As life slowed down in many ways over 2020 and 2021, we had a little more time to reflect on and invest in what’s really important to us at Space Doctors. Next to commercial conversations, discussions about wellbeing, balance, and sustainability have come to the top of the pile this year.

Global organisations like ours have the responsibility and influence to make our environments the best and most healthy possible places to be. That means caring for the planet, while also looking after our own little worlds and communities.

Last year, with a big birthday on the horizon, we wanted to make sure Space Doctors could look to the future with a clean slate. So, in December 2020, we started our journey to retrospectively balance all of our carbon emissions generated from our founding in September 2001, right through to our 20th birthday in September 2021.

As a company, we needed fresh activities to focus and unify us towards joint values and away from the everyday. But achieving a large-scale project like this with the right detail, data, and tangible action is an incredibly complex and time-consuming task, so our birthday wish wasn’t going to be realised overnight.

We couldn’t trace and chase 20 years of emissions on our own. That’s why we partnered with the World Land Trust, a global conservation charity whose work goes a fair bit further than just planting trees. Their Carbon Balanced programme allows companies to offset unavoidable emissions by funding the permanent purchase, protection, and restoration of threatened forests and ecosystems across the world. Once the seed was planted, we all united around the ambitious deadline.

But before we could choose which specific WLT projects to invest in, we needed to audit just how much carbon we were dealing with. Our two most carbon-greedy activities over the past 20 years have been air travel and utilities. Luckily, research and analysis are in our blood at Space Doctors. And with thorough guidance from WLT about the specific information we needed to pull, we leveraged a mix of hard data from our travel agency’s yearly reports and from our utility providers, as well as our own calculations and educated estimates based on the memory and records of our long-standing colleagues.

Breaking down our business processes in such detail was overwhelming, but also a valuable chance for us to be critical about what ‘normal’ looks like and how it has to change. It took us a few tries, but now we’ve seen the facts, we’re not going back.

Sustainable actions and values can’t just be a bolt-on. They have to live and breathe in the wider context of an organisation and be woven through the ways we think and operate. Offsetting is just the beginning. Space Doctors may be Carbon Balanced, but what we now do with that blank slate is what really matters.

We’re a global company, so while we know we’ll continue to have a carbon output in the future, this project has kickstarted a conscious mindset that’s here to stay. We’re now an official corporate supporter of WLT, and our rolling agreement to offset unavoidable emissions means we’re now constantly taking the time and resources to plan around more sustainable alternatives to reduce emissions in the first place.

Large-scale projects like the Carbon Balanced programme are a fantastic way for teams to situate themselves in their impact on the wider world while looking after the wellbeing of their own communities. But whatever the scale of our sustainable stories, we have to start telling them.

In 2022, we need to do more than just plant trees. But let’s plant the seed, set the standard, and act with positive momentum for the health of both the planet and our people.