Sustainability is a core value here at Scalable Path. While sustainability in part refers to that of our employees – taking care of themselves so they can consistently perform and feel good about their work – it also reflects our passion for the environment, and our commitment to protecting and preserving it.
As a team, we felt it was important to turn our passion into action, and so we began to research how best to spend our dollars. In the early stages of this journey, I stumbled upon a podcast with Sam Harris and philosopher and ethicist William McAskill. The podcast discussed effective altruism and how it could vastly increase charitable impact. The core of the message was this: often, despite our best intentions, philanthropic efforts could be more effective if we put more forethought into where and how we donate.
According to McAskill, adopting a data-driven approach to donating – known as strategic giving – increases the impact of every dollar a company gives. Given this, if more companies adopt this model, we’re collectively better able to do more good for our world.
In 2021, Scalable Path made the decision to donate 10% of our profits to climate change. Our team has always been interested in the environment, and climate change in particular, because of its impact on the long-term survival of our species. But finding the right organizations to support, and landing on a specific climate-related priority, was a challenge.
In this article, I’d like to share how we selected the organizations we did, and what we aim to achieve through strategic giving.
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Why We Donate 10% of our Profits to Climate Change
Our decision to donate 10% of annual profits was inspired by an organization called The Founder’s Pledge. The pledge invites founders to give a “meaningful percentage” of their personal proceeds to a non-profit for life. While the Founder’s Pledge was originally created for individuals, we immediately resonated with the idea: our team recognizes the importance of consistently donating over time, and selecting a percentage meant that if our success grew, so could our impact.
Choosing a Climate Change Organization to Support
The Founder’s Pledge doesn’t require you to select a single organization or cause. Instead, they provide data on various social problems as well as evidence-led solutions. We already knew we wanted to contribute to climate-focused initiatives, because of its far-reaching implications for the planet and our species.
Scientists have long been examining the impact of climate change. In recent years, however, the pace of climate change and impact of global warming has been accelerating faster than research anticipated. For the last eight years, we’ve consistently had the hottest global years on record. The Arctic, long seen as an indicator of the pace and extent of global warming, has warmed at nearly twice the rate of lower latitudes. Wildfires are threatening natural habitat and agriculture across nations. Flooding and extreme rainfall are becoming not just expected, but common. And all of this is happening faster than predicted. Without major societal shifts and technological innovations, we may not overcome this global challenge.
While the decision to focus on climate change was clear, selecting the organization to support was not as simple. We wanted to choose a non-profit working on a meaningful problem with well-researched, evidence-based solutions. But we aren’t experts in climate science or charitable giving – and we weren’t willing to risk putting money toward something that wasn’t going to be truly meaningful. So we felt the best solution for our first year of giving – 2021 – was an initiative that funded thoroughly reviewed sustainable solutions.
For this reason, we chose to donate to The Climate Change Fund. This philanthropic fund supports a mixed portfolio of sustainable solutions, including emissions reduction and carbon capture. The organization has fund managers who get to know their specific domain extremely well, and it makes sense to me to delegate the important decision of which exact charities receive funds based on their performance and current needs. Here’s the lead researcher at the Climate Change Fund, Johannes Ackva, speaking on the Volts Podcast about effective climate altruism.
We donated to the Climate Change Fund again in 2022, and plan to for the foreseeable future. Anyone can contribute to the fund; if you’re interested in learning more about how you can donate, you can find out more below:
Becoming a Carbon-Neutral Company
Purely from the perspective of how much we donate, the Climate Change Fund is where we are primarily focused. But, alongside charitable giving, it’s always been a goal of ours to become carbon neutral.
While we’re under no illusions that we can single-handedly solve climate change, we do believe that Scalable Path can take steps to reduce its environmental impact. To this end, we set about researching and taking steps to become a carbon-neutral company.
Estimating our carbon footprint was challenging. Calculating the emissions of a remote team distributed across countries and continents was no easy feat. A person in France, for instance, might use more electricity than a person in Brazil because of shorter daylight hours and colder temperatures, but the person in France’s electricity is likely generated using more nuclear power which does not emit greenhouse gasses. There are so many variables between countries, and we didn’t think it was feasible to calculate and track it all. So we settled on a reasonable guess: that a full-time remote worker uses roughly 2 tons of CO2 per year on utilities while working. As of Spring 2022, we began purchasing carbon credits using this guideline, and can now say that we are carbon neutral.
Envira Amazonia Project
We chose to purchase our carbon credits by supporting a project in the Western Amazon called Envira Amazonia. We selected this project for two primary reasons. First, the Amazon is a region where major deforestation is currently taking place, and second, we can make a true difference by preventing deforestation in a region where it actually is occurring and make a larger impact in terms of CO2 sequestered per dollar.
We purchased the credits through Reforest’Action, a French B Corp that funds projects around the world to preserve, restore, or recreate forest ecosystems for the long term.
If you’re interested in offsetting your carbon emissions or have the goal of becoming carbon neutral, you can learn more here: https://www.reforestaction.com/en/contribution-climate.
Finding causes to donate to is hard. Finding organizations supporting those causes is even more difficult. It’s really hard to evaluate a cause or an organization, and it’s nearly impossible to see how work is carried out on the ground. Particularly if you’re supporting environmental or social causes in another country with a vastly different culture and landscape, you might feel like you’re throwing your cash over the fence, so to speak.
I’m not an expert in charitable giving or environmental science. What I do know, though, is that we are in a position to donate a meaningful percentage of our profits each year. There are people out there who spend their lives understanding some of these problems, socioeconomic systems, and scientific research. That’s why we donate to organizations – like the Climate Change Fund – who are experts in these areas. It helps us feel good about the money we’re donating, and reduces the fear we have that our cash might not be used as effectively as it could.
If you give to charity or partner with a company like The Climate Change Fund or Reforest’Action, we recommend telling other people about it. There is a stigma about publicizing your contributions, but you’re missing an opportunity if you don’t spread the word. We’re hopeful that by taking action and talking about it, we can improve the world and inspire others to do the same.