The London-based mobile games company Space Ape has chosen a quite hands-on approach to lessen their negative impact on the climate. They’ve decided to take the time and do the research on how you can measure and reduce the emissions of a game company – and they’re happy for you to copy their method.
The approach Space Ape settled on was one laid out by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol; define, measure, offset and mitigate. In this article, you can read about how Space Ape went through these four steps and where they went for help and inspiration.
We’re lucky to be walking a well-trodden path addressing our carbon footprint. Because of this, we were able to make the knowledge and experiences shared by others. And now we share our and hope it can help othersNic Walker, Head of Technical Operations, Space Ape
Figure out how you define your carbon footprint
In order to define an approach, Space Ape as mentioned above looked at the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which divides emissions into three ‘scopes’: 1) Direct emissions 2) indirect emissions and 3) everything else.
- Scope 1, direct emissions – For other companies, this might be a power station, an engine or company vehicles. In other words emissions happening at the company. For Space Ape scope 1 only includes burning of gas on a stovetop.
- Scope 2, indirect emissions – Accounts for the emissions caused by the generation of electricity, steam, heating/cooling happening somewhere out of the control of the company, but purchased by the company. Space Ape includes their electricity bill in this scope.
- Scope 3, everything else – This one was more tricky as it includes: supply chain, flights, company purchases, cloud computing, employee commutes, deliveries, waste. As an addon, Space Ape also included the energy used by players’ phones playing their games.
Scope 1 and 2 are relatively simple to figure out for a game company. But with the third one you can easily find yourself going down a rabbit hole. Scope 3, Space Ape chose to map their value chain by following these guidelines on value chain accounting and reporting standards from the Greenhouse Gas Protocols. The guidelines can be used as a framework and step-by-step guide to identify and categorise your company’s value chain.
As mentioned earlier, this isn’t revolutionary work, Space Ape stand on the shoulders of others, who have done something similar. So the advice is to learn from other’s mistakes and successes. Space Ape highlight these texts How we went carbon neutral, Stripe’s carbon-neutral journey, SMALL BUSINESS USER GUIDE: Guidance on how to measure and report your greenhouse gas emissions. But, it might be more useful, if you could find cases from the country you are operating from, as some things vary.
Once the emissions were defined, Space Ape went into measuring how much they amounted to.
Calculate how much Co2 your company emits
Measuring emissions requires you to search for an array of data from different sources, which then go into calculating your total carbon emissions. When doing calculations there is a risk of making things too complicated – often by having good intentions of making things right. However, there isn’t always a correct answer, and with smaller emissions, it often isn’t worth the time.
Some good advice we decided to follow was not to sweat the stuff that’s less than 1% of your total Scope 3 emissions. When you zoom out of your greenhouse gas calculations you realise that the real villains are probably your international flights, your servers in the cloud, and so on. Focus your efforts on getting those measured and understood; it’s a better tradeoff than worrying about whether you should measure the carbon emissions from your office groceries.Nic Walker, Head of Technical Operations, Space Ape
To find data for the various elements you have to look in different places – and sometimes also make guesstimates. Finding the right information can often be helped by contacting your supplier, finance department or HR department as they might have existing data you can use. Below you can find some of the places where Space Ape went to obtain data for their calculations.
- Flights – The travel booking agency had information on Space Ape’s total kilometers flown.
- Hotels – The travel booking agency also supplied a list of the numbers of nights stayed in Hotels
- Cloud computing – Space Ape’s cloud provider helped analyse their usage and estimate carbon emissions based on spend.
- Tech purchases – Some companies – like Apple – already publish a lot of helpful information about the carbon footprint of their products. Other companies – like Dell, HP and Samsung – don’t provide a lot of information, but Space Ape was able to scrape enough together to make an estimate.
- Player usage – Space ape already had their own analytics data, which detailed numbers of hours played per country.
- The rest – By distributing a survey amongst their employees Space Ape was able to make qualified estimates about aspects concerning the team members.
You can see Space Ape’s spreadsheet with all their data in it here. This can serve as inspiration if you are looking to make a similar calculation for your company.
To convert these numbers into kilograms of CO2 emitted Space Ape used this conversion sheet made by the UK government. It provides lists of how much CO2 to calculate for different types of flights and hotels. The United States provides a similar sheet here. To convert player’s usage, Space Ape used this paper, which lists the amount of CO2 emitted from generating electricity in each country.
We calculated our total carbon emissions in 2018 to be 750 tonnes CO2. Our players emitted a further 180 tonnes (not included in the visualisation above). We committed to offset double this – partly because we believe our emissions should have some pain associated with themNic Walker, Head of Technical Operations, Space Ape
However, not all offsetting initiatives are created equal. Choosing the right projects requires you to do your due diligence.
Fund climate positive projects around the world to compensate for your emissions
Carbon Offsets are a way to compensate for your carbon emissions by funding a project that takes carbon out of the atmosphere or otherwise reduces emissions. Space Ape chose to work together with the Swiss carbon finance company South Pole, who they believed to have high-quality projects that deliver tangible change.
In the end, we chose a Cambodian water filtration project and another protecting a swathe of rainforest in Isangi in the Dominican Republic of Congo. We chose them largely because they have social and health side-benefits for the communities they’re run in.Nic Walker, Head of Technical Operations, Space Ape
What does it cost to offset?
The price to compensate for CO2 differs, depending on which project you choose to fund. There are different NGOs and companies that can help you choose the right project to support. One of these is Gold Standard for the Global Goals where the projects vary from 10 USD to 30 USD per tonne of CO2.
However, offsetting doesn’t solve the problem – you still emit carbon dioxide. Therefore, the goal for Space Ape is to reduce their footprint by 10 % in 2020.
Reduce your emissions
Having already measured their carbon emissions, Space Ape has looked into each category and identified places to cut emissions. The two major chunks of their emissions are cloud servers and flights – so that’s where they looked to reduce first.
To reduce kilometers flown, they started three initiatives. First, Space Ape opted to substitute travel with conference calls when possible. Second, they scheduled for travel to be clustered, so more could be done on one trip, thereby reducing the number of times flown. Lastly, they encouraged colleagues to use rail when traveling short haul European trips.
In terms of cloud services Space Ape have been looking for ways to make their games run more efficiently They believe this can reduce their carbon footprint by up to 2 %.
In order to keep the reductions going in the long term, you need to have a sustainable mindset when contracting new partners. By adding sustainability as an important factor for future purchasing decisions you can ensure that your emissions don’t go up. This has been key for Space Ape since they started their journey to reduce carbon emissions.
Longer term, we need to find ways to partner with businesses that lead the way with sustainability themselves. So we started asking – and the answers will factor into our future purchasing decisions.Nic Walker, Head of Technical Operations, Space Ape
Another aspect is adjusting the behaviour of team members. Getting your own behaviour in line with what you preach as a company can help shift the culture towards making sustainable choices. Although it may have limited impact on the immediate carbon footprint, it can have a big impact on changing mindset in important future decisions. Also, people like acting sustainably. You just need to enable them.
Some of the things Space Ape have done are:
- Making recycling easier by adding bins around the office for easy access
- Reviewed grocery lists to look for more sustainable and recyclable products
- Provide Keepcups so people don’t need single-use cups and lids every day
- Switch from paper towels to hand dryers in the bathrooms
- Plenty of meat- and dairy-free options in the catering
Engage your employees in the process. Ask your staff to self-record and fill out surveys of their own personal footprint, for commuting for example. This will encourage them to learn a little bit about the impact their own actions have and empower them to make a difference. Plus it’s the data you need for your measurements.Nic Walker, Head of Technical Operations, Space Ape
On a final note Space Ape has been completely upon with their journey towards a more climate friendly future for their company – and they encourage everyone to do the same by you to sharing knowledge and experiences about efforts to help the climate.
Our final commitment last year was to share this information and help others embark upon their own journeys. Our hope is that, we can help others and they continue to help others too, then we catalyse the process towards decarbonising gaming.Nic Walker, Head of Technical Operations, Space Ape
About Space Ape Games
Space Ape is an award-winning studio based in London, with a mission to make the greatest games on mobile. It was founded in 2012 and formed a partnership with Supercell in 2017.
Titles: Samurai Siege, Rival Kingdoms, Transformers: Earth Wars and Fastlane: Road to Revenge, which collectively have been downloaded more than 100M times.