How the Wikimedia Foundation is continuing efforts to reduce its carbon impact

Children luckier than birds, by Dilan Bozyel, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Wikimedia Foundation is striving to ensure that our work and mission support a sustainable world. Today, we are releasing our annual sustainability statement, which chronicles the total 2019 carbon footprint of the Foundation’s work. The statement continues to commit us to become more environmentally sustainable and conscious of our environmental impact while we work to make free knowledge available to every human being. You can read the statement and details of our footprint on Wikimedia Commons, which holds much of the media used on Wikipedia and its sister projects. We’ve included a short summary of the statement and footprint below.

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For two consecutive years, the Wikimedia Foundation has worked with Strategic Sustainability Consulting to assess our carbon footprint, summarize the results of our efforts in our sustainability statement, and identify recommendations to meaningfully reduce our carbon impacts in the future.

The carbon footprint included the environmental impact of all direct spending of the Wikimedia Foundation, including its internet services, office, distributed staff and contractors, travel, and major events. The carbon footprint did not include the impact of indirect spending, such as grant-funded activity, cash investments, or endowment investments; nor did it look at the totality of the Wikimedia movement’s emissions.

The sustainability statement we’ve published today details that the Foundation caused approximately 2.37 kilotonnes of CO₂-equivalent impact in the calendar year 2019:

    • 73.15% was due to global air travel
    • 26.74% was due to electricity usage (data centers and other facilities)
    • 0.12% was due to natural gas and refrigerants (offices)*

From 2018 to 2019, our carbon footprint decreased 7.66% overall, largely due to data center improvements that resulted in lower emissions (46.69% lower than 2018). Additionally, to improve the accuracy and consistency of year-over-year travel reporting, we performed a retroactive analysis of our 2018 emissions. As a result, we have revised our total 2018 footprint from 2.1 to 2.57 kilotonnes. This adjustment captures the flight emissions on the date of travel rather than on the date of flight booking. For all future assessments, we will calculate flight emissions based on the date of actual travel.

In 2019, as part of our strategic roadmap, we created the Sustainability Consortium, which consists of a cross-functional team of Foundation staff that are dedicated to helping create, implement, and advise executive leadership on potential activities to reduce the Foundation’s global carbon impact. Additionally, in December 2019, we produced and published our first sustainability statement which shares our:

    • Mission statement – Affirming our commitment to reducing the carbon impact of our activities on the environment
    • Framework – Ensuring a green focus will inform our work and decisions, and reflects our passion for being resource-considerate
    • Strategic Roadmap – Outlining the deliverables we will produce
    • Metrics – Assessing the composition of our carbon footprint and commitment to monitoring

Looking ahead to 2020-21, we are excited to embark on a full fiscal year of sustainability programming and exploring new opportunities, including strategic partnerships, expanding grant opportunities, and increasing the reach of virtual edit-a-thons for staff and community together.

For more information about the Wikimedia Foundation’s sustainability efforts, please visit our Sustainability Meta page. You can also ask us a question on the talk page at meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Sustainability. Last year’s report is here.

* Please note these data points are rounded up, resulting in a combined percentage of just over 100%.

Lydia Hamilton, Director of Operations, Operations Department
Deb Tankersley, Senior Program Manager, Technology Department
Wikimedia Foundation