A small portion of the Mai Ndombe REDD+ Project lands along Mai Ndombe Lake, imaged by a Dove satellite in Low Earth Orbit © 2017, Planet Labs Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Curious Planeteer working to make the Earth's changes visible, accessible and actionable.

Offsetting Planet’s Carbon Emissions—A How-To Guide


Planet’s gone carbon neutral.

Enabling others to be better planetary stewards has been core to our mission here at Planet.
Our data has a powerful effect on the decisions businesses, governments, and scientists make about our Planet. With that in mind we made the decision to examine our own company practices and take efforts to offset our carbon emissions.

Here’s what we did and how we did it:

Step 1: Picking a Standard</font size=”+2″>

In the industry of sustainability, there are many available standards to measure carbon neutrality against. All of the standards divide different types of emissions into stratas or “Scopes”.

Scope 1: direct emissions, like natural gas
Scope 2: indirect energy emissions, like purchased electricity
Scope 3: all other indirect emissions, such as purchased goods or services

Some emissions standards include only Scope 1 and 2 emissions, considering Scope 3 emissions to be optional. At Planet, we want to do our very best to act responsibly for our Earth, and thus selected to validate our neutrality claims under the internationally accepted PAS 2060 standard—one that encompasses all three Scopes.

It’s no surprise that this nebulous “third scope” casts a really wide net when it comes to understanding and measuring our carbon footprint. Scope 3 includes everything from employee business travel, shipping and receiving, daily employee commutes, and even space transport—that’s right, it includes rocket launches.

Step 2: The Audit</font size=”+2″>

To understand the complete scope of our company’s carbon emissions, we conducted a diligent audit. We asked every employee to fill out a survey with information about how they commute and where they travel, we pulled the details of all the materials purchased for our manufacturing line, and we even calculated the carbon emissions of the rockets that carried our Doves into space. The data collection and audit was thorough, and sometimes a bit tedious, but we learned some interesting things about our company operations.

A majority of our carbon spending as a company lies not in our manufacturing—or even rocket launches, for that matter— but in employee business travel and commuting. Take a look at this comparison of Earth Transportation (Employee Commute and Business Travel) vs. Space Transportation (Launch):

Space earth transport

Pretty striking difference.

All in all, Planet was found responsible for 1,790 metric tons of carbon emissions. Our audit was then validated by an independent third party consulting firm, SCS Global – an approved verification body under the Verified Carbon Standard – ensuring that our carbon footprint was fully accounted for.

Step 3: Buying the Carbon Offsets</font size=”+2″>

After the extensive auditing process, Planet was found responsible for 1,790 metric tons of carbon emissions in total during 2016. To counter these emissions, we have purchased and retired Verified Emission Reductions (VERs) from the Mai Ndombe REDD+ project—a carbon offsetting project that puts value to a tropical forest that grows along the western shore of Mai Ndombe Lake in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
map Mai Ndombe

In total, the project covers 300,000 hectares of tropical forest and wetland in the Central Congo River Basin. It is estimated that the Mai Ndombe REDD+ project will reduce carbon emissions by more than 100 million metric tons over the next 30 years. This project area—a former logging concession—is home to a number of unique species including bonobos, forest elephants, giant pangolins, and crocodiles. Our VER’s in this project area not only help to keep this habitat standing, but are also supporting the 50,000 people in the region with a lack of access to clean water and education, healthcare, and nutrition resources.

mai ndombe village
Land that makes up the Mai Ndombe project is home to 50,000 residents</font size=”-1″>

mai ndombe forest
Congo Basin Rainforest in Mai Ndombe, Democratic Republic of the Congo</font size=”-1″>

Step 4: Adjusting Policies</font size=”+2″>

While realities of our industry prevent us from being carbon neutral without the purchase of offsets, we are committed to being proactive rather than reactive, and working to reduce our emissions to the greatest extent possible. Armed with the information collected in our audit, we’re working to reduce our emissions, enacting new business travel policies, offering public transportation stipends for commuters, and upgrading office facilities.

For a more detailed report on our carbon neutral project, read the full Qualifying Explanatory Statement here.