My name is Nicolas Hunsinger, Ubisoft’s director of corporate environmental sustainability. With the help of my team, and of dedicated stakeholders and passionate developers across Ubisoft, I lead Ubisoft’s efforts to decrease our carbon footprint and increase our positive impact on the planet. World Environment Day is coming up on June 5, and I wanted to take this opportunity to present where Ubisoft stands today in terms of its decarbonization plan and environmental initiatives.
No Planet B
At Ubisoft, we are creators of worlds – worlds where players have fun, interact with each other, and forge unforgettable memories.
To create these virtual worlds, we rely on our talented international development teams, based in studios across five continents. From San Francisco to Singapore, Montréal to Malmö, our teams find inspiration in their communities and surroundings – and sometimes from further afield – studying and researching the real world around them to imagine living, coherent game worlds that millions of players can enjoy.
I’m thinking of the extreme-sports playground of Riders Republic, inspired by seven American National Parks like Yosemite and Grand Teton. I’m thinking of the carefully crafted island of Auroa in Ghost Recon Breakpoint, which could fit right into the geography of the South Pacific, or the huge and detailed versions of medieval Norway and England in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, with their snowy crags, verdant hills, and an ever-present slate sea.
Yes, our teams are focused on building these virtual worlds, writing the stories they tell, and crafting the experiences they offer. But what are these virtual worlds if not love letters to the real world that inspired them? The real world, our planet Earth, is in grave danger from climate change and biodiversity loss, with serious consequences for ecosystems and communities everywhere.
That’s why Ubisoft teams around the world are taking concrete actions to help safeguard our planet and its environment.
2022 marks the second year of Ubisoft’s commitment to global carbon neutrality, which we call Play Green. Our strategy operates along two main axes: reducing the company’s carbon footprint on the one hand, while generating a positive influence among our teams and players about sustainability and environmental protection on the other. We have founded and grown many initiatives over the past years, many of which are detailed below. Sustainability is a process, not an achievement you unlock, so I look forward to continuing to work to take our initiatives to greater heights and impact in the years to come.
Ubisoft is not alone in these commitments. We are continuing to work hand-in-hand with other major industry players as a founding member of the Playing for the Planet Alliance, facilitated by the United Nations Environmental Programme. You’ll find out more about Ubisoft’s participation in the Alliance’s Green Game Jam below.
Ubisoft’s Carbon Footprint: Where We Are Today and Where We Want to Be Tomorrow
We believe it is important to be transparent about Ubisoft’s carbon footprint, our reduction goals for the future, and our initiatives to get there.
In 2021, the total carbon footprint of Ubisoft operations (scopes 1, 2 and 3 upstream) was 148 kilotons of CO2 equivalent, which represents 7.2 tCO2e per employee.
Ubisoft’s carbon footprint in 2020 was 158* kilotons CO2e, representing 8.4 tCO2e per employee. While I’m happy to announce that the carbon footprint per employee decreased by 14% between 2020 and 2021, this reduction was mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lower marketing expenses. As circumstances were extraordinary, we cannot consider these achievements to be permanent, and it is essential that we move forward with our decarbonization initiatives to meet our overall goals.
We have increased our objective: to reduce our emissions by at least 10.8% per employee by the end of 2024, based on 2019 levels (which were of 9.5 tCO2e per employee).
As we communicated last year when we announced our Play Green initiative, Ubisoft has submitted its carbon footprint reduction plan for 2030 to the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), in line with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. In addition, we disclosed our carbon footprint and decarbonization plan to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an independent not-for-profit organization that runs the global disclosure system for the environmental impacts of companies. Ubisoft received a score of B- for climate change for the year 2020, placing us in the Management category in recognition of our transparency and our commitment to dealing with environmental and climate challenges. We are working hard to see our score improve in the years to come.
In addition to these commitments, Ubisoft continues to make voluntary contributions to external projects that reduce third-party emissions or develop carbon sinks and that are complementary to our decarbonization efforts. These contributions cover an amount of CO2 equal to the emissions resulting from Ubisoft’s operations. Ubisoft team members have voted to select the projects that will be supported in 2022 in Canada, Brazil, France, Spain, Kenya, India, and China.
Our Plan to Reduce Ubisoft’s Carbon Footprint
We have several initiatives under way to reduce Ubisoft’s emissions in different categories.
With sustainability as a core principle of our Future of Work program, we will continue to implement and maintain environmentally friendly teleworking processes and systems to collaborate remotely. While challenging, the pandemic has been an opportunity for us to learn to work, collaborate, share, and celebrate our achievements remotely. At Ubisoft, we view this moment as an unprecedented chance to leverage the full potential of remote and flexible work. In the same vein, we will aim to maintain a low level of international travel as flight restrictions are lifted.
Ubisoft is also increasing the use of electricity from renewable sources for its offices and data centers. Seven of our sites switched to electricity from renewable sources in 2021, helping us reach 67% of electricity from renewable sources across our offices, up 5% from 2020. As for data centers, today 95% of their electricity comes from renewable sources leaned on certificates.
The largest share of Ubisoft’s emissions by far is in the purchasing category, for the most part services related to subcontracting work and media purchases linked to our marketing efforts. Improving how we measure and understand this category of emissions remains a key challenge for any publishing company.
In addition, Ubisoft’s IT teams will play an essential role in decreasing Ubisoft’s carbon emissions related to IT hardware, which is the backbone of all of Ubisoft’s operations. As such, we’ve launched several initiatives in the past few months. Earlier this year, we launched an e-learning module to understand the challenges that the IT industry faces, and what actions we can take to reduce our impact.
That said, we seek to reduce the energy consumption of our data centers in particular, by working with our internal storage experts and external partners to improve in this area. Our IT teams are also working to ensure our hardware has a longer average life cycle, and to gain better visibility on the recycling process for hardware, giving it a second life when possible. Moreover, in November 2021 Ubisoft signed the Planet Tech'Care manifesto. By signing this manifesto, Ubisoft IT has publicly committed to contributing to the ecological transition in collaboration with many digital companies. These external collaborations will continue to multiply to remain at the forefront of innovations in the green IT sector.
Ubisoft is committed to engage its key suppliers to disclose their emissions and commit to relevant carbon footprint-reduction targets.
In 2021, Ubisoft updated its life-cycle analysis (in accordance with ISO 14040/44), a method to evaluate the environmental impact of our games from beginning to end. This update confirmed that the carbon footprint of Ubisoft operations account for less than 10% of the total life-cycle emissions of its games. The remainder comes from downstream in our value chain: emissions linked mainly to the manufacturing and maintenance of networks and machines that are used to access and play our games. Although Ubisoft does not have direct control over these emissions, we strive to address them as part of our active contribution to the “Playing for The Planet” alliance, joining forces to mobilize the industry with the goal of ensuring guidance and tools to measure and reduce its emissions.
How Our Teams Are Getting Involved
What is truly exhilarating about Ubisoft’s sustainability efforts is that our engagement is animated at all levels of the company. Local, grassroots efforts are complementing team initiatives and company-wide commitments to enact lasting change.
In 2021, local employee-led “green committees” in Ubisoft studios were empowered to do more and to raise their voices. There are now 15 “green committees” around the world, and they support a number of initiatives including improved waste sorting and waste reduction in our offices, and more sustainable use of our IT hardware. Their actions encourage team members to contribute to environmental protection by changing their habits. Ubisoft promotes this program by allowing each leader to devote 10% of their work time to green committee work.
To help raise awareness for environmental issues and sustainability, Ubisoft held a Green Weeks event in 2021, hosting a series of eight digital conferences and roundtables around the theme of “When Entertainment Meets Environment.” Over 3,500 team members attended the event.
It is also important to give team members the chance to learn about climate science. The Climate School is an e-learning program available to all Ubisoft team members. It explains global warming and its causes, lays out the stakes of inaction, and provides specific insights and advice to teams based on their job family. It is a valuable resource for those who want to go one step further in their understanding of climate change and its impacts.
Positively Influencing Our Players, and Beyond
One of the core ideas that really excites me about working on sustainability in the videogame industry is that the products we create are powerful works of entertainment that can be leveraged to communicate strong positive messages and influence our players and the world for the better.
It all started with the Ubisoft Green Developers, a group of now more than 350 international team members who regularly exchange and meet to discuss how environmental topics are treated in games and other entertainment media. Inspired by these discussions and regular conferences with internal and external speakers, they help production teams incorporate environmental themes in their games.
In 2021, some of these motivated developers led teams in five Ubisoft studios to participate in the Green Game Jam, an annual event organized by the Playing for the Planet Alliance with the goal of proposing and implementing in-game activations that help raise awareness for environmental topics among players. The participating Ubisoft games in 2021 were Anno 1800, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Hungry Shark Evolution, Hungry Shark World, and Riders Republic. Four of the pitched concepts were successfully implemented in-game, with one more activation planned for later in 2022. And that’s without counting other environmental activations in Just Dance 2022 and Trackmania that were outside the scope of the Green Game Jam.
I would like to highlight the green activation in Ghost Recon Breakpoint in particular, which led to more than 500,000 planted trees in the real world. Also, for its free Eden Burning game mode, Anno 1800 received the UNEP Choice award, judged by a panel from the UN Environment Programme. These fantastic achievements are just the beginning; teams are becoming more engaged and inspired year on year! In 2022, 14 game teams at Ubisoft are participating in the Green Game Jam – voting will take place from June 5 to 12!
Content related to sustainability and environmental concerns aren’t limited to specific game modes or dedicated activations; they can also be inherent to a game’s world, gameplay, or story. Riders Republic, with its faithful reconstructions of American National Parks and its celebration of diverse landscapes and the beauty of the natural world, is a perfect example. I can’t wait for the release of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, a game that will convey a strong message about sustainability, diverse ecosystems, and harmony with nature.
I opened this article by talking about our beautiful planet and how it inspires our games, and I think it’s right to finish with a mention of Pandora, a fictional world, born out of the imagination of James Cameron. Pandora isn’t a real place, but it can serve a purpose in helping protect planet Earth. Through fictional stories and worlds, videogames (and entertainment in general) can offer avenues of thought, creative solutions, and impactful wake-up calls to save our planet and build the world of tomorrow.
For more about Ubisoft’s environmental programs, find out how Ubisoft activates green initiatives in games, or learn more about its commitment to sustainability and the environment at Ubisoft.com/environment.
*Due to a methodology update, the 2020 carbon footprint has been recalculated to the more accurate figure of 158 kilotons CO2e (previously 142 kilotons CO2e).