The Road to Carbon Neutral
In September 2022, we officially became carbon neutral, double offset our emissions and met with ClimatePartner for a kick-off call to begin discussions about round two of our corporate carbon footprint calculation.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing but we got there in the end and I wanted to share our journey with anyone who might be in a similar position, to give you an idea of what it takes to get there. I’ll tell you about who we partnered with, how we collected our data and how we’re now able to say we’re carbon neutral.
I’m not an expert by any means but the Road to Carbon Neutral can be a long and winding one and I know I was grateful for the help I received along the way.
So, to tell you about our Road to Carbon Neutral, we need to go back to the beginning, June 2021…
The Training Arena…
I am a fierce advocate of the environment and sustainability and, luckily for me, our COO, Eddie, felt similarly compelled to take action. So, in June 2021 we launched a Sustainability Committee headed up by myself and made up of a small group of Sustainability Advocates from across the business, from our CEO to Junior team members and everything in between.
My first task was to write a Sustainability Pledge, setting out our intention for Coatsink to be “mindful of our environmental impacts, to act more sustainably as a team, and give back to a planet that has given us all so much.” Fellow Advocate and Brand Strategy Manager, Ray kindly turned it into a blog for us.
We tackled some easy stuff first like launching an internal Sustainability Channel; a dedicated space for all things environmental where we can learn, share knowledge, advice and encouragement about sustainable living, make suggestions and come up with ideas.
Ray and I joined the Ukie Sustainability Group to become part of a wider network of games industry professionals helping to shape the collective industry approach to tackling climate change.
We launched a cycle scheme, relaunched our metro pass scheme and promised to be mindful of the environment when giving back to our team. (We now always opt for packaging free, earth conscious options for our t-shirts, we try to get creative with gifts like introducing an extra holiday for birthdays instead of just another “thing”, we gave staff mini christmas trees last Christmas and ran a competition to see who could be the most creative in decorating it sustainably, alongside donating to the National Trust to plant a tree for every team member we have). We chose the Ocean Cleanup as one of our four charities to support during our year long Coatsink10 celebrations and raised a total of £5k, doubled to £10k by Coatsink, split evenly between the four charities.
We had fun organising this stuff and it made us feel like we were accomplishing something but, all the while, the thought of calculating our corporate carbon footprint and becoming carbon neutral loomed large in the background.
We tried to research how, as an SME games business, we might get started. We came across Ukie’s Green Games Guide and Play Create Green, a “climate handbook for game companies by game companies”. We looked to fellow games businesses who were ahead of the curve to see what they had done, like Space Ape who wrote a blog about their journey and we connected with ustwo Games who had very impressively gone it alone. But, overall, we felt out of our depth and, with something so important, we wanted to get it right.
So, we moved to looking at organisations who might be able to assist us and, after a little research, we chose ClimatePartner, an organisation who support businesses with climate action In August 2021 we had our first kick-off call with two of their Sustainability Consultants and finally started climbing that mountain!
ClimatePartner use the GHG protocol for carbon accounting, breaking emissions down into:
Scope 1 = direct emissions (i.e. from facilities and vehicle fleets)
Scope 2 = purchased electricity and gas (at facilities)
Scope 3 = indirect emissions (i.e. player user data)
The first step was to select a timeframe for our first period of data collection. We went with 1st April 2020 – 31st March 2021; not a typical year by any means, but perhaps a less complicated place to start. As a result of the pandemic and being in-between offices, we had no studio, no commuting and no events to account for. This meant we had no scope 1 or 2 data to collect and all data came under the scope 3 category.
Under scope 3, our main areas of focus were:
1. Home Office Working (number of employees x number of home office days per employee)
2. Business Travel (private vehicles usage – fuel consumption x mileage)
3. Purchased Goods & Services – External Data (cloud computing – data volume in GB, location of data centre, power origin)
4. Player User Data (for games developed and published by us, total number of games downloaded x size of download)
The overall process looked like this:
1. We collected our data and, for all except our player user data which was shared via an excel doc, we submitted it through the ClimatePartner software.
2. ClimatePartner reviewed any data gaps and we mutually agreed upon some assumptions to fill those gaps.
3. ClimatePartner completed our calculation and presented us with our Corporate Carbon Footprint Report.
4. The report highlighted areas of high emissions to focus on reducing.
5. Where it was not possible to reduce or avoid, we offset.
A Side Quest…
We didn’t need to include player usage data in order to calculate our footprint and be awarded a carbon neutral label but, understanding it would make up a significant portion of our emissions, it felt necessary to include it. It was, however, by far the most time consuming and complicated area of data collection. What data was available and how easy it was to access depended on the platform. ClimatePartner were able to fill some gaps with accurate industry averages however, as always, the more “us specific” data we had, the better. So, where we could, for games developed and published by us, we collected and shared information about the total number of games downloaded and the size of the download.
Another aspect of player user data was establishing online usage for each game and using a social media poll in order to fill information gaps, i.e. who plays online and for how long. So, we put together a Twitter poll asking the following questions for each of our online titles, and shared the data we collected with ClimatePartner:
- When you play Title, do you ever play online? Never / Sometimes / Usually / Always
- Online play: How many times do you play per week? 1-2 / 2-3 / 3-4 / 4-5 / 5-6 / Daily
- What is the usual duration of your session in minutes? <15 / 15-30 / 30-45 / 45-60 / 60+
Beating the Final Boss level…
At the end of May 2022, nine months after our first kick-off call, we finally received our Corporate Carbon Footprint report from ClimatePartner. The full report can be found here but the gist of it is, between April 2020 and March 2021, Coatsink produced 160 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of around 18 Europeans.
Our carbon emissions breakdown into the following areas:
63.8% External Data Centres (including player user data) = 102 t
34% Home Office = 54 t
2.2 % Private vehicles = 4 t
The next step was to look at where reductions might be made. As it was such an unusual year with no studio, no commuting, and no events, there was limited scope to reduce this time round. ClimatePartner helped us out with a few suggestions…
External Data Centres – The vast majority of this is from the games themselves, the downloads and playtime. Once Coatsink has sold a title, the game moves beyond your control in terms of where it is hosted, your role therefore becomes one of engagement. Engagement with the platforms you work with and sell to, but also with the wider industry with the aim of switching to renewable energy providers for servers and driving down the computational intensity of games (even incrementally). The latter would not only decrease the energy usage of a title but would also extend the lifespan of gaming equipment from laptops and graphics cards to consoles and screens, all of which have a hefty carbon footprint, as well as wider environmental impacts in the form of strip mining for rare metals and plastic pollution from lack of recyclability.
We are part of the Ukie Sustainability group who are working towards these goals and we recently ran a green coding discussion with our department heads and Dan Wood from Ukie to explore the idea of “green coding” and green activations in games.
Home Office – Working from home can have many benefits from a carbon point of view, particularly the lack of commuting. It can also be an opportunity for employers to offer some less run of the mill benefits such as home energy audits and utilising collective buying power to negotiate lower rates with renewable energy providers.
The majority of our staff continue to work from home and with the cost of living crisis and huge increases in energy bills, these are interesting options to explore.
Private Vehicles – Encourage the use of public transport to ride share wherever possible, and to pick the greenest rather than necessarily the cheapest option.
We already have a metro pass and cycle scheme and travel by our IT department is unavoidable as they deliver and collect equipment from team home offices. Post pandemic some of our team have begun commuting again so we can expect our private vehicle usage to increase in our next calculation. We can promote our schemes and encourage car sharing.
Achieving the Platinum Trophy…
In order to claim carbon neutrality and receive the ClimateParter carbon neutral label, we needed to offset our emissions. Finding a reputable offsetting project to invest in can be a bit of a minefield and it’s wise to proceed with caution; not all projects are what they claim to be. It’s essential to source your offsetting projects through a reputable provider who has independent third party auditing and accreditation based on international standards such as the Verified Carbon Standard and Gold Standard.
ClimatePartner’s wide portfolio adheres to all of these standards and, from this, we presented our team with five projects to vote for and we offset our emissions based on the percentages of votes they received. We chose a worldwide clean oceans project, clean drinking water projects in Sierra Leone and Ethiopia and a wind energy project in Brazil.
To become carbon neutral ClimatePartner requires a minimum offset of 110% of emissions to ensure there is a safety buffer for anything which may have been missed. Because this was such an unusual year it’s likely to be the smallest footprint we ever have, so we decided to offset 200% of our emissions meaning we are carbon neutral and have double offset our emissions. Our Carbon Offsets Certificate can be found here and more information about the projects we supported can be found on our ClimatePartner Climate ID tracking page.
It certainly wasn’t an easy win but we made it! Huge thanks to my fellow sustainability advocates and to everyone who was involved in this achievement. We hope this blog might be helpful to our industry colleagues who, like us, care too much about our precious home to sit back and watch it burn.
So, what happens next? We start work on calculating our next carbon footprint of course!
There has been time for some fun too though, like our Team Beach Clean with the Marine Conservation Society in the Summer. Find out more about our day here, including how we collected nearly 3000 items of litter in just a couple of hours!
And we’ve got something exciting planned for Veganuary… watch this space!
End Credits… Special thanks to…
|The Coatsink Sustainability Advocates||Other Coatsink Contributors||With Support From|
|Ruth Thomlinson – ClimatePartner
Jessica Benghiat – ClimatePartner
Dan Wood –
Emma B - Administration Manager
Emma is the Administration Manager and a member of the Senior Management Team at Coatsink. She has a particular interest in the environment and sustainability and heads up our Sustainability Committee.