Okta Commits to Climate Action with Approved Science-Based Targets

The window of opportunity to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change is closing. We’re seeing this now, as large parts of the world face record high temperatures and experience unprecedented natural disasters. Combating climate change is a collective effort that requires constant evaluation, adjustments, and transparency—and Okta is more than ready to do our part. 

In November 2021, Okta made a commitment to set science-based emissions-reduction targets (SBTs), aligned with the 2015 UN Paris Agreement goal to limit global warming by well below 2°C, and preferably 1.5°C. Today, we’re excited to announce that our science-based targets (SBTs) have been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), signaling an important milestone in Okta’s climate strategy.

SBTs serve as guidelines for organizations to understand how much and how fast they need to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to curb the worst consequences of climate change. Research shows that global GHG emissions need to drop by half in this decade, and the world must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. 

Okta’s validated SBTs for absolute emissions reductions, which are aligned with a 1.5°C global warming trajectory, are:

  • Reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions, those controlled or owned by a company, 67% by FY2030 against an FY2020 base year
  • Reduce absolute scope 3 GHG emissions, those not produced by a company or assets it owns, from business travel and employee commuting transportation 42% by FY2030 against an FY2020 base year
  • Ensure that 65% of Okta’s suppliers for purchased goods and services and capital goods have science-based targets by FY2027

To better understand Okta’s SBTs and the significance of SBTi validation, I recently sat down with Alison Colwell, Okta’s Director of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and Sustainability. We discussed what this means for Okta, why it matters, and what’s next.

Q: Why is it important that Okta’s SBTs were approved? How does this impact Okta’s climate strategy?

Our SBTs will inform our existing climate action plans, and will help us support our customers in achieving their own climate goals. Okta’s climate strategy is focused on reduction and consists of four pillars: (1) reduce consumption, (2) electrify, (3) purchase renewable electricity, and (4) engage our vendors. We wanted to align our absolute emissions reduction targets with science, so we ensured they were verified through the SBTi.

Setting SBTs to reduce absolute emissions is a significant milestone for Okta. We already had a 100% renewable electricity program, which matches our electricity consumption from our offices, our remote workforce, and cloud services with renewable electricity. Now, our SBTs will also help us reduce emissions from our office natural gas and refrigerants, business travel and employee commute transportation, as well as vendors that provide Okta with goods and services. We’re already making progress on these targets, for example, as a first step for business travel we are joining the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA). For engaging our vendors to set their own targets, we are collaborating with other members of the Business Council on Climate Change (BC3) to create guides on how to conduct a GHG emissions inventory, set emissions reductions targets, and achieve those targets. 

Our customers are an integral part of our business, and more of them are requiring the companies they work with to have sustainability measures in place. In fact, many of our customers—including JetBlue and Hewlett Packard Enterprise—have set SBTs of their own. 

Q: What do we measure success against, and how do we hold ourselves accountable for meeting our climate strategy goals?

We will measure our success against the climate targets that we have set, such as continuing to achieve 100% renewable electricity and hitting our SBTs for emissions reductions. 

As a high-growth company, it will be challenging to meet our SBTs for absolute emissions—as we continue to scale, we must do so with fewer emissions. Transparency is one of Okta’s core business values. We publish annual disclosures and measure against additional climate metrics in our Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) submission and in our ESG fact sheet.

Q: Has the shift to remote and hybrid work affected our climate strategy goals?

Okta’s Dynamic Work framework, which launched in 2019 and provides employees with flexibility and choice in where and when they work, was accelerated during the pandemic. As a result, we recognized the importance of addressing our footprint not only at our offices, but also for our remote workforce.

To do so, we purchase renewable electricity to match the estimated electricity consumption at our global offices and for our remote workforce. We’re also rightsizing our office portfolio based on how employees are utilizing offices, and designing more multi-purpose spaces for maximum efficiency. We developed a Dynamic Work Sustainability Guide to help employees gauge their contribution towards sustainability efforts, whether they work at home or the office. Last but not least, we’re building out a business travel reduction strategy that aligns with our SBTs, focusing on reducing unnecessary air travel.

Q: Why does Okta apply an equity lens to its climate solutions? 

Social issues are inextricably linked to environmental issues. The consequences of climate change disproportionately impact historically excluded communities, including those of color. These same communities often contribute least to climate change, yet they are not always included in advancing climate solutions. 

As a corporate purchaser of renewable electricity certificates (RECs), we have the opportunity to address both the energy and social inequities. We intentionally purchase RECs with a social benefit and support Solar Stewards, an organization that provides affordable clean energy and reduced utility bills for low-income residents, creating more equity in renewable energy markets. 

In 2021 and 2022, we conducted a “listening and learning” tour and captured some key takeaways in our Okta’s Learnings About Climate Equity blog post. Additionally, earlier this year Okta established multi-year partnerships with organizations in the climate equity space, including GRID Alternatives, which builds community-powered solutions to advance economic and environmental justice, and CLIMA Fund, which supports grassroots climate solutions.

Q: What is the next step in Okta’s sustainability and climate journey?

We’re constantly refining our climate strategy and will continue to work towards our SBTs by working towards the following long-term goals:

  • Reduce emissions from natural gas and refrigerants in our global real estate footprint.
  • Reduce emissions from business travel and employee commute. As a first step, we are joining the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA).
  • Request that vendors set their own emissions. We will continue to collaborate with other members of the Business Council on Climate Change (BC3) on how to conduct a GHG emissions inventory, set emissions reductions targets, and achieve those targets. 

We are proud to have our SBTs verified and to have set ourselves an ambitious target for reducing our emissions impact on the world. This is a critical milestone in our journey in helping to curb the worst consequences of climate change while maximizing benefits to society and the environment.

To hear more about Okta’s efforts in combating climate change, catch Alison’s talk at Dreamforce on September 21, 2022.