Pledging Ourselves to the Future

Sophie Riegel

As MongoDB’s sustainability manager, you could say I think about the climate a lot. After all, doing so is my job. But because it’s January and a time of reflection, I’ve been thinking about climate change more than usual — particularly about the progress we’ve made, but also the work that remains to be done.

For example, in December the annual U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 28) ended with a landmark agreement to transition away from fossil fuels, and the aim of reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. The COP 28 agreement also calls on countries to triple their renewable energy capacity and reduce other forms of emissions.

The agreement was very welcome because before COP 28 began the U.N. released a stark report that showed national plans are, "insufficient to limit global temperature rise."

As worried as I might be some days, I’m also buoyed by the climate action of the last few years. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2022 more energy was generated by renewable sources than by coal for the first time. There have also been several regulations passed globally that make the measurement and disclosure of emissions mandatory, a key step in understanding — and reducing — emissions.

MongoDB joins The Climate Pledge

In the same spirit of optimism, I’m delighted to announce that MongoDB recently signed The Climate Pledge joining hundreds of leading organizations in publicly affirming our commitment to sustainability. The Climate Pledge’s hundreds of signatories commit to regularly report on their emissions and reach net-zero emissions by 2040 through decarbonization strategies and carbon offsets.

“We’re thrilled to join the world’s leading companies — like MongoDB customers Verizon and Telefónica — in signing The Climate Pledge,” said MongoDB chief product officer, Sahir Azam. “MongoDB looks forward to working with the Climate Pledge team to ensure a more sustainable future for everyone.”

Signing the The Climate Pledge is hardly the first step MongoDB has taken toward ensuring a more sustainable future. In 2023, MongoDB committed to being 100% powered by renewable energy by 2026, and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. To meet those targets, we’re working to reduce our carbon footprint through product innovation, by adding new sources of renewable energy, and by making MongoDB employees’ commutes more sustainable.

Goodbye waste, hello (energy) savings

In 2023, we also announced MongoDB’s new Sustainable Procurement Policy, which aims to ensure that sustainability is considered at all levels of our supply chain. The policy covers everything from the coffee we purchase (100% sustainably sourced) to the single-use items we use (restrictions leading to a 58% waste reduction in 2023).

How MongoDB’s workloads are powered falls under our sustainable procurement efforts. Specifically, we’re currently working with our cloud partners — all of whom share MongoDB’s aim to be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2026 — to reduce our carbon footprint.

"MongoDB takes its commitment to carbon reduction seriously, and we're fortunate to work with partners who share our enthusiasm for sustainability,” said MongoDB Lead Performance Engineer Ger Hartnett. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate with our partners on groundbreaking, energy-saving technology that makes real reductions in our carbon intensity."

To meet our renewable energy target, we’ve focused our efforts on several areas, such as preferring buildings with renewable energy contracts or on-site solar when considering new office space. We’ve also entered into several virtual purchase power agreements (VPPAs).

Virtual purchase power agreements are a great way for companies like MongoDB to invest in renewable energy without building anything on-site and are a proven method of adding renewable energy to the grid. Since 2022, MongoDB has worked with the enterprise sustainability platform Watershed to support renewable energy projects through VPPAs.

Our first project helped build a solar plant in Texas that Watershed notes, “will avoid 13,000 tons of CO2, equivalent to taking nearly 3,000 gas-powered cars off the road each year.” And MongoDB recently signed a new VPPA that will support the development of solar panels for a factory in India.

Solar energy is currently responsible for about 16% of global renewable energy, and only about 3.4% of overall energy in the U.S. Those numbers are sure to change, however. In the last fifteen years, global solar power generation has grown from 11.36 terawatt-hours to 1289.87 terawatt hours.

What’s more, coal accounts for about 70% of India’s power — versus 20% in the United States — so projects like this will help reduce emissions across Asia. And because many MongoDB employees are directly impacted by air pollution in India, we see VPPAs as a way of benefitting the health and well-being of our employees, as well as the planet.

MongoDB's stubborn optimism

In the early months of the pandemic, Tom Rivett-Carnac, founding partner of Global Optimism — which launched The Climate Pledge with Amazon in 2019 — shared a video about shifting one’s mindset and changing the world. In the face of larger-than-life problems (like climate change), “stubborn optimism,” he said, “animates action, and infuses it with meaning.”

“When the optimism leads to a determined action, then they can become self-sustaining … the two together can transform an entire issue and change the world,” he noted. “Stubborn optimism can fill our lives with meaning and purpose.”

Composting is an example of a stubbornly optimistic action that’s both easy to adopt and one that (if enough of us do it) can change the world. Food waste accounts for 6% of global greenhouse emissions, and composting can help reduce those emissions. To put food waste emissions in perspective, 6% of global greenhouse emissions is roughly three times higher than annual global aviation emissions.

In 2023, we also began tracking MongoDB’s waste and landfill diversion, and we’re working to improve how we dispose of waste by adding composting services to MongoDB’s hub offices. More than 80% of MongoDB’s offices already have composting services, and we aim to hit 100% in 2024.

Not only have composting and single-use purchase reduction helped to decrease waste emissions, but both are highly visible to MongoDB employees. MongoDB employees are increasingly excited about sustainability, inspiring the creation of a mini-garden in our New York office, and the use of more sustainable commuting methods like biking.

Though I tend to bike more for exercise than commuting these days (I’ve racked up more than 1,000 miles on my bike pass!), more and more MongoDB team members get to work in sustainable ways. For example, we’re rolling out electric vehicle commuting in India, an e-bike program was recently introduced in our Dublin office, and the bike locker in MongoDB’s New York HQ is generally packed.

“I love biking to the office,” said Perry Taylor, a New York-based Information Technology Lead at MongoDB. “In addition to being a great way to stay fit, it’s awesome that how I commute helps the environment.”

Looking back on 2023, I’m pleased with how much we accomplished toward MongoDB’s sustainability goals. At the same time, I recognize that more needs to be done. MongoDB enters 2024 with a renewed commitment to sustainability, and we look forward to furthering our progress.

To learn more about MongoDB’s sustainability progress, please check out our Sustainability webpage and our latest Corporate Sustainability Report. For more information about fellow Climate Pledge signatories and an interactive timeline of progress made, visit The Climate Pledge.