Ubisoft executives' next bonus depends on carbon reduction rather than increasing diversity
Publisher shifts focus from gender imbalance to environmental concerns when incentivising execs for current financial year
Ubisoft has changed the targets that dictate the end-of-year bonus CEO Yves Guillemot and his fellow executives, with a bigger focus on making the Assassin's Creed publisher more environmentally friendly.
The new targets, discovered by Axios Gaming in a recent corporate filing, appear to have replaced goals to diversify its workforce.
For the 2022 financial year, bonuses will be 60% dependent on the return Ubisoft provides its shareholders, 20% dependent on growth in the number of its monthly active users, and 20% on reduction in carbon intensity.
The latter was previously based on the "increase in the gender diversity of teams," a goal introduced last year as part of the board of directors' aim to have women account for 24% of all employees by 2023. Tying this to the execs' bonuses was intended to "[accelerate] the dynamic on this major challenge."
Ubisoft has been under fire for the past year after allegations of abuse and harassment were made against several employees, including multiple executives and other members of management.
In response, the company fired Assassin's Creed Valhalla creative director Ashraf Ismail and PR director Stone Chine.
Some of those accused left the company, starting with VP Tommy François, followed by three more: chief creative officer Serge Hascoët, Canadian studios head Yannis Mallat, and global head of HR Cécile Cornet.
The company also implemented various changes to its leadership teams and reporting processes, and several execs specifically identified in the accusations were either fired or stepped down.
However, a recent report by French publication Le Télégramme claimed that these changes had made minimal impact on the company's working environment.
Guillemot later released a statement, detailing what the company had done to address the allegations and claiming that "considerable progress has been made."
Responding to our request about this new filing, Ubisoft told GamesIndustry.biz that increasing gender diversity remains a priority, and is still part of a three-year goal when it comes to executive bonuses.
"The gender diversity of Ubisoft teams is the CSR criterion defined last year for the FY23 long-term compensation incentive, which aims to accelerate our progress in this area and remains a key and strategic topic for the company moving forward," a spokesperson said.
"As a result of this, we made considerable progress; women represented 23.5% of the workforce in FY21. We grew the total number of employees by 13% over the past year, which means that women represented 35% of headcount growth. We will continue to work and progress in this area in the long run."
With this goal on track, the board chose to replace it with a target relating to the environmental impact of the company's activities.
The spokesperson said this is to "reflect an additional key transformation that is expected of an organisation like Ubisoft" and has been included "in addition to the previous gender diversity focus."
According to the filing, the "criticality" of this issue has accelerated, the board wrote, due to "the multitude of ecological disasters and the growing attention of public institutions, investors, consumers and teams."
"This change makes it possible to include an ambitious strategic vision for environmental challenges in the long-term variable compensation of the CEO," the filing continues.
Ubisoft's ambitions for reducing its carbon footprint relate to its plan to be carbon neutral by 2030.
As part of this, the company aims to be powered by 100% renewable energy -- a figure that stood at 73.5% at the end of 2020 -- and reduce the number of business trips it takes by at least 20%.
The company also wants to increase the lifespan of IT equipment by up to two years and focus on purchasing more devices that lower its carbon footprint, as well as reducing its overall electrical consumption.
Finally, Ubisoft wants digital to account for 68% of all game sales, reporting this had reached 48% by the end of 2019.
The publisher is one of the biggest games publishers to invest in blockchain technology. Among its activities, it has co-founded the Blockchain Gaming Alliance and become part of the Tezos blockchain ecosystem.
It's unclear whether this is factored into its efforts to become carbon neutral, given energy-intensive nature of blockchain technology and its current environmental impact.
Update: When asked about the carbon footprint of blockchain technology, a Ubisoft spokesperson told us the publisher is still researching this but aims to strike a balance between its environmental pledge and its blockchain ambitions.
"We have been exploring blockchain technology for a number of years and have no intention of rushing to implement it at the expense of environmental sustainability," the company said. "Energy consumption of proof-of-work protocols is one of the limitations that was identified early in our exploration of the tech.
"The environmental impact of blockchain is a key area of our research at present. Our efforts are focused on exploring more sustainable alternatives, based on the proof-of-stake protocol, to avoid indirect energy consumption, as we've seen with our recent involvement in the Tezos, Ultra and Flow ecosystems."