Like so many individuals and organizations, we are alarmed about the accelerating pace and devastating consequences of the global climate crisis.
As an institute, we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint. But we also want to be honest about the trade-offs this entails for an organization like ours – and about the ways in which we wrestle with different ideas and approaches to translate this commitment into meaningful action.
International travel (for field research or to conferences, for instance) is – and will remain – a key part of the kind of work we do: scientifically rigorous and safe face-to-face interviews with those who are on the receiving end of humanitarian aid, for example, are usually impossible to replicate in a virtual setting. Similarly, effective international dialogue programs that aim to build trust between individuals rest on real-world exchanges between people and cannot be conducted purely online (we were forced to learn this particular lesson during the COVID-19 pandemic).
At the same time, the pandemic has also revealed clear advantages of virtual events, which go beyond a reduced carbon footprint. In many instances, the shift to online meetings has allowed us (and the think tank sector at large) to reach wider audiences and become genuinely more accessible. We have also worked to improve our skills in facilitating online exchanges as well as getting the most out of phone and video interviews.
We are still figuring out the best path forward. Nevertheless, we have committed to a number of steps to get us there:
- We will carefully weigh, on a case-by-case basis, the benefits of in-person meetings against the expected footprint of related travel. Virtual meetings are no panacea, but we do believe that they are often a feasible alternative. Where possible, we want to keep promoting online interactions to reduce the need for travel.
- We encourage travel by train. If this means additional costs, we cover them.
- If air travel is the better option, we will compensate the carbon emissions produced by flights through a carbon offsetting mechanism that strives to fulfill high standards both in terms of actual positive impact and transparency. At the moment, we do this through atmosfair.
- As a purely project-funded organization, we will work with and try to convince our funders and partners to cover the costs for carbon offsetting through project budgets. Where we do not succeed with this approach, we will compensate for our emissions anyway.
- When talking or writing about the climate crisis, or when visually depicting it (e.g., through photos on our website or social media channels), we commit to being mindful of the language and imagery we use. In particular, we will aim to avoid euphemisms that obscure or misrepresent the magnitude of the challenge we face.
If you would like to know more about additional changes we have made to our everyday office life, exchange thoughts on sweating the small stuff, or if you have suggestions for how an organization like GPPi can better contribute its share, please get in touch at email@example.com.