Since we started Faculty, we’ve always been driven by our belief that AI can change the world.
But it’s also clear that we can’t claim to be making the world better if we’re contributing to climate change in the process.
Since the start of 2021 we’ve taken a long look at our carbon emissions – and, crucially, the role that we want to play in the fight against climate change from this point onward.
The first step in this process was becoming a founding member of the Tech Zero taskforce, alongside allplants, Bulb, Starling Bank, Citymapper and a host of other innovative brands. But there’s still much more to do.
The bottom line is this: we’re committed to offsetting our carbon footprint in the short term, reducing our emissions in the longer term, and exploring how AI can actively support other organisations as they work to reduce their own emissions.
Where do our carbon emissions come from?
We began by working with Supercritical to calculate our carbon footprint and explore ways to offset our impact.
Like many tech companies, the biggest sources of our carbon emissions are cloud computing and employee commuting – or, for the past year or so, the emissions generated by employees working from home.
We’re also growing fast; we expect to be around 400 people strong in the near future. That’s very exciting in terms of our ability to serve our customers, but it also means that our carbon emissions are likely to expand over the next few years.
That means that any action we take now needs to be scalable. Over time, we’ll need to keep increasing the time we dedicate to the problem, the offsets we buy and the support we provide for carbon-cutting innovations.
Offsetting our carbon footprint
While we work towards actively reducing our footprint in the longer term, we’ve begun investing in climate action projects to offset any emissions we make in the short term.
We choose these offsets carefully and pragmatically – we only invest in the projects that most efficiently and effectively move the fight against climate change forward. Planting trees, for example, is probably the most traditional form of offsetting, but not necessarily the most effective in the long term.
With that in mind, we’re primarily investing in offsets that will permanently reduce the carbon that we emit through our day-to-day operations.
For example, we’re helping explore the use of biochar – plant and animal material turned into charcoal which, when mixed with soil, stores around 2.7 times more carbon than traditional soils. We’re combining this with enhanced weathering and bio-oil sequestration, both will permanently remove the carbon that we emit in 2020 within the next 6 months.
Reducing our carbon emissions in the future
While carbon offsets help balance our climate impact now, we’re exploring more measures to actively reduce the size of our carbon footprint in the future.
To start with, we’re building a plan that lets us work with our cloud providers to draw more of the power we need to build, run and deploy AI from renewable energy sources.
We’re taking the end of UK lockdowns as a chance to explore ways that we can optimise how we use office space, supporting the needs of both our people and the planet.
Like many businesses, we’re still figuring out what day-to-day working life will look like in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – however, it’s likely that we’ll shift to more of a hybrid working model that balances office collaboration with remote working. With that in mind, we’re taking the end of UK lockdowns as a chance to explore ways that we can optimise how we use office space, supporting the needs of both our people and the planet.
Finally, as a member of Faculty’s board, I’ve been appointed special responsibility for overseeing our emissions and our progress towards our goals. It will be my role to keep us accountable going forward.
Using AI to combat climate change
Solving difficult problems is what we do. It’s what drives every one of our people to head to work in the morning. It’s difficult to imagine a problem more demanding of our attention, or more ripe for innovation, than the future of our planet.
So the next step in this process is clear: we’re actively investigating how we can work with other companies to find environmentally sustainable applications of AI.
‘Sustainable AI’ covers a huge range of potential situations: we could be reducing the carbon emissions of our customers’ AI implementations; helping businesses reduce their footprint by working as efficiently as possible; or creating AI applications for climate change organisations that tackle challenges like climate risk modelling or environmental impact measurement.
Through the Faculty Fellowship, we’re already working with a number of companies to explore how AI can support sustainability organisations. Five of the twelve host companies involved in our 19th fellowship work in the sustainability sector, and we expect to work with many more in the future.
Let’s make technology a force for good in climate change.
As with most issues we face in our society, it’s clear that technology can either be part of the problem or part of the solution when it comes to climate change. With these sustainability initiatives, we’re hoping to push towards the latter – building a strategy that minimises our carbon emissions while funding initiatives and innovations that will help to create a sustainable future for us all.