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Humanitarian Data Solutions’ Environmental Impact Guidance Note

Last Updated: 27th September 2022

Why this guidance note?

As a company, we have the opportunity to uphold the values (together!) that we hold personally. One of those values is having a positive impact on the environment and climate. The impacts of climate change/climate chaos have an out-sized impact on individuals and communities in low and middle-income countries that we are passionate about serving. So – this is our reasoned understanding of our own impact, and our commitment to making decisions that balance environmental risk with other business outcomes.

Carbon Neutral Certification

As a small company, our carbon emissions are very low. We therefore hold and renew a monthly certification with Carbon Neutral Britain, who plant 30 trees each month on our behalf and offset 6 tonnes of carbon emissions monthly, which is well above our use.

We do not believe that carbon neutrality is a sufficient measure of success for environmental impact, as it does not necessitate us to take proactive measures to reduce our impact. Therefore this document summarises the different areas of environmental impact we believe we create through our business.

Summary of Environmental Risks, Impact & Mitigating Actions

Risk Description Risk Rating
(1-low to 9-high)
Likelihood Rating
(1-low to 9-high)
Impact Rating
(rank high to low)
Mitigation Actions
Much of our training is online – requires electricity and internet connection to watch the training. Higher risk because renewable-energy sources might not be as easily available in low-income countries. 3 9 27
  • Accept Risk (as it’s already reduced compared to in-person). The alternative is in-person training, which holds more environmental risk of needing to travel, etc.
  • Estimate carbon emissions to understand scale.
Our clients work in many different countries. Some client projects require us to travel to be on-site. This transport requires air-transport that relies on fossil fuels. 5 5 25
  • Reduce likelihood. Where possible, provide services remotely.
  • Mitigate Risk. Where in-person client delivery necessary, offset carbon emissions.
We send out certificates physically to students around the world, which requires international transportation. 2 8 16
  • The purpose of sending physical certificates is a feeling of connection among global community.
  • Estimate carbon emissions to understand scale.
  • Mitigate Risk. Offset carbon emissions.
Our team is dispersed and might need to meet in person. When we meet, we require transport which could negatively impact the environment. 3 5 20
  • Reduce likelihood. Prioritise online meetings for regular contact.
  • Reduce impact. Use public transport (prioritise train & bus) where possible.
  • Mitigate Risk. Estimate carbon emissions for an in-person meeting and offset.
Our use of computers, mobile phones, cameras, and other training technology uses electricity, which might be fossil-fuel based. 2 9 18
  • Reduce risk. If possible, request employees consider renewable-only energy companies.
  • Estimate carbon emissions on annual basis and offset carbon emissions of working from home.
Our service providers – all the software we use – require electricity to keep up our software. 2 9 18
  • Reduce risk. Simplify number of software providers whenever possible.
  • Understand service providers’ environmental commitment as part of selection and prioritise those with good environmental practice.
  • Estimate carbon emissions and offset.
Physical consumables. We print out paper when doing proposals and reporting, etc. 2 7 14
  • Reduce risk. Avoid paper-based printing when possible.
  • Track through ink subscription & offset emissions.
Physical item purchase. We purchase hardware, furniture, and other company assets, which requires natural resources to create. 2 7 14
  • Reduce likelihood. Before purchase, consider need.
  • Prioritise recycled and reused (second-hand) items whenever possible.
  • Estimate carbon emissions and offset.

Environmental Impact – Tracking & Review

Almost our entire use of resources that impacts the environment can be tracked.

We track home-based use of electricity and gas through billing statements of each employee on an annual basis.

We will track future transport and flight carbon emissions for in-person travel.

Where possible, we will estimate carbon missions for the other activities stated in the risk matrix above.

Why do we accept some level of environmental risk?

Risk is a set of trade-offs. Sometimes, we will prioritise human benefit (such as delivering a physical package to create a feeling of community) over environmental impact. However, these are never absolute decisions and are always open to consideration, especially based on data.

We also know that we are a very low environmental-impact small company, and that our choices (for example, to not have an office) are already reducing the environmental impact we have on the world. Therefore, we feel we must accept the alternative (e.g., have a laptop and heating on during the day at home). By encouraging employees to use renewable energy sources where possible, and to turn all equipment off at night, and then by offsetting this impact through a carbon neutrality programme, we feel we are at a level to accept this low risk. However, tracking this will also help us understand the trade-off and the continued impact.

Our Partners

This process helps us understand that our partnerships with suppliers and clients is important in our quest to reduce our environmental impact. Where possible, we will understand our partners’ environmental policies to understand the commitment we’re making with them.