Why I Do Not Sign NDAs

Since founding AirGradient, we’ve been presented a number of times with Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). These documents are often seen as standard practice, a necessary step to protect sensitive information. However, since two years, I’ve made the conscious decision not to sign them anymore, and I’d like to share why.

A Personal Commitment to Transparency

From the very beginning, transparency has been a guiding principle for me. When we started AirGradient as a volunteer project in Northern Thailand, our mission was clear: to help a community deal with the devastating health impacts of air pollution.

This mission demanded openness and trust.

Our manifesto reflects this ethos, emphasizing transparency and inclusivity. Signing NDAs, with their inherent secrecy, feels contrary to the openness and authenticity that has been fundamental to our success and growth.

The Power of Open Collaboration

I’m a firm believer that the best ideas come from shared minds. Some of the most fulfilling moments in my work have come from spontaneous, open discussions with others who share our passion for clean air. NDAs create walls where there should be bridges. By avoiding these agreements, we foster an environment where ideas flow freely and collaboration flourishes.

This approach has led to incredible strong partnerships, collaborations and innovations like our open-source air quality monitors, which anyone can build and improve upon. It’s thrilling to see how many have taken these designs and run with them, contributing to our collective mission.

Trust Over Contracts

Trust is built through relationships and actions, not paperwork. In my experience, trust grows from consistent integrity and transparency. By choosing not to sign NDAs and not demanding NDAs from anybody, I’m making a statement about our values at AirGradient.

We operate openly, inviting scrutiny and collaboration.

This transparency has helped us build strong, trust-based relationships with partners, customers, and the community. These relationships are the foundation of our work, and, far more valuable than any legal safeguard.

I personally care much more if somebody would accuse me to break a trustful relationship than breaking a legal agreement. So honoring the trust that a person extends to me, is what I deeply care about and you can trust us to do that.

Staying Focused on What Matters

Legal complexities and potential disputes are distractions from our mission. Our focus is on creating responsible products that make a real impact on people’s lives and the environment.

Engaging in legal battles over NDA breaches doesn’t align with this focus. By avoiding NDAs, we sidestep these distractions and keep our energy directed towards what truly matters: innovation and impact.

What would you prefer us to do? Spends 1000s of dollars on legal fees to review NDAs or donate 100s of monitors to communities that suffer from air pollution?

A Culture of Accountability

At AirGradient, we design products that are beneficial for both people and the planet. NDAs can sometimes be used to hide practices or information that don’t align with our values. By not signing NDAs, we encourage a culture of accountability.

We ensure that everyone we work with shares our commitment to integrity and transparency.

When DO we sign confidentiality agreements?

If a very specific need arises that you need a written statement about keeping a specific element confidential, we are very happy to look into this and sign it -if it aligns with our mission.

Here is an example: We work with environmental justice organisations in countries where activists are sometimes in danger of getting harmed. In these cases, it is necessary to keep project details non-public, and we are happy to give a written statement that we do so.

Wrapping this up

My decision not to sign standard NDAs is deeply personal and rooted in the values that define AirGradient. Transparency, collaboration, trust, focus, and accountability are the principles we live by. By standing by these principles, our mission and manifesto, I hope to inspire others to embrace a more open, collaborative approach to innovation.

Achim Haug

by Achim Haug
Jun 21, 2024