The global pandemic continues to present challenges to our Species360 members and our team, changing the way that we live, work, and serve our communities. Along with the struggles, there have been a few positive outcomes, including a change in our impact on the environment. As we look ahead, we intend to build upon some of the lessons learned.
Among the changes, our carbon footprint at Species360 was radically reduced in 2020 and will remain reduced through 2021 and beyond. Our travel in 2020 was eliminated due to COVID-19, as were our commutes to the office. Both will likely be minimal for most of 2021 as well. And we’ve decided working from home is actually better for our team and our productivity, so we are ending our office space lease. We may come back to an office in the future, but it will be much smaller and used less frequently. The reduction in our climate impact from our office space and significantly reduced commutes will be significant. We are also going to provide virtual options for our board meetings that involve 30 or more individuals from around the world. Providing a virtual option will improve accessibility of the meetings, reduce costs, and reduce the massive carbon impact of international flights.
In other changes, we have rolled out a new set of Environmental Social Governance (ESG) funds that allow our team to consider environmental, social, and governance issues in their retirement planning. As is common in the United States, Species360 offers 401k retirement savings plans for our US-based employees, and the ESG funds provide an opportunity for us to invest in environmentally responsible companies. These terms are often used interchangeably with “socially responsible investing” and “sustainable investing.” We have watched many large universities, conservation organizations, and governments divest their pension, endowment, and other funds, including the state of Minnesota and the city of Copenhagen. (Minnesota is our headquarters location and Denmark is home to our Conservation Science Alliance team.)
The idea is that reducing the money invested in fossil fuel companies reduces their ability to produce climate changing fuels, and over time clean energy will take their place. It also reduces investor risk as the fossil fuel industry continues to lose the cost battle with renewable energy, and has struggled as an industry for many years. The recent Heated newsletter from the fun, quirky, and well informed climate journalist Emily Atkin provides some interesting context on the progress of fossil fuel divestment.
Of course, the greatest impact will be made as all of us, and especially industry, transition away from using fossil fuels every day. We need to continue to push for policy change to support this transition or it just won’t happen fast enough. It is encouraging to see our current administration in the U.S. firmly committed to making the first set of changes that are necessary to minimize future impacts of climate change.
The last 10 months have been hard for our member community, but we can still make positive change – and with the rollout of vaccines there is light at the end of the COVID tunnel. I hope you are all safe and well.