Running a Minimum Viable Climate Audit
It all started with a Slack message in our #random channel, as any good idea does. Over the last couple of years, our team at Customer.io has felt increasingly anxious about climate change and eager to do what we can in every area of our lives. So I wondered, what can Customer.io do?
The climate working group
As a people-first company, we feel responsible for our impact on the sustainability of our planet. But with only 165 employees (as of Feb `22), it’s hard to find the time and resources to devote someone’s role to measuring and improving our climate impact. So we took the scrappy approach: organizing a working group to identify the biggest opportunities. But where should we start?
A first step
We decided to approach improving our environmental impact the same way we approach building our product: what’s the minimum action we can take to learn more and iterate?
Before identifying solutions, we needed to better understand our current environmental impact. This would not only set a baseline for future improvement but help us weigh the different areas we could tackle. Larger companies might pay someone to do this kind of audit, but we decided to do the first one ourselves, knowing it would be limited.
The minimum viable audit
- Identify all the areas of our business that have an environmental impact. We heavily relied on reports from larger companies with more resources to map these areas:
- Office Space
- Remote life
- Retirement Allocation
- Roles and structure
- HeyTaco (our internal appreciation engine)
- Set up a grading system. Since this was our first take, we were okay with a qualitative system based on the following criteria:
A: Doing everything we can.
B: We are trying some things but not doing everything we can.
C: We aren’t proactively doing anything, but our impact isn’t large.
D: We aren’t doing anything, and the impact is large.
- Split up the areas and do research. This was the hardest part because each area required a different measurement. Some were direct estimates of CO2, like air travel and server usage. Some were more open-ended – do we think our customers are hurting the environment? Enough to worry?
- Rate each area based on our grading system. Again, this step was fairly subjective. I looked at everything we knew from our research at gave each category a grade, then shared with the rest of the working group to see if they agreed.
- Synthesize as a whole to discover opportunities. With all our grading in place, it was easy to pick out the worst offending areas and also the lowest hanging fruit.
You can view our public report here.
Being remote reduces the possible impact of commuting and office space. We’re also donating a significant portion of our year-end giving to climate organizations.
Being remote also means we use more electricity and gas in our homes. We still think it’s slightly better for the environment to be remote, but not as much as we initially thought.
No surprise here, but our biggest negative impacts are air travel and server usage. In non-covid times, we fly to company retreats twice a year, plus individual team meet-ups. We’re planning to identify destinations in the future that require fewer legs/flights for more of our team and build that into the criteria for how we choose a city.
Each team is now responsible for taking what we learned and applying it to their work. We continue sharing ideas in our new #climate Slack channel, and we’ll run another audit in a year or so to see if we’ve made any meaningful change.
Madeline has been with Customer.io for 3.5 years as our Design Manager. She lives in Oregon and spends a lot of time outside with her dog Lola. Climate change has had a direct impact on her town over the last few years as the rate of wildfires and smoke-clogged days has increased heavily.