ADVICE: How to Build a Carbon Neutral Workforce

A guest post by Joanna Auburn co founder of Trace

There is an increasing urgent pressure looming over us to act and do more for the environment. The problem is, as individuals, we don’t know what to do. This state of flux drives anxiety and ultimately in-action.

Your carbon footprint

This is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of your activities. Everything we do adds to our footprint, we can reduce it significantly by consciously thinking about our lifestyle choices. Understanding how your carbon footprint is made up is the first step, this quick quiz will help you do just that.

What is carbon offsetting and how does it work?

A carbon offset (or carbon credit) is generated from an activity that prevents, reduces or removes greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere. When you offset this means that for every tonne of CO2 emitted, one carbon credit is purchased. What people don’t often know is that the carbon credit funds meaningful and impactful social projects, helping to support sustainable development and improve the lives of communities in some of the poorest countries in the world.

Navigating the world of offsets

This can be difficult, just like in any industry there are scams out there but one thing you can do to ensure you are truly funding measurably impactful projects is look for the Gold Standard stamp of approval.

Verified climate projects deliver measurable benefits aligned to the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Like the Myamyn Lowland Forest Conservation project that protects the natural habitat of Australia’s vulnerable wildlife, or Safe Community Water Supply which helps increase access to safe water sources for communities in Rwanda.

Why should my business have a carbon neutral workforce?

For people and the planet

Going carbon neutral can deliver a range of social and economic benefits but at the root it is an environmental gesture. In 2018, scientists upped the ante on climate action and defined a very small window in which to act to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change,  stating that to protect the planet and sustain our livelihoods, we need to reach net-zero global emissions by 2050. Even with the most determined efforts to cut emissions at the source, businesses are still falling short of their net-zero goals. If you want to achieve climate neutrality, offsetting the carbon emissions you can’t reduce is currently the only way to do that.

And the added social development aspect means that your dollar could be supporting a tree planting project that provides an income to families, or go towards a renewable energy project helping to build vital infrastructure in a developing country – wins all around!

Employee engagement

Our research shows that one of the biggest challenges businesses face is making sure your employees feel engaged and connected to your efforts. Climate change is actually the top concern for Millennials and Gen Z and so we believe that companies that strive to protect the environment and clearly demonstrate this purpose to their employees will outperform those that don’t. By offsetting your workforce every member of staff will feel connected to the impact the company is making.

Drive change

Businesses are facing a plethora of their own challenges, however the experience of many of the world’s leading companies (including Amazon, Microsoft and Adidas) is that tackling climate change helps to improve efficiency, retains investors, and positively impacts reputation as a business and an employer. Sustainable business is a journey and not something that will be solved overnight. Whilst you are understanding your footprint as a business & setting targets you can offset your workforce so that your impact starts immediately.


About the expert

Joanna is the co founder and CPO of trace, she is an experienced product manager with a passion for sustainability and customer experience.  She has recently taken the leap to full time entrepreneurship after a career across a range of industries including renewable energy and fintech.


Image description: A photo of Joanna standing in a park in a bright red and blue jacket over a black blouse with her arms by her side, smiling at the camera.

Advertisement
Cat and Jo in the park

PEOPLE: Why Joanna founded Trace to remove 105,000 tonnes of CO2

Companies like Apple and CouriersPlease are making bold statements about their goals and accomplishments on reaching for carbon neutrality and off-setting their carbon emissions.

But how can everyday consumers ensure that we’re also off-setting our carbon footprint at an individual level?

This is what Joanna Auburn set out to address when she co-founded Trace, which uses members’ subscriptions to buy carbon offsets to neutralise their footprint. In this interview, Joanna outlines why she founded Trace and their approach to climate action.

  • What does it mean to ‘offset your carbon footprint’? How is this measured?

Offsetting your carbon footprint – what on earth does that mean?

Our carbon footprint is generated through our behaviours. Most things we do impact our footprint, anything from driving a car to reading our emails.

Many of us are conscious of our footprint and try to reduce our impact. Some people only buy second-hand clothes, others eat a plant-based diet and a small handful of superhumans (!) manage to cram their entire year’s worth of waste into a glass jar. And yet despite some of the most determined efforts to achieve net zero emissions, humans will always have a carbon footprint. That much is certain.

A carbon offset (or carbon credit) is generated from an activity that prevents, reduces or removes greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere. By purchasing carbon credits you are essentially funding these climate projects, and so ‘offsetting’ your footprint. 1 credit or offset = 1 tonne of carbon dioxide.  trace only purchases carbon credits from certified, externally verified, projects. The Gold Standard is an organisation that audits projects to ensure that 1 credit has the value of 1 tonne of carbon.

One of the best analogies I have heard to explain how offsetting works is to imagine a bath full of water. If you imagine that by living your life you are filling up the bath with water (carbon dioxide), offsetting is like pulling the plug and letting some of the water drain out.

  • What is Trace’s approach to helping consumers become carbon neutral?

We make it easy and rewarding for individuals to become carbon neutral. We procure carbon credits on our consumers’ behalf which offsets their carbon footprint. Carbon credits were not traditionally made for consumers, so we are turning what is currently a complex market with a transactional experience into a rewarding membership.

And if you’re lucky enough to work for one of trace’s amazing corporate clients, you are part of a handful of ‘carbon positive workforces’ in Australia – how good!

  • Why did you decide on a membership model?

We are building a movement and memberships give you a sense of belonging, like you are part of something. We want to build a community of people who care and can drive change.

  • Carbon emissions can be an overwhelming concept and climate anxiety is a particularly growing problem among younger generations. How do you recommend people approach concepts like climate change, carbon neutrality and carbon emissions, considering something as ‘positive’ as a party with 100 guests can lead to 15 tonnes of CO2?

Here here, we totally understand and this is exactly why we built trace! There is an increasing urgent pressure looming over us to act and do more for the environment. The problem is, as individuals, we don’t know what to do. This state of flux drives anxiety and ultimately in-action.

Many of us do small things everyday to wave the environmental flag, whether it be using a keep cup, recycling a plastic bottle or taking your own bag to the supermarket I am sure you can relate. In fact keep cups are used in over 65 countries around the world. The irony is that we go to great lengths to bring that reusable bag to the supermarket but most of us then jump in the car or (pre-COVID) hop on a plane and all the good is unravelled.

Unfortunately, even the most diligent and environmentally conscious individuals and businesses have a carbon footprint, anything from charging your phone to reading emails emits carbon.

We understand this dilemma and call ourselves “Climate conscious hypocrites”, and so built a product that enables you to give back to mother earth for all those things you just can’t change (easily). Whether you’re a jetsetter or an eco-warrior, Trace’s affordable monthly membership helps you take climate action by offsetting your footprint. And better yet, you can see exactly where your money is spent, read stories from the projects you support and see your impact grow over time.

  • What are the end-goals Trace is working towards? How do you measure success?

Our mission is to fuel a sustainable future, and have a meaningful impact in the fight against the climate crisis.

It is quite easy for us to put a number on our impact – a carbon offset or credit is equivalent to 1 tonne of CO2e, we have aggressive targets to remove 105,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2020. That is equivalent to us having 5000 members.


About the expert

Joanna is the co founder and CPO of trace, she is an experienced product manager with a passion for sustainability and customer experience.  She has recently taken the leap to full time entrepreneurship after a career across a range of industries including renewable energy and fintech.


Image description: A headshot of Trace’s co-founders, Cat and Jo in the park. Both are smiling and looking at the camera, wearing light coloured sweaters.