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How to make the planet a stakeholder in your business

Businesses aren’t exempt from doing what’s best for the planet—and that includes tech businesses that don’t have any physical products.

Behind the scenes

Last updated

12 May 2022
How to make the planet a stakeholder in your business

We must look at ways to reduce our footprint and do better—not only for the planet but also for the health of our communities. 

Making the planet a stakeholder in your business isn’t some ‘nice-to-have’ or ‘we need to do something eventually’ sometime down the road. 

It’s a ‘must-have’ now because there’s no more time.  

Companies must lead the way—not individuals 

Companies don’t exist in a vacuum. 

They’re a part of society. Companies are made up of the people who live in society, and they make products and services to sell to society. We can’t detach them from their communities. If anything, they have a much higher responsibility than individuals. 

I’m actually not a big believer in putting a lot of responsibility onto individuals. Individual impact on the deterioration of the climate is very small compared to more affluent members of society or corporations. 

When we talk about climate, we talk about climate justice and not just climate crisis. Climate justice factors in the effects of privilege and different degrees of contribution as well. 

Take the recent example of Brussels Airlines. Brussels Airlines flew more than 3,000 empty planes just so it could keep its take-off and landing slots at the airport.

Responses on Twitter sarcastically asked individuals to ‘do their part’  by using paper straws—something that, in light of what Brussels Airlines did, is almost laughable. 

There’s a magnitude of difference between 3,000 empty planes consuming thousands of gallons of fuel and the 20 million individual decisions to avoid using plastic. Both are important, but one decision has an immediate and massive impact on the planet. 

The weight of responsible decision-making is skewed heavily towards corporations, but they also consume a much larger amount of the planet’s resources.

They use roads more often and exhaust more natural resources. Their utility consumption is high, so they have a big responsibility to save as much as possible so there’s some left for the rest of us. It’s a communal responsibility. 

In short, the time for tech companies to act is now. If we push it all off to big tech or the oil companies, we’ll continue to be part of the problem. 

Three ways to be an environmental ally now 

When it comes to planet-first initiatives, there are essentially two ways of doing business. 

There are companies who are willing to exploit the planet, their staff, and stakeholders just to hit growth targets. Then there are companies that will draw the line at any kind of exploitation, even if it helps them grow quicker and be more successful. 

In the last five to ten years, we’ve seen an increasing number of companies choose to be in this second camp—including Hotjar. 

Here are three ways to be part of the solution: 

  1. Register as a B Corp: HelpScout, The Body Shop, and Allbirds are all registered B Corps (companies that are verified in meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability) 

  2. Pledge 1%: Hotjar, Patagonia, and Atlassian all pledge 1% of their profits to global initiatives 

  3. Mandate no exploitation: companies commit to not exploiting employees, customers, or the planet in any part of their business regardless of goals 

As of now, 81% of consumers want to buy from brands that are committed to environmental sustainability.

Nearly one in three customers will stop doing business with a brand if they have concerns about its sustainability.

Over time, consumers' expectations will only work with brands that have the planet as a stakeholder. 

Consumers want to work with and buy from responsible companies doing their part for the planet. Otherwise, they’ll happily take their business elsewhere. 

Bottom line: We’re all becoming more conscious of our mark on the planet—but tech companies of all sizes must act faster. 

What can tech companies do to become carbon neutral? 

In certain industries, sustainability can be pretty straightforward. Food brands can use recyclable packaging or organic produce, jewelry brands can use local labor, and furniture brands can use natural materials. 

But what about tech companies? These are companies that are inherently online, so it would seemthat they don’t have much impact on the planet. In actual fact, they do. 

One solution is to go fully distributed—no office space, no headquarters, and a fully-remote team.  

There are two components to this: 

  1. Reduce the footprint of your employees 

  2. Reduce the footprint of the product you sell

Reduce the carbon footprint of your employees 

The footprint of your employees will ultimately depend on how big your company is. 

Corporations with 15,000 staff members will obviously have a much bigger footprint than a tech company with 20 employees. 

For example, in 2020, Hotjar released 535.70 tonnes of CO2e (measured in partnership with Carbon Footprint). To give you a sense of what that looks like in terms of people, we finished 2020 with 133 employees on the team. 

By the end of 2021, we were able to close the year off by offsetting 20,000 tonnes of CO2e. 

So regardless of how many people you work with, consider taking these two steps to get closer to carbon neutral. 

1. Reduce the Commute

Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to our carbon footprints. Every business trip, every employee commute to the office gets you further from being carbon neutral. The easiest thing to do is take away or significantly reduce commuting and air travel.  

2. Ditch the big office 

If you’re thinking of adding a massive office in a busy metropolitan area, remember that your footprint is going to be much higher than a company with a remote team. 

Instead, consider taking away your offices altogether. Taking away your offices removes the need for upkeep and large-scale utility consumption, reducing the carbon footprint of each person.

Reduce the carbon footprint of your product

It might be hard to believe, but the internet has a huge carbon footprint. Even though you’re not using manmade materials, packaging, or fuel to transport goods, you’re still making your mark on the planet. 

In the case of tech companies that are primarily online, it’s all about energy reduction. Look at what kind of data centers you’re using and where your services are hosted. Then, try to find renewable sources of energy to power your services and applications–this will make a big difference. 

How to make the planet a priority 

The planet is a priority for both consumers and businesses. 

Positioning it as a stakeholder will ensure that you consider it as if it were another person on the team and that you’re reducing your carbon footprint. This appeals to consumers who are increasingly seeking out businesses that do their bit for the planet. 

If you don’t know where to begin, consider the three actions mentioned above: register as a B Corp, pledge 1%, and mandate no exploitation. For some more concrete examples, look at how Hotjar is giving back. The most important thing is to just start somewhere, starting now.

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