Shelves of stuff

Choosing a sustainable Project Management tool

April 15th 2020. Posted by Tom Kiss.

One of the first things I had to do for getting Dodeca Studio off the ground was to decide on a project management and planning tool. Somewhere to help manage those projects and their to-do lists online. I had some simple requirements:

  • Easy to use
  • Support for nested task lists
  • Milestone support, preferably with timeline and calendar views
  • Shared/multi-user access
  • Some sort of zero-carbon credentials or sustainability policy

There are hundreds of options out there and it doesn't take long to get fatigued by the marketing schpiel when researching them. It is not too surprising that when searching for key terms like "carbon footprint" or "climate change" there was mostly a lack of content on those topics. But, it did mean that those companies with public-facing blog posts or policies, stood out from the crowd.

I soon built up a shortlist of 3 products I was interested in based on features - and in each case contacted them for more information on their environmental policies. I decided to rank each of them based on their policies (or lack thereof), their use of renewable energy, zero-carbon commitments and their Website-Carbon Calculator score (this may not be entirely accurate but it's at least a starting metric to go on - more on how it works here).

The Shortlist

Teamwork

Website: www.teamwork.com

I've used teamwork before and was quite happy using it. They have regular product updates and all the core functionality I'd ever need. They do not have any information on sustainability or environmental policy on their website, so I dropped them an email to find out. Customer service replied.

So I've checked with the Marketing Team and they've informed me "We're offsetting all of our emissions from September 2018 - 2019 through local native tree planting, and going forward we'll be doing this for every year. We've ordered 3,000 trees and they intend to be planted in H1 of this year".
We also encourage reducing car emissions through our Bike4work scheme as well as our electric car charging ports in our carpark.
There is currently a pitch being put together on suggestions we can do as a business which includes things like beach cleanups and large discounts for green energy firms.
All our products are hosted on Amazon web servers so we're in line with their sustainability policy - Please see the link on that here. Because of this our Server Ops are Carbon neutral.
A website page actually something the marketing team are putting together at the moment I believe but I'll definitely pass on the suggestion - more encouraging if it came from a customer.

This was great to hear! They're making some firm efforts to reduce their impact. Unfortunately, AWS hosting isn't great from an environmental perspective, despite their green claims, Greenpeace found them to be breaking their commitments last year. So, no marks there.

Summary
  • Public-facing policy? ❌ Nothing at the moment, but they're working on it.
  • Hosted on renewable energy? ❌ Hosted on AWS.
  • Zero-carbon? 🟠 Business operations are carbon offset from 2018, with local tree-planting initiatives.
  • Website-Carbon Calculator Score: ❌ teamwork.com 59% dirtier than most (April 2020)

Trello

Website: trello.com

I've always really enjoyed using Trello in the past. It's a great product coming from an extremely fine world wide web pedigree. I've never stopped to consider their environmental policy. So how do they stack up? Well, last year their parent company, Atlassian, has made a public commitment to run all their products on 100% renewable energy by 2025 and achieve net-zero for all operations by 2050. That was encouraging to read. Unfortunately, this commitment isn't reflected in any of Trello's literature on the product's website, and the reply from the customer service confirmed that there doesn't yet appear to be any progress in this area:

At Trello we are indeed part of Atlassian's commitment to being more sustainable overall, but as of now, we do not have any public-facing information regarding our carbon footprint.
I have pointed out that this would be a good piece of information to share on our blog and public channels once we do have any figures to share.
Summary
  • Public-facing policy? ❌ A statement of the (very) long-term commitment from their parent company but no information for the product.
  • Hosted on renewable energy? ❌ No details are given - assumed not.
  • Zero-carbon?
  • Website-Carbon Calculator Score: ❌ trello.com 50% dirtier than most (April 2020)

Asana

Website: asana.com

I first heard of Asana on a competitor website, on a blog post with a feature comparison list (thanks for the link!). The features all seemed clearly designed and it appeared to do all I needed, and quite a bit more. Asana's website was one of the only product sites I could find which specifically mentioned their carbon footprint - a rather reassuring Earth Day blog post from last year. The post laid out the company's plans for offsetting their annual energy usage across their offices and data centres and offsetting with a relatively local reforestation project in Mendocino County, California. This was great! They also talked about thier success in achieving Green Business Innovator Certification, which includes a number of sustainable business policies, including minimising food waste from their offices.

I contacted them to ask if there was any further information available and they were able to send me this summary of their sustainability efforts.

Culinary
  • Our culinary team focus' on reducing the amount of waste we produce
  • There's an awesome blog post about it, albeit from 2017, its still how we practice mindfulness today
Workplace Partners
  • Whenever possible, we try and partner with vendors that have similar sustainability mindsets such as:
  • We also partner with Give Something Back to purchase eco-friendly office supplies for our printer stations!
California Green Certified Asana Benefits
  • Commuter Benefits - Asana offers employees commuter benefits to encourage use of public transportation services

This was a good response to receive - they seem to be genuine with their commitment to sustainable business. Win!

Summary
  • Public-facing policy? 🟠 A good blog post outlining the company's work so far. They're working on new sustainability information for their website.
  • Hosted on renewable energy? ❌ Hosted on AWS.
  • Zero-carbon? 🟠 Both product and business operations are carbon offset.
  • Website-Carbon Calculator Score: ❌ asana.com 81% dirtier than most (April 2020)

The results based on this small selection of products I was interested in are all far from perfect. And it's clear from the start that AWS is going to be an issue with a lot of web services due to its huge popularity as a platform. But based on my needs and the conversations I'd had with these companies, although Teamwork was a front runner, the sincerity of Asana's commitment to sustainability, plus it's Green Business certification - won me over.

I've been using Asana for the past month and have been really pleased with it. Asana is a well built, robust web app that's easy to use and has more than enough functionality for my needs - multiple projects, task lists, boards, timelines with milestones and plenty more. Plus, it has some cute (if not slightly over the top) design flourishes like shooting rainbow-unicorns across the screen when you complete a task. I'm in.

Check out Asana

Photo by Siniz Kim on Unsplash