Unfurling fern - image by Elle Coc

As part of our mission to help people be active citizens, mySociety provides digital tools and research to help the fight against climate change.

But we believe that every organisation also has a responsibility to do what it can towards minimising its own environmental impact.

Here’s what we’re doing.

In general

  • We know that climate change is a complicated issue, and that there are unlikely to be simple answers. We’re operating under the belief that doing something is better than doing nothing, and in some cases that will mean employing imperfect solutions.
  • We believe that if we share our learning process, others can benefit from it too.
  • We talk to our suppliers and to the world at large about the decisions we’re making, because we believe that this will normalise the process of prioritising climate-positive choices.
  • We’ve analysed the data for 2019. This means that we now know our carbon baseline and will be able to track the gains that we make through the following policies, which we’ll tweak accordingly as we learn more about what has the most impact.
  • Our priority is to reduce our carbon footprint via the below policies and via further regular discussion and research. We keep track of our carbon emissions on an annual basis, and offset them via purchasing carbon offset activities from Atmosfair.

What we’re implementing right now

Our travel

  • Where practical, remote meetings are favoured, but where travel is necessary and where travel time is below a set number of hours, staff are required to travel sustainably (with exceptions around staff safety and accessibility). ‘Sustainably’ is defined as using public transport such as trains and buses, blending in walking or cycling, etc, where practicable.
  • If staff have no choice but to travel by air or private transport, mySociety offsets the carbon costs. If non-sustainable travel is required in the course of work commissioned by a third party, we will request that offsetting is covered by the project budget.
  • We encourage attendees to our events to travel sustainably or offset their carbon; where we are arranging transport on behalf of others, we will always offer sustainable travel where practical, and offset flights too.
  • Fortunately, there’s one area in which we’re ahead of the curve thanks to our remote set-up: few of us require a daily commute. Those who prefer a coworking space are, of course, encouraged to travel to and from it sustainably.
  • Through the Climate Perks scheme we provide incentives for staff to travel sustainably to their holiday destinations.

Our digital activities

  • As a remote working, tech-producing organisation, it’s plain that the hosting of our own software, and our use of others’ third party services, is a major carbon cost. We’ve calculated the impact of our servers and are currently in the process of moving to data centres that buy renewable energy, and consolidating to reduce the number of physical machines.
  • We’re also looking into the environmental policies of the third party suppliers we use for services, from hosting to video conferencing. As contracts come up for renewal, we’ll be assessing suppliers on their environmental commitment, giving this equal weight as we do to considerations of cost — if not more.

Our hardware

  • Laptops, servers and various other bits of hardware are, of course, essential to our work. Staff policies deliberately encourage the acquisition of better quality products  — even at a higher price — and keeping hold of them for longer.
  • We encourage repair over replacement where practical.
  • If possible, staff are encouraged to give retired hardware an extended life by donating it to an approved scheme for reuse or recycling.

Our events

  • While we see clear benefits in meeting face to face at conferences and events, we are also keen to acknowledge our climate responsibilities around these. The coronavirus lockdown of 2020 demonstrated the potential for online conferences  when we moved TICTeC online. But it also laid out their limitations. So, while we’ll continue to provide online offerings, we see great value in real-life events, provided that they can be managed sustainably, and we’ll continue to run these albeit on an environmentally conscious scale.
  • We’ve talked about the travel above, but that’s not all we’ll mitigate. Every aspect of the event, from catering to keeping things paper-free — and most definitely doing away with the swag bag — will be handled in as environmentally friendly a way as possible.
  • Importantly, we’ll commit to choosing locations that will enable the greatest number of people to convene in the most sustainable way possible, given that our community is a global one.
  • TICTeC, as our biggest regular event, engendered the environmental policy which now applies to all our in-person events. You can see lots more detail there.

Our home offices/co-working spaces

  • We’ve committed to helping staff make green choices in their homes. This is currently a work in progress, but one idea is to secure a special deal for staff from a green utilities company. Contact us if you’re interested in being that company!
  • Even if that’s not possible, we’ve started a guide that will help staff understand what does, and doesn’t help the planet.
  • Co-working spaces are often run by, or in consultation with their members, so we encourage our staff to suggest the same environmentally-friendly policies to their management.

We want to do better

This is just the beginning. We’re keen to learn more, to implement better policies, to keep cutting back on our environmental impact.

If you can help, by example or through ideas, please let us know.

Image: Elle Coc