Atlassian’s cofounder sets challenge for corporate leaders on climate change

October 20, 2021, 2:02 PM UTC

After announcing a pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in September 2019, the $100 billion dollar software company Atlassian is now pushing its commitment forward 10 years to 2040.

“We’ve outperformed all our targets to date on our corporate net-zero renewable energy goals,” Atlassian cofounder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes told Fortune, explaining the reasoning behind the change. He shared that the company has moved forward a number of interim goals as well, noting that the power usage of data centers and computing are the chief environmental liabilities in the technology industry.

Between 2025 and 2040, the company’s plan is to “remove emissions via technology” or pursue carbon removal as a second option if elimination of emissions is not possible. The third option is carbon credits. This plan is verified by the Science Based Targets initiative, through a process which took about 18 months to certify. One of the upcoming targets will also include monitoring and reducing the emissions of customers and suppliers in addition to the company’s emissions.

Cannon-Brookes and his wife, Annie, are also pledging $1 billion in climate-conscious investments and $500 million to philanthropic organizations that are fighting climate change, including Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), Climate Council, and Rewiring Australia. He hopes this sets an example for the role that corporate leaders and major corporations need to play in working towards a climate solution.

“Individuals and businesses and governments all need to come together in big ways,” he said. He also emphasized “the urgency with which we need both investments and philanthropic things to happen, and we need it to happen between now and the next eight years.”

While responsible energy efforts and taking the time to evaluate the sustainability of suppliers does involve upfront costs, Cannon-Brookes noted that there are long-term cost-saving opportunities and that Atlassian’s overall CSR approach also attracts employees.

“I certainly think that that’s high on the list for employees when they join us,” he said. “We’re very vocal about our commitments…whether that be climate, whether it be diversity, whether it be philanthropic through the Atlassian Foundation. It’s always quoted as one of the top three reasons why people choose to join Atlassian.”

Cannon-Brookes hopes this will encourage more peers to adopt similar policies and climate-change efforts, given the urgency of the problem.

“If I said, ‘Before I die, I’m going to donate this amount of money,’ great, but that’s hopefully a long time away. The point is to try to encourage people to understand that the next eight years is the critical period, and that’s when we have to actually get that money out the door and invest in things that are going to make a difference,” he noted.

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