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How Madrid-based Vermila Studios encouraged its staff to become green-fingered

Vermila Studios’ blueprint for a more sustainable games studio

Founded in 2020, Madrid-based Vermila Studios is an up-and-coming studio with a young team and some big ideas on how to put sustainability at the forefront of the business. The company is currently hard at work on its debut game Crisol: Theatre of Idols, a first-person horror adventure set in the town of Tormentosa, a Hispanian village with an ancient past. 

David Carrasco is CEO and Co-Founder of Vermila, and leads a close-knit team of 20. He’s had a passion for sustainability and green action for a long time, and with the creation of Vermila he has been able to weave this passion into the way the business is run day-to-day. 

“I’ve always been an eco-minded person, and really wanted the company I helped build to operate that way as well. Since we first founded Vermila, we’ve tried to integrate as many sustainable best practices as possible. But I think 2021 has been a real turning point. The constant stream of new information being unearthed about climate damage, coupled with the growing global support for the movement, has spurred me to take an even more active role.” 

Key to making this eco-conscious approach work has been the active participation of the staff. The desire to be more sustainable is a key value that’s part of the job appeal for staff joining the company. On top of that, David and the senior team’s approach has been to give everyone at the studio the autonomy to play their own part, and know that small actions collectively make a big difference.

The company had tried a variety of things in the past, from donations to smaller actions like switching up company policies and practices to promote sustainability. However, although these actions appeared to be well received by the staff, there was a collective feeling that it was the company taking on this green work at arm’s length, rather than the staff taking an active role themselves.

“I wanted to do something which involved the staff far more and gave them an individual sense of achievement. That’s when I came across ReTree, a non-profit organisation dedicated to reversing deforestation around the world. Each year, a single tree has the ability to remove 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air. When you multiply that by millions of times – that’s a huge amount of potential,” explains Carrasco.

With ReTree, every member of the team is given a small sapling, like a pine tree, or flowers, along with compost and plant pots to help them grow. They then take their tree home and care for it – something which is the ultimate in hands-on sustainability..

Going from sapling to a tree that can be planted outdoors takes between 6-9 months, so we’re expecting our first crop of trees to be ready by mid-spring. Once they’re sufficiently grown, ReTree invites you to actually come and plant the tree with them; if that’s too much of a commitment, they can also take it and plant it for you – sharing photos and its final location as well. 

The reception from the Vermila team has been extremely positive, with plenty of good feedback to Carrasco and his senior team. The only downside seems to be that company  group chats are usually inundated with progress pictures of people’s ‘babies’! 

Sweden’s Embracer Group acquired Vermila in August 2020, it’s been a supporter of Vermila’s desire to be a greener company as issues of sustainability and equality are high on its agenda too. (It’s worth mentioning at this point that Embracer Group is also a member of PlayCreateGreen!)

Initiatives like ReTree are a simple and low-cost way to engage staff and can be rolled out quickly when the studio is as small as Vermila. Carrasco was pleased to find Embracer Group supporting his initiative, but he’d like more ‘big players’ in the games industry to move sustainability up the agenda. 

 With the ReTree idea working so well, does Vermila have any plans for other company-wide schemes? Carrasco says not right now – but only because the staff are engaged with raising their first batch of new trees. “I can’t speak highly enough of ReTree, so we’d definitely like to do more with them in the future. So right now, I expect it to be a yearly initiative moving forward. In an ideal world, I’d love to make Vermila a carbon-negative organisation, but that’s maybe too ambitious and complicated for the time being. For now, we’re really determined on being carbon neutral by using fewer plastics, buying locally, and doing the simple things well.”

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