The bright side of business: Fullscript empowers employees with carbon-neutral push

Dylan Trebels
Dylan Trebels is Fullscript’s senior product manager and one of the local tech company's employees that spearheaded the push to go carbon-neutral.
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Ottawa-based health-tech firm Fullscript believes in taking a holistic approach to wellness – first for patients, and now for the planet.

Fullscript develops an online platform that helps health professionals across North America prescribe natural supplements. Last month, the company announced its carbon neutral certification: balancing the carbon it emits with the carbon it absorbs back from the atmosphere. 

“As we grow, emissions grow, so we need to find ways to become more efficient,” says Dylan Trebels, Fullscript’s senior product manager. Trebels is spearheading the initiative alongside his colleagues. “It wasn't leadership saying, 'this is something we're going to do. It was myself and a couple of other people who are passionate about this.”

Going carbon neutral

In addition to its Ottawa office and a Toronto distribution partner, Fullscript has warehouses in Arizona and Pennsylvania. In late 2019, Fullscript hired Toronto-based Carbonzero to create a corporate carbon reduction strategy. To get the ball rolling, Fullscript shared data on everything from its utility bills to company travel and shipping destinations. From there, Carbonzero estimated the company’s 2020 emissions, which are to be compared with a year-end audit.

Fullscript
Fullscript's chief medical officer, Dr. Jeff Gladd (holding the microphone) and medical director Dr. Alex Keller regularly give talks to the wider Fullscript team.

Three different scopes of emissions were assessed across all of Fullscript’s facilities, starting with the direct burning of fossil fuels through natural gas heating. That’s followed by indirect emissions, which are typically related to electricity use.

Trebels says many companies limit their efforts at reducing emissions to these first two “scopes.” But for Trebels, scope three – all other indirect emissions from sources that a company doesn’t own or control, such as transportation and distribution –  represents “the meat.”

Fullscript’s scope three assessments also included its server electricity and shipping methods.

“Eighty per cent of our footprint comes from something we have no control over if we still want to get goods to our customers.”

“Eighty per cent of our footprint comes from something we have no control over if we still want to get goods to our customers,” Trebels says. “I would love to see a future where we can ship every single package in an electric or zero-emissions vehicle.”

For emissions that can’t be reduced, businesses can compensate by paying for activities that absorb emissions, called carbon offsetting.

“We decided we're going to offset everything right off the bat,” Trebels says.

Fullscript purchased offsets from the Ontario Biodiversity Afforestation Project, planting trees along a northern Ontario highway. Since the start of the year, Fullscript has offset an estimated 3,400 tonnes of carbon.

“It’s about 222 years of emissions for an individual Canadian,” Trebels says. “Another equivalent measure is about 22,000-23,000 miles (covered by) driving a passenger sedan every single day for a year.”

Fullscript won’t know the exact cost of going carbon neutral until its end-of-year audit with Carbonzero.

“Offsets can vary wildly in cost,” Trebels says. Some industry estimates range from under $1 to over $50 per tonne of carbon, depending on the offset’s quality and location. “We tend to aim higher on that scale, just because there's better social benefits to keeping it closer to home. You want to keep the money within the local economy.” 

Empowering employees

Both Trebels and Fullscript president Kyle Braatz say the key to the project’s success was securing the buy-in of the company’s employees. This also meant that the sense of accomplishment rippled throughout the entire company, Braatz adds.

Kyle Braatz
Fullscript president Kyle Braatz.

“I remember when Dylan actually announced that we'd gone carbon neutral. You could see individuals in our team tearing up. It was that important to them,” he says. “As a company, to invest in what's right, but also what's right for our people – it's a no-brainer.”

Braatz recommends that other companies considering a carbon-neutral strategy ensure they have an internal advocate who's going to drive and educate the organization, as well as a leadership team that's bought into the vision.

For his part, Trebels has both a challenge and a warning for other businesses: Initiatives such as these might not be an optional nice-to-have measure in the coming years.

“This will become table stakes. Businesses who aren't focused on social good and where they can have positive impacts on the environment may not be around,” he says. “We're not a gigantic tech company, and we're still doing this. It is possible for smaller and mid-market companies to do this.”

The Bright Side of Business is an editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success.

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