Microsoft Carbon Neutral

Microsoft tackles the climate crisis on its own terms

Redmond’s pledge to go carbon neutral is a handy way to stave off criticism of its Green credentials, says Billy MacInnes
Brad Smith, Amy Hood and Satya Nadella, announcing Microsoft’s plan to be carbon negative by 2030. (Image: Brian Smale/Microsoft)

10 February 2020

If the news accurately reflected the most pressing issues facing us over the next 10 years, then Microsoft’s commitment to be carbon negative by 2030 would be an even bigger deal than it is. Sure, the announcement on 16 January in a very informative blog post from company president Brad Smith, generated decent headlines, but in a world better informed about the climate emergency our planet faces, it would have been followed by journalists and citizens pressuring other organisations and corporations to follow the software giant’s lead. And doing so relentlessly.

Sadly, that hasn’t been the case. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised given that the US is led by a man who famously described climate change as a Chinese hoax and the Australian government is still denying the effects of climate change as a contributory factor to the unprecedented ferocity of the bushfires that have wreaked such havoc on that country.

Anyway, returning to Microsoft, the company is planning to remove more carbon than it emits by 2030. To do this, it will cut carbon emissions by more than half for direct emissions and for the vendor’s “entire supply and value chain. We will fund this in part by expanding our internal carbon fee, in place since 2012 and increased last year, to start charging not only our direct emissions, but those from our supply and value chains.”




The company says it is launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints and a $1 billion climate innovation fund “to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture and removal technologies”. Perhaps most importantly, the company adds that it “will also make carbon reduction an explicit aspect of our procurement processes for our supply chain”.

By 2050 it intends to “remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975”.

No one can fault Microsoft’s ambition and it’s to be hoped other businesses will follow its lead. At the customer level, Microsoft has launched a sustainability calculator that helps clients analyse the carbon impact of their Azure workloads and plans “to provide greater transparency on the carbon performance of Teams, Edge and other services and solutions”.

From a channel perspective, it will be interesting to see what kind of pressures will be brought to bear on partners to reduce their own carbon footprints as part of the vendor’s supply chain. The shift to a cloud and subscription-based model should make it easier for partners to account for the carbon footprint of the Microsoft products and solutions they provide but that’s only a part of their overall customer engagement. Without similar clarity from other vendors on the environmental cost of their products and services, partners will struggle to give an accurate representation of their own carbon footprint. Microsoft’s announcement should lead to pressure from customers, partners and other businesses in the IT supply chain for other vendors to follow suit.

As an aside, however, I wonder whether Microsoft may not fully appreciate the true impact of its products and services on the overall carbon footprint for IT. After all, without the frequent refreshes of its operating system and application software that place greater demands on the performance of the hardware that runs them which has led to a regular two to three year cycle of hardware upgrades, the carbon cost of the IT industry may well have been much lower than it has been since the launch, 30 years ago, of Windows 3.

To put it another way, if you’re providing the fuel that drives the engine, just how much responsibility should you bear for the emissions and pollution generated by the cars that run on your fuel?

Sending a message

Also in the news is Avaya’s elevation of channel lead Steve Joyner to the role of managing director for UK & Ireland. It’s always good to see someone with channel experience get the managing director post at a vendor because the expectation has to be they will have a greater understanding and appreciation of the role that distributors, service providers and resellers play in their overall strategy.

Instead of being an afterthought or something to pay lip service to, people who have engaged with channel partners on a daily basis can see what they do for the company, what more they could do and what more the vendor could do for them.

At a time when vendors are all channel enthusiasts in public, it’s a good sign when they have the awareness to appoint someone who has been involved in their partner organisation to manage the business, whether it be in a specific country or a bigger territory, such as EMEA. When a vendor has no qualms about making someone from the partner side of the business a managing director, it shows that the organisation has reached the point where the channel is part of the mainstream rather than an adjunct to it.

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