Startup Climate Guide

What startups can do to understand their climate impact and take actions to address it.

What climate actions can companies take?

There are many different ways for companies to address their climate impact, but it can be hard to know how to get started. In 2018, three organizations (Gold Standard, World Wildlife Fund, and CDP) published the Corporate Climate Stewardship: Guidelines for Best Practice Climate Action, which gives companies a simple framework to define and execute against an effective climate strategy. This guide covers some easy ways to get started in each key pillar, without getting in the way of your business.

Carbon Accounting
Understanding climate impact through your carbon footprint

Quantifying your “carbon footprint” or “carbon emissions” is the first step in measuring and reporting your climate impact.

  • Carbon emissions are typically measured in tCO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent gas), which is determined by converting different greenhouse gases (GHG) into the CO2 amount that’d have an equivalent atmospheric impact.
  • Calculating your carbon footprint, also known as carbon accounting, is the process used to evaluate and aggregate emissions produced through company activities and purchases.
  • The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) is the world’s most widely-used standard for measuring, managing, and reporting greenhouse gas emissions for companies.
  • For software startups, following the full GHG protocol is difficult and needlessly complex. Instead, you can use a simpler approach (adopted by companies such as Stripe, Salesforce, and Lending Loop) to account for your largest sources of emissions. This still follows the GHG Protocol’s breakdown of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, but limits your emissions calculations to the few activities that matter most.

To perform a basic DIY estimate of your carbon footprint, follow the simplified GHG protocol framework below. For a much more detailed and accurate assessment, check out services such as Watershed Climate or

A Simplified GHG Protocol for Startups

This breakdown follows the GHG Protocol’s guidelines for defining Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, but limits your calculations to the few activities that matter most for startups. Use this simplified format to inform your carbon assessment and report results. See Lending Loop for a good example of this in action.

Taking Action
Actions you can take to help the climate

Don’t know where to start?

  • Examine your company operations and assess your carbon footprint.
  • If you are primarily providing software services, your choice of cloud provider is likely the biggest source of your emissions. Review the Clean Cloud Computing Guide to learn how to take action to reduce these emissions.
  • Use this chart to identify other actions you can take, and learn from other startups.
Startup Climate Actions
CategoryActions You Can TakeReal-World Examples
Employee Commuting– Encourage the use of low-emission commuting options and transportation benefits, such as public transportation and bicycle subsidiesStripe & Lending Loop offer Lyft transportation benefits; Lyft has committed to carbon neutral rides
Business Travel– Limit flying whenever possible
– Convert offsites to virtual gatherings
Food– Reduce your consumption of meat and other high carbon footprint foods
– Purchase food in bulk to reduce packaging
The Meatless Monday movement to skip meat once a week is practiced by companies and universities all over the world
Clean Cloud– Switch to a cleaner cloud provider or data center region
– Optimize services to increase computing efficiency
Etsy and Shopify migrated from their own data centers to Google Cloud Platform for 100% renewable energy
Lending Loop switched to clean Amazon Web Services (AWS) regions
MapBox evaluated their AWS usage to increase efficiency and leverage clean regions
Software Supply Chain– Assess climate impact when evaluating a new software provider or renewing an existing one
– Request information from companies that do not disclose their emissions
Salesforce, Stripe, Mapbox, and Shopify have committed to providing 100% carbon neutral services
Office & Building Energy– Request utility information from your landlord/building managers; take measures to decrease usage and increase efficiency
– Participate in local renewable energy programs
CleanPowerSF is a program of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission that allows community members to opt into 50-100% renewable energy purchases
Invest in Carbon Reduction– Evaluate and select carbon offset purchases using trusted standards (e.g., Gold Standard)
– Invest in carbon reduction and negative emissions technologies
Stripe selected four initial negative emissions and carbon reduction technologies in which to invest: Climeworks, Project Vesta, CarbonCure, and Charm Industrial
AdvocacyLearn about and support the climate policies that matter to you where you areClimateVoice mobilizes employees and companies to take action via business practices and policy advocacy.
Sunrise Movement provides recommendations for local events and voting guides
Additional resources and tips via A Guide for Employees: How To Make Your Tech Company Sustainable
Sharing Your Story

Now that you’ve made it this far, help amplify awareness and show your employees, investors, and customers that you’ve taken action by following the checklist below.

Startup Climate Action Checklist
  • Read through this guide
  • Calculate your carbon footprint (a rough estimate is fine) and assess the climate impact of your cloud provider and software supply chain
  • Identify a few actions you can take today, and goals you can set for next year
  • Switch service providers when possible; request more information and transparency if you need it
  • Put together a climate report and action plan
  • Share your plan with your employees and investors