Our climate protection plan

At our last Ubirch summit we discussed what we can do as a company to protect the climate and reduce our carbon footprint. The first thing I found out – and did indeed touch me – was that said topic was ranked by ALL employees amongst the Top 3 issues concerning the whole company. And, as can be seen by the contributions, everyone at Ubirch really does care deeply about this topic and wants to contribute to change.

The other thing that struck me after looking at the suggestions is that you can do more than I had previously believed, even as a small startup, and ESPECIALLY as a tech startup.

In the following are the points that we discussed and decided to implement:

  1. Travel
    We want to reduce our overall traveling, especially short-distance flights. This is not easy, because we are a distributed company and we have to visit clients frequently. In order to reduce our carbon footprint nationally and regionally we will choose train over plane as often as possible (writing this blog post from a 4hr train-ride to Hamburg). In our team we will push for the purchase of Bahncards (German railway discount cards), even the Bahncard 100 (100% discount version) is fair game if justifiable. If flights cannot be avoided, we are going to compensate (see below 6). We are going to purchase better video and audio equipment and will try to do as many meetings as possible without any traveling, even with clients. We are beginning to offer the “Job-Bike” option to all employees. When commuting, we will do our very best to be preferential towards public transport (hard for me as a hitherto frequent cab-user).
  2. Internal Ressource Consumption in our Offices/with Clients
    Wherever possible we will do our very best to avoid unnecessary internal consumption of resources and, also wherever possible, will use recycled and/or green and/or fair trade materials. We will do our very best to avoid waste. We will check our suppliers for green standards and commitments. We will check lighting and other equipment for versions with less power consumption. We will do our very best to choose products that can be repaired over those that can’t (which will be tough, especially for the devices…). We want to use green digital products, if available, too. For instance a green search engine.
  3.  Food
    We decided to go for the vegetarian option, whenever we order food for clients, events, ourselves. We are going for seasonal and regional products from suppliers that show care for our planet. This btw I found most fascinating, because it is relatively easy to implement, everyone can live with it, and it can emanate huge symbolic power. Wow.
  4.  Carbon Footprint of our own product
    We are a deep tech Company using Blockchain and trying to convert as many things into connected products, as possible. Not the easiest point on this list – knowing that the tech-sector as such is one of the fastest growing segments in carbon emission at the moment. Of course we cannot stop adding internet to products, that’s what the company was built for. But we can try to make the best out of it. Connect meaningful products, e.g. in the smart-grid/green-tec field. Try to optimize our own software and hosting for power consumption. Use green energy in our data-centers if possible (we are mainly using Azure, will be an interesting discussion with our partners at MSFT). As we are a kind of blockchain company the spotlight is very much on us, when it comes to energy consumption. We will focus on creating an extremely power-efficient version of a blockchain for things. Already substituted our off-the-shelf side-chain with a proprietary implementation that is by far more efficient, but will continue to optimize, specifically this commitment in mind. And we are committed to open-source anyway – therefore any improvement in that field will be shared and made available for other companies and developers.
  5.  Focussing on a product development for a better climate
    Interestingly our product can have a direct positive impact on the subject, as well. We are already dealing with clients from the energy sector, and we will try to grow this fast. Our contribution comes down to a smarter, more efficient and better distributable sub-metering for energy consumption and production. The Ubirch system can count/gauge/meter green energy at the source of generation – and also on the consumption side, e.g. in a wall-box for an electric car. Therefore eco-systems where “true green energy” is consumed can be built and supported. We hope to see more of this in the near future. During the workshop we decided to prioritize this area in our product development and marketing/sales activities.
  6.  Introducing a carbon tax (yes!)
    We are tired of the ongoing discussion about a carbon-tax in Germany. Many other countries in the world and also the EU have implemented it, some of them a long time ago. Experts’ advice is pretty clear. Of course taxing carbon does not solve the problem – but we think it is indeed the right approach to get an overall picture of consumption, track and improve on it. Therefore we are going to work on our own carbon-tax and use the collected money to fund climate protection projects. Stay tuned, we will update here once we have reached the next step.
  7.  Lobbying for it
    Our plan is to promote and lobby for the above stated measures to improve on the carbon footprint of a company amongst our friends, partner-companies and also within industry associations (namely bvdw – German Federal Association for Digital Economy – as a starting point). Our main goal is not to create visibility for our company, but to at least try to create a meaningful response to the youths worldwide who have been protesting since many weeks now, against our failure to save and secure the planet. And we are sure, that many other companies are driven by that same willingness to reduce their carbon footprints and will follow suit or develop their own plans and share them.In order to track and measure our efforts we want to publish a report about our progress and learnings on a regular basis.

    In the name of our company and our resolutions, Stephan Noller

1 comment

Wow, I’m impressed by this climate protection plan that I find ambitious and realist at the same time. I really love it that climate protection is an important value for Ubirch!
I wasn’t present at this session in the offsite, but I’d still like to talk about a point that I find important in terms of effort for climate protection: the CO2 cost of buying new stuff (computer, smartphone, screens and so on) and how it can impact the carbon footprint of a company.
Although it is important and necessary to keep in mind, when buying a new device, that it consumes as little electricity as possible, a significantly more important factor in term of CO2 reduction is to simply not buy a new one.
Indeed, the biggest factor in term of CO2 emission of our devices (and, to a bigger extend, cars and other) is the manufacturing process.
We can see here https://i.imgur.com/XDrnnR7.png (from that during a 4-year use of a typical dell laptop, more than half of its carbon footprint is due to its manufacture (moreover, the dell CO2 manufacture emission estimation seems to be a bit too optimistic compared to other studies (https://phys.org/news/2011-04-factory-energy.html, around 250 CO2kg)).
Another important factor is the cost of production of a flat screen. According to Carbone4, a French consulting firm specialised in carbon emission, the CO2 manufacturing cost of a 32-inch LCD flat screen is of 1200 eq CO2 kg (http://www.carbone4.com/sur-les-5-dernieres-annees-lempreinte-carbone-des-francais-a-stagne/, sorry for the french). For comparison, the screen that I use in the office is a Samsung S24A850DW, which consumes 64Wh when on. Thus, with an average of 600g of CO2 / kWh in Germany (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1361920916307933), making it run 24/7 for one year would only amount for less than a third of its production CO2 cost. To put that in perspective, just buying a new screen + computer every year would amount to 1.5 tons of CO2, and only for the manufacturing cost. This amount is is half of the maximum of what every human should produce per year if we wish to keep the climate temperature rise under 2° (https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/wess/wess_current/2011wess_chapter2.pdf)
I’m not saying that it’s not important to buy devices that consumes less, I do believe that it is. But I think that it’s better to keep using a device X that might not be as power efficient as a new device Y, because just the pure cost of production of Y would be so high that the CO2 saved during its use would be negligible opposed to the pure cost of producing it. A better approach would be to keep using things as long as possible, and upgrade them when needed.

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