check out our public spreadsheet here.
  2. We take a pessimistic approach in our estimates. For example, most of our servers are in France where one kWh generates 0.09kg of CO2 equivalent thanks to nuclear power. Yet, we’re basing our calculations on 0.62kg, the average emission in the US.

So what’s our magic number? 78 TCO2E per year. That’s the equivalent of what five US household emit in a given year.

Buying the carbon offsets

There are various providers to buy carbon offsets from. We ended up going with one of Stripe’s (their journey to being carbon neutral is a very interesting read): Native Energy.

The purchase is made online, via credit card and only takes a few minutes:

Our carbon offset invoice

In the end, we bought 3 times more than our yearly emissions to offset for 2016, 2017 and 2018! 🌿

Antoine Finkelstein

Antoine Finkelstein

Co-founder of http://hunter.io, I'm working on building a great bootstrapped company. Forever learning.

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