OPINION14 February 2023

How we are working towards ‘net zero’

Opinion Sustainability

In the first of a series of articles published with the MRS Sustainability Council, Zappi’s Nik Hazell outlines how the business is approaching the ‘net zero’ challenge.


‘Net zero’ is defined by OxfordLanguages as ‘a target of completely negating the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity, to be achieved by reducing emissions and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.’

Zappi has made a commitment to minimise environmental impact. We measure our impact, reduce where possible and offset where it isn’t possible. Our journey towards net zero began with a commitment in 2019, followed by a process of measurement, reduction, and offsetting.

This work was carried out by a broad group across the business; they say it takes a village, and in our case, it spanned from the chief executive to work-experience students, with everyone in between! What matters is the commitment and willingness to put in the effort. While the process shouldn’t be intimidating, it does take a fair bit of time and buy-in.

We do almost all of our carbon dioxide (CO2 ) calculations in-house, either from fundamental resources or first-principles. For example:

  • Emissions from flights are calculated from distances, frequencies, industry-accepted CO2-per-km figures, and a multiplier to account for high-altitude emissions
  • Emissions from servers were initially calculated from first-principles, and are now calculated with support from AWS
  • Emissions from laptops and hardware are calculated from Apple’s emissions data, a life-cycle calculation, Zappi’s depreciation policy, and a recycling/upcycling assumption.

We found most ‘off the shelf’ calculations overweighted the importance of things that aren’t a major contributor for us (eg paper), and underweighted things that are (such as server-emissions). 

Reduction is almost universally agreed to be more important than offset. We’ve taken steps to keep our footprint modest, even as our headcount grows. Actions we have taken include:

  • Reducing  unnecessary flights,
  • Remote support to minimise all travel
  • Zero-to-landfill policy in main office
  • Single-use-plastic-free offices
  • Working with AWS to understand server emissions
  • Cycle-to-work schemes
  • In-office green ‘nudges’.

Zappi has identified Reforest’Action as a trustworthy partner for carbon offsetting and tree-planting. Reforest’action allow us to take a double-impact approach, simultaneously protecting and reforesting:

  • Certified carbon credits are granted for protecting areas of the Amazon from deforestation
  • Seven trees per tonne are planted.

This dual approach avoids many accusations levelled against other offset schemes. Additionally, Reforest’Action adheres to many of the UN sustainable development goals.

Additionally, Zappi uses tree-planting to give employees, customers, partners, social-media a warm fuzzy feeling. These are different trees – we will never count them together. Whenever we talk about CO2, or net zero, or our footprint, we’re referring to the former. When you’re offered a tree-planting from Zappi as a Christmas gift, or we say “We’ll plant a tree if you give us your details” or anything like that – it’s the latter.

Looking ahead
There are several areas we are particularly keen to improve on:

  • Zappi employee pensions are kept in a variety of funds. Divestment from dirty industries is often seen as an overlooked action; whilst we respect the individual’s right to invest their money however they see fit, we look to educate people on the impact their choices have.
  • As the company grows (fast!), and air travel gets back to ‘normal’, we’re cautiously watching our behaviour to make sure that we don’t return to the old ways
  • Direct air capture:. Often touted as the only way to properly remove CO2 from the atmosphere, DAC is incredibly expensive. We’re currently looking at how we can make a small but tangible investment into DAC as part of our offsetting activities.

Nik Hazell is product manager at Zappi