“Executives at all levels see an important business role for sustainability. But when it comes to mastering the reputation, execution, and accountability of their sustainability programs, many companies have far to go.” — McKinsey
This is my roundup of the best places to look for sustainability information if you are trying to learn about Microsoft’s work in the sustainability space.
I was helping some friends ramp up on sustainability efforts at Microsoft. Sustainability is a big topic and I won’t do it justice, but I wanted to help my friends at least have a sense of where to hunt for information.
If you don’t know your way around the Microsoft website, it can be a bit of a challenge to find all of the most useful places to start.
My simple goal was to show them where to look information on sustainability at Microsoft and how to keep learning.
I figured if I show them the main places to start, they can explore from there.
I also provided some quick overviews of some of the key sustainability information so that they know what to pay attention to.
I think of this as just enough mental scaffolding to launch their learning journey into Microsoft’s sustainability work.
Key Sustainability Resources
I find it incredibly helpful to have the “map” of places to look for information.
Here is a roundup of the key places to learn about Microsoft’s sustainability investments, approach, and impact:
- Microsoft Corporate Social Responsibility – Sustainability Home
- Microsoft Sustainability Home
- Microsoft’s Moonshot – Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030
- Microsoft 2021 Environmental Sustainability Report
- Microsoft Sustainability Guide eBook (PDF)
- Microsoft Sustainability Learning Center
- Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability
- Microsoft Sustainability Manager
- Microsoft Emissions Impact Dashboard
- Microsoft Sustainability for Smart Spaces
- Microsoft Sustainability for Automotive
- Microsoft Sustainability for Energy
- Microsoft Sustainability for Financial Services
- Microsoft Sustainability for Manufacturing
- Microsoft Sustainability for Retail
- Brad Smith on How Microsoft Will Be Carbon Negative by 2030 (PDF)
- Accelerate your journey to net-zero with Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, by Satish Thomas, Corporate VP, Microsoft Industry Clouds
- Microsoft whitepaper – A new approach to Scope 3 emissions (PDF)
- Climate Innovation Fund (A $1 billion innovation fund)
If you familiarize yourself with some of the main places to explore and follow along how Microsoft is addressing sustainability, that’s good enough.
What is Sustainability?
Before we dive in, let’s ground ourselves in the definition Microsoft is define sustainability.
It’s actually from the the United Nations Brundtland Commission.
Here is the definition of sustainability as defined by the United Nations Brundtland Commission:
“meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainability is critical for meeting the economic, societal, and environmental needs of today and of future generations.
Sustainability is also good for business.
- Enhance efficiencies – Reduce resource consumption and waste—and operating costs—by adopting cloud-based sustainability solutions.
- Improve margins and revenue – Reveal opportunities to develop valuable conservation solutions and sustainable products.
- Build brand trust – Boost employee and customer satisfaction by championing measures that support a healthier environment.
Brad Smith writes:
“Reducing carbon is where the world needs to go, and we recognize that it’s what our customers and employees are asking us to pursue. This is a bold bet — a moonshot — for Microsoft.
And it will need to become a moonshot for the world.
It won’t be easy for Microsoft to become carbon negative by 2030. But we believe it’s the right goal.
And with the right commitment, it’s an achievable goal.
We will need to continue to learn and adapt, both separately and even more importantly in close collaboration with others around the world.
We believe we launch this new initiative today with a well-developed plan and a clear line of sight, but we have problems to solve and technologies that need to be invented. It’s time to get to work.”
For more on the Moonshot, read Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030.
Brad Smith on How Microsoft is Addressing Climate Change
Here is a quote from the Microsoft 2021 Sustainability Report that summarizes Microsoft’s approach to climate change:
“The key to addressing climate change at a company like Microsoft is to partner with every industry to understand how it functions, discern the elements vital to its success, share and adapt solutions, and help our customers chart an informed path to de-carbonization.”
— Brad Smith, President and Vice Chair
Satya Nadella on Technology and Sustainability
Here is one of my favorite quotes by Satya Nadella about the role of technology I the context of sustainability:
“At a time when many are calling attention to the role technology plays in society, our mission remains constant. It grounds us in the enormous opportunity and responsibility we have to ensure that the technology we create always benefits everyone on the planet, including the planet itself.”
— Satya Nadella
Areas of Focus for Sustainability Work
Across all the work that Microsoft does, Microsoft strives to make the greatest impact in the following areas:
You can learn more about the areas of focus on the Microsoft Sustainability Approach page.
Microsoft’s Ambition and Big, Bold Goals for Sustainability
- Carbon – Carbon negative by 2030 – Microsoft has been carbon neutral across the world since 2012 and commits to being carbon negative by 2030. Our goal is to promote sustainable development and low-carbon business practices globally through our sustainable business practices and cloud-enabled technologies.
- Water – Water positive by 2030 – We’re creating and employing tools to help address the world’s water challenges including scarcity, pollution, and ocean health. We’re committed to reducing our consumption and replenishing water in the regions we operate.
- Waste – Zero waste by 2030 – We think every device should be made with an emphasis on sustainability and aim to continually improve all of our products. At our facilities, we reduce and eliminate waste by reusing materials, source reduction, and recycling. All waste is treated with environmentally responsible methods.
- Ecosystems – Building a Planetary Computer – Microsoft is building the tools and services to help anyone, anywhere better understand the ecosystem around them today, and monitor and model impacts from climate or human behavior. We are taking responsibility for our land footprint by committing to permanently protect and restore more land than we use by 2025.
Microsoft Sustainability Progress
I find one of the most interesting visuals in the Microsoft 2021 Environmental Sustainability Report is the summary of progress:
What an incredible balcony view of the scope of impact.
How Microsoft Works on Sustainability
One of the most useful visuals I found in the Microsoft 2021 Environmental Sustainability Report is the overview of how Microsoft works on sustainability all up:
The End-Game for Helping Customers with Their Sustainability Ambitions
From the Microsoft Sustainability Guide eBook:
“Together, we’re enabling organizations to gain the transparency and insights they need to manage their environmental footprint, embed sustainability through their organization and value chain, and make strategic business investments that drive value.”
Microsoft Sustainability Guide eBook Overview (Assess / Accelerate / Transform)
You can learn about how Microsoft supports organizations on their sustainability journey in the Microsoft Sustainability Guide eBook.
3 main phases of the sustainability journey:
- Assess – Get started by recording and reporting your environmental footprint.
- Accelerate – Reduce the impact of your organization and supply chain.
- Transform – Reimagine your business systems, remove traces of your footprint, and replace high-impact resources.
Here is a high-level summary of the approach:
Assess – Establish the foundation to truly understand your impact.
- Aim for accuracy – Embrace common method of data measurement and reporting.
- Record and report your impact – Gain the insights you need to inform sustainability practices.
- Leverage expertise – Build your team of trusted advisors.
Accelerate – Adopt more sophisticated solutions to reduce the impact of your operations, your buildings, and your supply chain.
- Operational efficiencies – Maximize efficiencies in your buildings and supply chain.
- Carbon – Adopt smart energy grid solutions.
- Water – Manage water flow and consumption.
- Waste – Embrace a circular economy.
- Ecosystems – Glen ESG insights.
Transform – Reimagine your systems and models to create a more resilient future
- Replace high-footprint resources
- Use technologies that are sustainable by design
- Remove your footprint
- Adopt new business models
- Examine your impact on ecosystems
For the full walkthrough, see the Microsoft Sustainability Guide eBook.
Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability
Wherever you are on your path to net zero, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability enables you to amplify progress and transform your business through environmental, social, and governance (ESG) capabilities.
4 ways the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability helps accelerate your sustainability journey:
- Unify data intelligence – Gain the visibility you need to improve sustainability reporting and help transform your business.
- Build a sustainable IT infrastructure – Identify opportunities to replace your tools, systems, and activities with more efficient options.
- Reduce the environmental impact of operations – Track and minimize the environmental footprint of your operational systems and processes.
- Create sustainable value chains – Enhance accountability across your value chain, from sourcing materials through product distribution.
For more information:
- Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability
- Accelerate your journey to net-zero with Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, by Satish Thomas, Corporate VP, Microsoft Industry Clouds
- Documentation for the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability
Microsoft Sustainability Manager
The Microsoft Sustainability Manager is an extensible Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability solution that unifies data to help you record, report, and reduce your emissions. This solution includes direct connections to the Emissions Impact Dashboard.
Here are the primary use cases:
- Track emissions data across your operations and value chain
- Record, report, and reduce your environmental impact with Microsoft Sustainability Manager—a new Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability solution that’s now available.
Learn more at Microsoft Sustainability Manager.
The Microsoft Emissions Impact Dashboard
The Microsoft Emissions Impact Dashboard is an innovative web-based user interface that allows Microsoft and its cloud customers to consistently and transparently track and manage their Microsoft Cloud service usage across all impact points in their value chains.
The Microsoft Emissions Impact Dashboard allows for a broader, more inclusive spectrum of data points that enable a more accurate assessment of the energy and carbon implications of common services used today.
By using the Microsoft Emissions Impact Dashboard, cloud customers can track their carbon emissions, carbon intensity scores, and emissions savings over on-premises solutions.
Learn more at Microsoft Emissions Impact Dashboard.
Microsoft Sustainability for Smart Spaces
You can learn how Microsoft is helping with smart spaces at Microsoft Sustainability for Smart Spaces.
Optimize the ways in which buildings, campuses, and cities consume and deliver resources through better infrastructure management.
You can turn inefficiencies into opportunities to reduce environment impact by using data-driven technologies for monitoring and managing carbon, water, and waste in buildings—from stores to stadiums to office complexes.
As dense and active places, buildings and cities are significant contributors to our climate crisis.
- 75% of global carbon dioxide emissions comes from urban areas
- 38% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions is associated with the buildings and construction sector
- 20-50% of city energy budgets are allocated to street lighting
- 25-30% of water consumed in buildings is wasted
Accelerating sustainability in smart places – With the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), we can optimize the way buildings, campuses, and cities consume and deliver resources and create efficiencies that benefit organizations and the planet.
- Optimize energy management and reduce carbon emissions – Use predictive monitoring to help manage equipment performance and energy consumption and explore grid-interactive, efficient buildings and infrastructure.
- Drive smart water use – Remotely monitor water quality to reduce costs and meet health and safety standards. Track and control water flow to reduce consumption.
- Reduce waste and improve waste management – Smart digital solutions can facilitate repurposing and recycling and also help monitor waste bins, maximize efficient solid waste collection, and deliver on advanced waste containment scenarios.
Microsoft Sustainability for Automotive
You can learn how Microsoft is helping the automotive industry at Microsoft Sustainability for Automotive
Automakers are evolving from traditional manufacturers to mobility services providers by quickly advancing engineering, manufacturing, and customer and passenger experiences.
Automakers and consumers are responding to today’s realities—real environmental and financial risks that require swift adaptation and fundamental transformation of our global economy.
- 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted annually by a standard car
- 17% of global emissions are attributable to road transport
- 63% more electric vehicle (EV) units were sold globally in 2018 than the year before
Build the resilient automotive industry of the future – Keep pace with vehicle innovation while creating efficiencies and reducing costs. Microsoft technology solutions for automotive sustainability help you connect people, products, and processes—and tackle complexity with intelligent insights.
- Mobility services – Promote sustainability with intelligent, demand-driven mobility services that help you reduce your carbon footprint, minimize traffic and accidents, and deliver a seamless passenger experience.
- Electrification – Move your EV data to the cloud to optimize infrastructure and connectivity for vehicles, charge stations, and the grid. Incorporate demand forecasting and coordination. And improve new battery technology and reuse.
- Circular economy – In the circular economy, neither end-of-life vehicles nor component parts are wasted—they’re repurposed as raw material. Emerging Microsoft solutions for circularity enable strategic decision making that’s based on past usage data modeling, forecasting, and simulations.
- Transparency – Select suppliers with environmentally responsible practices—and use Microsoft technologies, such as Azure analytics, machine learning, and telematics, to measure and share sustainability data across your operations.
Microsoft Sustainability for Energy
You can learn how Microsoft is helping the energy industry at Microsoft Sustainability for Energy.
The global transition to cleaner energy is a shift to renewable energy sources like solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind.
- 72% of new power generation in 2019 was renewable
- 50% of total power generation after 2035 will be renewables, primarily wind, solar, and hydroelectric
- $250B value could come to oil & gas upstream operations through advanced connectivity by 20303
Microsoft is helping drive energy transformation to achieve net-zero commitments through emissions reductions and de-carbonization. Microsoft for Energy solutions help address increasing sustainability expectations and regulations while adapting your business operations toward net zero.
- Report carbon and other GHG emissions – Track CO2 and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the energy value chain. With connected devices and integrated AI and machine learning, uncover opportunities, trends, and insights to better balance energy demand and supply in real time.
- Reduce GHG emissions – Lower electricity demand and reduce related GHG emissions by optimizing grid operations and supporting continued electrification in transportation, housing, and elsewhere.
- Shift hydrocarbons to renewables – Upgrade your power mix sustainably by incorporating renewable technologies and a managed transition to distributed energy and storage.
- Remove carbon from the atmosphere – By looking ahead to carbon capture and other carbon removal technologies, aim to permanently store carbon, create a business ecosystem on an agile technology platform, and move toward net-zero carbon emissions to reach sustainability targets.
- Read customer stories about moving to intelligent energy.
Microsoft Sustainability for Financial Services
You can learn how Microsoft is helping the financial services industry at Microsoft Sustainability for Financial Services.
Accelerate transformation, manage risk, and add value—while creating a more sustainable future.
An ethical, sustainable future requires quick adaptation – Expectations are quickly rising for financial institutions who are challenged to manage risk and add value while addressing ESG needs and industry pressures. Digital technologies can help accelerate transformation.
- $3-5T in investments are needed per year to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 20301
- 2X as many investors invested in ESG products in 2020 than in 20192
- 74% of financial institutions are focused on producing investor-grade ESG information
Enabling sustainability in financial services – Data management, enabled by advanced analytics and machine learning, can help you and your customers effectively address Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) priorities.
- Assess climate risk – Enable climate and environmental risk modeling to better understand climate and financial risk and address materiality and reporting requirements with robust, cloud-based solutions.
- Launch new ESG solutions – Use digital technologies to analyze and visualize ESG data, create new evidence-based ESG products, and quickly react to changing market conditions and client requests.
- Create unique research and investment insights – Leverage the power of the cloud to help you and your customers unlock more value from data, understand market drivers, discover green assets, and address current and future regulations and standards.
Microsoft Sustainability for Manufacturing
You can learn how Microsoft is helping the manufacturing industry at Microsoft Sustainability for Manufacturing.
Drive sustainability while reducing costs and improving safety in your manufacturing operations.
Environmentally sustainable operations are critical—and gaining momentum – Join companies that are addressing sustainability to create new growth opportunities and drive efficiencies.
- 20% of global CO2 emissions come from the manufacturing and production sectors
- 650B+ cubic meters of water were withdrawn by industry in 2017
- 31% of manufacturers are using new sustainable materials in their supply chains
Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing – Seamlessly connect people, assets, workflow, and business processes—and move forward with resilience—with end-to-end, open-standard manufacturing solutions.
- Optimize energy consumption – Drive new levels of agility, safety, and sustainability by optimizing your equipment and processes with innovative Internet of Things (IoT), AI, and mixed reality solutions.
- Reduce emissions and carbon footprint – With cloud technologies and more sustainable business practices, reduce the environmental impact of your operations. Start with collecting data on scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions to establish benchmarks and report progress.
- Improve water and waste management – Help reduce water consumption and wasted materials by designing for sustainability throughout the product and services lifecycles and improving forecasting.
- Drive responsible value chain practices – Move from monitoring and managing individual assets to monitoring and optimizing whole environments. Improve visibility with digitized solutions to predict trends, prescribe actions, and go forward sustainably.
Microsoft Sustainability for Retail
You can learn how Microsoft is helping the retail industry at Microsoft Sustainability for Retail.
Improve energy management and reduce your environmental impact with innovative retail technologies.
Sustainability is a growing priority in retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) – Industry leaders, employees, investors—and the partners and consumers who buy the goods—care about sustainability.
- 93% of CPG leaders spend more time on sustainability issues today than five years ago.
- 73% of millennials prioritize sustainability over pricing
- 55% of recent CPG market growth came from sustainability-marketed products
Build a more responsible consumer goods industry – Optimize your operations and create a more agile and sustainable product lifecycle. Innovative retail technologies help you connect data sources in the cloud, glean intelligent insights, and deliver sustainable and operational excellence.
- Reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption – Drive efficiencies using edge-to-cloud data analytics and data modeling to optimize your operations and supply chain networks.
- Use sustainable practices to conserve water and reduce waste – Adopt the use of sustainable materials and practices to reduce your environmental impact and optimize logistics.
- Establish responsible value chain practices – Increase transparency and accountability across your supply chain and use data insights to respond to customer demands.
Scope 3 Emissions is the Next Frontier in Greenhouse Gas Management
The Microsoft whitepaper – A new approach to Scope 3 emissions outlines a 7 step process for improving Scope 3 emissions.
The goal of the guide is to build on and expand on previous efforts to improve energy and carbon efficiency from direct operation of the Microsoft cloud datacenters.
Microsoft is sharing the steps it’s taking to measure the carbon impacts of cloud computing from infrastructure across its value chain to promote reductions and empower cloud customers to take similar action.
The value chain emissions include carbon from upstream suppliers and logistics providers and downstream from electronic waste recyclers and IT asset disposition circularity partners.
3 Scopes of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
From the Microsoft whitepaper – A new approach to Scope 3 emissions, here is how the 3 Scopes of carbon emissions are defined:
Per GHG Protocol (GHGP) guidance, carbon emissions are generally classified into three categories, known as scopes:
- Scope 1: emissions that directly result from business activities, such as stationary combustion of fuels for backup power generation in cloud datacenters.
- Scope 2: emissions that indirectly result from producing energy, such as exhausted from an electric power plant.
- Scope 3: emissions that indirectly result from all other business activities, such as those associated with the upstream raw materials extraction, manufacturing, and delivery of cloud-based IT asset infrastructure (such as servers) from suppliers to be used in our cloud datacenters. This also includes emissions that occur from our circularity partners during the recycling process and disposal for IT hardware reuse
Product Life Cycle Steps that Result in Scope 3 Emissions
From the MMicrosoft whitepaper – A new approach to Scope 3 emissions, here is the how Microsoft is measuring the carbon impacts of cloud computing from infrastructure across its value chain:
Here is a summary of each part of the process:
- Raw material extraction and manufacturing: using raw materials and assembling servers, networking equipment, and hard drives.
- Transportation: transporting IT equipment from the manufacturer to Microsoft datacenters. This will be included in future calculations, but at time of this paper’s publication, transportation in supply chain information is limited.
- Usage: using electricity to run the servers, networking equipment, hard drives, and datacenter infrastructure (such as lighting, cooling, and power conditioning). Where relevant, usage also includes energy from internet data flows.
- Hardware disposition: recycling and reclaiming for reuse based on conservative assumptions about recycling rates.
Scope 3 Allocations Emissions Methodology (7 Step Process)
The 7 step process combines the two methodologies:
- Methodology for Microsoft Cloud Scope 3 emissions: quantifying scope 3 cloud emissions at the individual component and IT hardware level.
- Methodology for Microsoft Cloud customer allocation: connecting emissions to organizationally allocated cloud customer emissions based on service-level usage.
Here is a summary of the 7 steps:
- Step 1: Calculate cradle-to-gate and hardware disposition emissions for components and hardware
- Step 2: Calculate datacenter emissions for a given month
- Step 3: Calculate Microsoft datacenter region emissions
- Step 4: Calculate total customer usage of Azure cloud services
- Step 5: Calculate Azure region-specific emission factors
- Step 6: Calculate Microsoft 365 regional usage factors per customer
- Step 7: Calculate total customer-specific emissions
For more information, read the
Microsoft whitepaper – A new approach to Scope 3 emissions (PDF)
Climate Innovation Fund (A $1 Billion Innovation Fund)
This is a $1 billion investment initiative to accelerate technology development and deployment of new climate innovations through equity and debt capital.
The funding is focused on investments primarily based on four criteria:
- Climate impact – Meaningful, measurable climate solutions in the areas of carbon, water, waste, and ecosystems.
- Underfunded markets – Investing where the capital need for climate solutions is not being met.
- Shared alignment – Technologies that are relevant to Microsoft’s core business and that of our customers.
- Climate equity – Ensuring developing economies and underserved communities benefit from climate solutions.
For details, see the Climate Innovation Fund (A $1 billion innovation fund)
Call to Action
- Read the Microsoft Environmental Sustainability Report. This is a great way to really learn about Microsoft’s overall approach and how to frame sustainability efforts and drive results.
- Explore and familiarize yourself with the sustainability resources, pages, and docs.
- Walk through the areas of focus (carbon, water, waste, ecosystems) and use that as a way to think about strategies and tactics for addressing sustainability. Tip – learn from stories, even from other industries, to understand how different organizations are working through the sustainability challenge.
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