Sustainability Check: We still need to do better
‘7 months too early’. Such was the headline for our Overshoot Day article published back in March last year. 364 days have passed since then, and whilst we wrote ‘let’s push this date for next year’, we, Danes, need to decrease our consumption with far more than a single day per year if we are to overcome just some of the dire outlooks in the IPCC’s latest assessment report published last week. Therefore, we, at Kontrapunkt, mark this day by assessing our agency's carbon impact and consumption patterns.
Calculate, reduce, remove, repeat: Our carbon emissions strategy
Although the current ecological crisis stems from far more than just carbon emissions, a carbon strategy seemed like the most tangible place to start for an agency like ours with no physical product footprint. The strategy is simple and straightforward: Calculate yearly emissions. Reduce emissions by decreasing consumption or switching to lower-carbon alternatives. Compensate for unavoidable emissions through carbon removal investments. And so we reassess our progress each year, picking up on areas where we’ve improved and addressing where we still need to do better.
But, admittedly, our first year with a carbon emissions strategy reflects an increase in yearly emissions. We expected this as 2021, our baseline-year, was still characterised by travel and transport restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As Japan re-opened for international travelers in 2022 we realised just how much we had awaited to be back. And that shows in our new carbon emissions report where tCO2e from travel has nearly tripled, ultimately placing travel as our #1 emissions-post. Our presence in Japan will undoubtedly continue to challenge our goal of decreasing emissions from travel. We ask ourselves: how do we balance maintaining international relationships with an ambition to fly less? So, we try to tweak where we can: we are restricting the number of colleagues who go on business trips and prioritise virtual meet-ups when available. Flying is the exception, not the rule — no matter the destination or project.
Philip, our Executive Creative Director and Partner, enjoys the golden hour with our colleagues, Tomoe and Yuki, on his first trip back to Tokyo following the pandemic.
"Can you see me?". Yuki, our Strategist in Tokyo, chats with Marta, our Graphic Designer in Copenhagen, on a cross-office project with an international client.
Hence, when we went on a company-wide trip to Berlin this summer, we weighed our options. A bus was selected over flights in spite of the extended transportation time, and we realised that this new approach was also a new opportunity. Going by bus allowed us to connect as a team with seated exercises and a low-quality microphone entertaining us for the eight hours between Copenhagen and bustling Berlin. In other action points we have looked into our office operations. We have switched to a fully vegetarian canteen catering from .506 — a caterer whose entire ethos is driven by sustainable food habits. A smart-technique has been installed for optimising lightning-schedules and a spare fridge has been turned off permanently to save energy. New office carpets have been sourced secondhand and recycling bins have gotten an even better upgrade.
We still have more questions than answers. We are always open for ideas, chats and perspectives - or criticism of something we have overlooked. Don’t be shy to reach out.
Nanna Fischer, Impact Analyst at Kontrapunkt
A portfolio for impact
Last year we made an internal commitment to compensate for our unavoidable emissions through a yearly carbon removal portfolio. Not only do we believe it to be the right way to take responsibility for our toll on the climate, we also see it as an incentive to boost our efforts towards decreasing our carbon footprint. The carbon removal market can be a tricky place. Stories of double-certification and wildfires blazing through trees planted in carbon removal projects have spurred doubt about transparency and efficiency. The Danish start-up Klimate is helping us navigate this space by consulting us on the removal methods available and ensuring traceability on the projects we invest in. Last year, we purchased our first portfolio with an internally-imposed quota at 82€ per tCO2e. Our ambition is to increase this quota over time, ultimately allowing us to invest in carbon removal portfolios with higher permanence.
For our 2021 portfolio we removed 69 tCO2e. As we received our 2022 carbon emissions calculations just in time for this Earth Overshoot Day, we are still in the process of selecting our 2022 portfolio.
Becoming a better business
In the pursuit of becoming a more carbon-conscious agency, we realised that the devil is in the details. Everything we do, as well as everything we’re involved in, has an impact. To truly transform our ways, we need to think holistically. To do so, we have begun the process for becoming a B Corp. B Corp is many things at once — a certification, a corporate sustainability standard, a community, as well as a holistic assessment of corporate impact. Over the years, and the last few in particular, the B Corp movement has been on the rise as more companies are looking towards becoming better businesses, and in the beginning of 2022, we submitted our impact assessment and began the further process towards certification. It’s important to note that, for us, becoming B Corp is not just a certification or an achievement — it is an ongoing process where we aspire to actively rely on the B Corp analysts’ and community’s best practice sharing to continuously evolve our own practices and consequential impact. As 2023 has begun, we are excited to follow our next steps towards becoming a better business.
In the meantime, here is what we are inspired by:
- The tricky thing about climate change is that we hardly see or feel it until it feels like a crisis (think excessive flooding) or a rare occurence (such as extreme cold and snow storms in an otherwise warm Texan spring). When watching 'Breaking Boundaries' — a documentary on our planet’s boundaries — we get a much better sense of what is happening to our ecological environment.
- Just because we don’t produce physical products does not mean we do not have a larger sustainability impact deriving from our work. Solitaire Townsend’s TedTalk on ‘Brainprint’ briliantly captures how agencies, consultanicies, and the like, should be mindfull of their impact on consumer behaviour and corporate strategies.
- The global climate crisis will implicate almost every area of our life. In their paper, ‘On The Emergence of an Ecological Class’, authors Schultz and Latour provide their perspectives on political ecology in a climate crisis.
- If the internet were a country it would be the 7th most polluting country on Earth. Digital design can — and shall — develop towards more sustainable practice and Microsoft’s ‘Green Design Principles’ sketches out ideas for exactly how that can materialise.
- The Climate Pod gives food for thought when they approach climate change from a range of perspectives and outlooks. Whilst covering both macro- and micro trends within the field, scientists, journalists, activists, and passionists are invited to share their thoughts on this weekly podcast.
- Search engine with a sustainable twist. Ecosia is an inspiring take on how to make the internet a more concious space.
Looking to bring your report up to speed? Talk to Nanna Fischer.