We review the sustainability credentials of the most popular productivity tools and help you to decide which to use and which to avoid.

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Digital technologies are responsible for 4% of worldwide carbon emissions. This means that if you are looking to reduce your business’ carbon footprint, taking a look at the green credentials of the technology you use is a great start. 

Our Sustainable Technology series aims to make this easier for you. In this article, we’ll review the sustainability credentials of the most popular productivity tools and help you to decide which to use and which to avoid.

How do productivity tools affect the environment?

Productivity tools are apps and websites that aim to make businesses more productive by helping teams communicate and collaborate efficiently. With productivity tools, there’s no need for your team to all be in the same place at the same time as you can work together on projects remotely and stay up to date on each other’s progress.

If you’re thinking of implementing productivity tools in your business for this reason, you’re not alone. Since millions of people have been forced to work from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the popularity of productivity tools has skyrocketed. While reduced commuting contributed to a 6.4% reduction in global carbon emissions in 2020, the installation of business and productivity apps rose by 35%. By 2027, the global productivity management software market is expected to reach approximately $103 billion

Many of the top productivity tools are owned by huge corporations. For example, Workfront is owned by Adobe which is worth almost $250 billion. It employs over 23,000 people worldwide and has 69 offices. The energy used in powering these offices, manufacturing its products and in employee travel incurs an enormous carbon footprint — 533,768 tonnes in 2020, to be exact. That’s equivalent to driving 1,627,992,400 miles, or around the Earth 65,378 times. 

The massive potential impact that companies like these have means it’s important to use and sponsor sustainable businesses. Though the definition of sustainability is not always clear-cut, here are some useful criteria to keep in mind when assessing a tech business’ green credentials:

Do they:

  • Have a sustainability policy? 
  • Use or plan to use 100% renewable energy to run their operations?
  • Have clear targets to be carbon neutral or negative by? 
  • Regularly disclose their carbon emissions?
  • Offer incentives to their employees for sustainable commuting habits?
  • Plan to reduce or eliminate their use of single-use plastic?

With this being said, here’s how 15 of the top productivity tools perform against these criteria.

Image credit: Pexels

Best Eco-Friendly Productivity Tools:

Productivity toolHas a sustainability policyUses 100% renewable energy to run their operationsWorking towards becoming carbon neutral/negativeRegularly discloses their carbon emissionsOffers incentives to employees for sustainable commuting habitsPlans to reduce/eliminate their use of single-use plastic
Microsoft PlannerAims to by 2025Yes
Jira✅ Carbon neutral by 2050
Trello✅ Carbon neutral by 2050
Asana✅ Carbon neutral now
Slack✅ Carbon neutral by 2030
WorkfrontAims to by 2035
Wrike
Basecamp✅ Carbon neutral now and for their cumulative history
Smartsheet
Teamwork
ProofHubNot declared Not declared Not declared Not declared Not declared Not declared
monday.comNot declared Not declared Not declared Not declared Not declared Not declared
ProjectManager.comNot declared Not declared Not declared Not declared Not declared Not declared
NutcacheNot declared Not declared Not declared Not declared Not declared Not declared
TargetprocessNot declared Not declared Not declared Not declared Not declared Not declared

Net Zero Timeline

Microsoft Planner

Microsoft Planner is part of Microsoft, which has 144,000 employees and is the third American company in history to be worth over $1 trillion

What they do well: 

  • Microsoft has a sustainability policy and discloses their annual carbon emissions in extensive sustainability reports. 
  • Microsoft has been carbon neutral since 2012, aims to become carbon negative by 2030, and aims to remove all the carbon they have emitted since their founding in 1975 by 2050.
  • They are committed to using 100% renewable energy in their operations by 2025.
  • By 2025, all single-use plastics will be eliminated from Microsoft’s primary product packaging and IT asset packaging in their data centers.
  • They aim to be zero waste across their direct waste footprint by 2030. 
  • They help their employees compare the carbon costs of their travel options.

What they don’t do well:

  • Though their 2020 Sustainability Report says that even before the pandemic they encouraged their employees to work remotely using Microsoft Teams, whether or not they provide incentives for sustainable commuting habits is unclear.

Jira

Jira is owned by Atlassian, which employs over 4,000 people and is valued at over £27 billion

What they do well: 

  • Atlassian has a clear and accessible sustainability policy. They also publish a detailed annual sustainability report in which they disclose their carbon emissions, address the areas where they did and didn’t do well that year and set out their goals for the future. 
  • Their operations run on 100% renewable energy. 
  • They aim to reduce Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2025.
  • They aim to reduce their emissions from business travel by 25% by 2025.
  • They aim to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

What they don’t do well:

  • Their aim to hit net zero emissions by 2050 is much further away than other companies like Slack, which aims to be carbon neutral by 2030, and Microsoft Planner, Asana, Basecamp, and Workfront, which are already carbon neutral.
  • Their sustainability policy and reports don’t mention their use of single-use plastic.
  • They don’t mention a commitment to reducing emissions from commuting, which produced 6.9% of their total emissions in the fiscal year 2019-2020. 
  • They haven’t set a target for an absolute reduction in total Scope 3 emissions — their sustainability report only mentions their aim to reduce emissions from business travel.

Trello

Trello is also owned by Atlassian. In 2019, it was used by 50 million people. 

What they do well: 

  • Trello is also owned by Atlassian, so see our comments on Jira. 
  • In 2020, Trello partnered with the Business Council on Climate Change to create a Trello template called ‘My Climate Action Plan’ to help reduce your carbon footprint.

What they don’t do well:

  • See our comments on Jira. 

Asana

Asana currently employs around 900 people and is valued at over £3 billion.

What they do well: 

  • In 2019, Asana was awarded the Green Business Innovator Certification by the City of San Francisco. They are one out of only 9 businesses to achieve this certification. This means they are a ‘leader in their industry, setting an example for how businesses can operate with sustainability as a core practice’. 
  • They are carbon neutral and offset their annual carbon emissions.
  • They provide commuter benefits to their employees, though it’s unclear what these are.
  • They use eco-friendly office supplies.
  • They minimise food waste through their Zero Waste Culinary Program and they boast a low food waste rate of 5-10%. 
  • They have a sustainable purchasing policy but the details of this are not on the website. 

What they don’t do well: 

  • They don’t have a sustainability policy on their website and their future environmental goals are unclear. For example, though their carbon offsetting should be celebrated, they haven’t explicitly committed to reducing their carbon emissions in the future. 
  • Their language surrounding their sustainability commitments is vague. We don’t know what the commuter benefits they offer are, we don’t know what makes their office supplies eco-friendly and we don’t know what their sustainable purchasing policy is. 

Slack

Slack is valued at over £12 billion as of 2020. Over 1,600 people across 17 locations are employed by Slack. In 2019, over 10 million people used Slack every day.

What they do well: 

  • Slack has listed a set of environmental commitments on their website, including a commitment to becoming fully carbon neutral across their global operations by 2030, eliminating single-use plastics from their buildings by 2030 and supporting regenerative and sustainable agriculture. 

What they don’t do well:

  • Slack doesn’t have a detailed sustainability policy on their website. 
  • Despite their plans to be carbon neutral by 2030, they don’t disclose their carbon emissions regularly so we can’t be sure how far away from this they are and how ambitious this target is. 
  • They still don’t use 100% renewable energy, though they claim to be ‘committed to working with [their] peers to champion renewable energy in all aspects of [their] operations’.
  • Their set of commitments is brief and vague, and they don’t provide a roadmap for achieving their stated environmental goals. 

Workfront

Workfront is owned by Adobe, which employs over 23,000 people worldwide and is valued at almost $250 billion.

What they do well: 

  • Adobe has a sustainability policy and discloses their annual carbon emissions in their annual corporate social responsibility reports.
  • They are committed to reducing their Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 80% by 2035 and by 100% by 2050 from their 2018 levels. 
  • They are committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2035. 
  • They encourage their employees to use public transport to get to work and to reduce their travel generally. 

What they don’t do well: 

  • Their sustainability policy does not include a target for reducing their Scope 3 emissions, which are far bigger than their Scope 1 and 2 emissions, by a specific date or by a set amount.
  • Though it’s great that they’ve committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2035, this is much slower than other productivity tools, like Trello, Jira, and Microsoft Planner. 
  • Their language could be clearer at times. For example, it’s not clear exactly how they encourage their employees to use public transport and how successful these efforts are. 
  • Neither their sustainability policy nor their corporate social responsibility reports mention a commitment to reducing their use of single-use plastic. 

Wrike

Wrike has over 2 million users and 700 employees. It’s owned by Citrix, which employs around 8,000 people. Citrix products are used by 400,000 people worldwide. 

What they do well: 

  • Citrix has a climate and environmental policy and publishes an annual sustainability report in which they disclose their carbon emissions. 
  • 75% of the electricity in the main data center is powered by renewable energy and 90% of the energy used in their India operations is renewable. 
  • They are working to reduce their use of single-use plastics in their offices. 

What they don’t do well: 

  • Though they aim to reduce their carbon footprint, there is no commitment to becoming carbon neutral or negative in their climate and environmental policy. 
  • They haven’t committed to using 100% renewable energy to run their operations, unlike other companies, like Trello, which have already met this target.

Basecamp

Basecamp has been used by over 16 million people and is valued at $100 billion.

What they do well: 

  • Basecamp is carbon neutral for their cumulative history after having bought 7,000 carbon credits to offset their first 20 years in business in 2019. They bought these credits from the Klawock Heenya Corporation, which owns and protects land in Alaska from commercial logging, TIST, which helps smallholder farmers in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and India to plant trees on their land, and the Bhadla Solar Power Plant in India. They explain their reasoning for choosing these 3 projects thoroughly on their website. 
  • They are committed to becoming carbon negative for their cumulative history and in the future. They aim to do this by investing an extra $100,000 each year into new carbon offsetting projects. 
  • They disclosed their carbon emissions in 2019.

What they don’t do well:

  • Though they disclosed their carbon emissions in 2019, they don’t do so on a regular basis.
  • They don’t have a sustainability policy so their future environmental goals and commitments aside from becoming carbon negative are unclear.
  • They haven’t published an update on their progress towards becoming carbon negative since October 2020.
  • UPDATE: Basecamp’s record on diversity, inclusion, and ethics more generally is problematic. After some discussion amongst employees surrounding company accountability for culturally and racially insensitive practices in the past, CEO Jason Fried announced a ban on ‘societal and political discussions’ in the company’s internal chat forums earlier this year. This led to the resignation of roughly a third of the company’s employees, including senior staff. You can read more on the background to this controversy here.

Smartsheet

Smartsheet has over 3 million users and 90% of Fortune 100 Companies worldwide use its products. 

What they do well: 

  • Smartsheet has a page on their website dedicated to their corporate social responsibility, which includes a sustainability policy. 
  • They encourage recycling in their offices, use reusable dishware and cutlery and are working towards eliminating single-use plastic cups and utensils from their offices. 
  • They encourage their employees to use alternative modes of transportation to work through the provision of a stipend and amenities in the office, such as bike storage and locker rooms. 
  • They use Amazon Web Services and Equinix as their cloud services platform partners, both of which have made long-term commitments to use 100% renewable energy in their global operations. 

What they don’t do well: 

  • They don’t disclose their carbon emissions.
  • They haven’t made an explicit commitment to using more renewable energy, reducing their carbon footprint, or hitting net zero.

Teamwork

Teamwork employs 250 people across 18 countries and has over 24,000 users. 

What they do well: 

  • Teamwork offers a Bike to Work scheme to their employees. 

What they don’t do well: 

  • Their website does not mention the environment at all and does not have a sustainability policy. 

ProofHub

ProofHub is a relatively small company with just 24 employees. 

What they do well: 

What they don’t do well: 

  • Their website does not mention the environment at all, aside from the single article which is linked above, and does not have a sustainability policy.

monday.com

monday.com employs roughly 700 people across 4 locations and is valued at around £2billion

As for what they do and don’t do well in terms of sustainability, we can’t comment on monday.com, as they do not have a sustainability policy and their website does not mention the environment at all. 

ProjectManager.com

ProjectManager.com was founded in 2008 and is currently used by over 20,000 managers and teams every day.

Unfortunately, ProjectManager.com does not mention sustainability or the environment on their website. 

Nutcache

Nutcache was founded in 2013 and is owned by Dynacom Technologies Group. 

Like monday.com and ProjectManager.com, Nutcache does not mention sustainability or the environment at all on their website.

Targetprocess

Targetprocess is used by over 5,000 companies worldwide and employs over 120 people. 

Like the above 3 businesses, Targetprocess does not mention sustainability or the environment even once on their website.

Our recommended productivity tools

Based on this information, we recommend the following 3 productivity tools:

  • Microsoft Planner 
  • Jira
  • Trello
Image credit: Unsplash

These companies have strong sustainability policies and have set out clear short and long-term goals to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Some others, like Asana and Basecamp, don’t perform badly either, though they lack sustainability policies and aren’t as transparent as the above three. They have at least made some obvious effort to reduce their impact on the environment, unlike Teamwork, ProofHub, monday.com, ProjectManager.com, Nutcache and Targetprocess, who don’t mention sustainability at all on their websites.

Conclusion

It’s easy to overlook the potential environmental impact that your choice of productivity tool may have, especially as information on their sustainability initiatives and policies is often hard to find. However, if you’re aiming to reduce your business’ carbon footprint, it’s important to support tech companies that prioritise sustainability. 

If you’re currently using a productivity tool that’s silent about sustainability, consider switching to one that is proactive about minimising their impact on the environment. 

Be sure to read the rest of our Sustainable Technology series to find out about other ways you can make your business’ online presence more sustainable.

Sophie Comninos
Author: Sophie Comninos

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