Top Ten Sustainability Initiatives of Microsoft

Top ten sustainability initiatives of MicrosoftMicrosoft Corporation, just known as Microsoft to the masses, is a multinational corporation headed up in the United States and is known for the development, manufacturing, support, and licensing of a broad range of services and products relating to the computer industry. Aside from its operating system and Microsoft Office supplies, it is known for the manufacturing of a number of consumer electronics, including the Xbox and Xbox 360, Zone, Windows Phone OS, and MSN. Microsoft is also extremely big with its environmental sustainability efforts. Greenpeace has listed Microsoft at number 17 in the list of Guide to Greener Electronics. Microsoft has employed a number of sustainable initiatives when it comes to facilities, transportation, and a number of other items. Here is a list of ten of the sustainability initiatives by Microsoft.

1) Carbon Footprint Reduction
Microsoft understands the need to improve the current environment so it is safe for future generations. Environmental sustainability is a core concern in all daily operations and lowering carbon footprints is one of the best ways to be more sustainable. By 2012, the goal of Microsoft is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of revenue by a minimum of 30 percent when compared to 2007 levels. Microsoft has a number of incentives to allow employees to make greener choices and reduce their carbon footprint, including Microsoft’s policy regarding working from home, commuting incentives, and recycling programs. Microsoft also purchases renewable energy, builds all new buildings in accordance to LEED standards as listed by the United States Green Building Council, and requires all suppliers to agree to a set code of environmental and social conduct.

2) Data Center Improvements to Save Energy
When compared with data centers that were built years ago, the new Microsoft data centers consume only half the energy. By 2012, the objective of Microsoft is to build data centers that average 1.125 in power usage effectiveness (PUE), which is a large improvement over the current industry average, which stands at two PUE.

3) Sustainability Partner of the Year Award given by Microsoft
Every year, Microsoft hands out the Sustainability Partner of the Year Award. Microsoft is always looking for partners that provide solutions to help consumers reduce energy demands as well as manage environmental footprint and resource consumption. This award recognizes the exceptional partners who have been able to deliver technology and software innovations that are built upon the Microsoft platform and aid people, businesses, and organizations, reduce their overall impact on the environment.

4) Environmental Benefits of Cloud Computing
Many businesses and individuals are already utilizing cloud computing, including for email, online gaming, social medial, and documents. When businesses, for example, move all their applications to a cloud program, carbon footprint and energy use is reduced by a minimum of 30 percent. This percentage is even more dramatic for smaller businesses. Microsoft is happy to offer their cloud service which reduces carbon footprints by reducing infrastructure, sharing applications, and improving efficiency of data centers.

5) Energy Smart Buildings
Through the use of a pilot program, Microsoft is known sharing its knowledge on how businesses and organizations are able to successfully use IT to improve the overall bottom line and also reduce environmental impacts. This included the systematic optimization and tracking of all building energy consumption and performance over a period of time. Then, the behavior of the building can be changed via benchmarks and dashboards. To make buildings energy smart, this includes utilizing cloud computing, using automation and real-time analytics, and becoming more integrated with utilities that are upgrading as well.

6) Managing Energy Consumption
To aid Microsoft in meeting their environmental goals, the IT department has created System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 as well as much better power management controls to more than 160,000 desktop and laptop computers. The result of this was a 27 percent decrease in power used by the computers.

7) Reducing Traveling with Microsoft Unified Communications
Through Microsoft’s Unified Communications program, communications and collaboration is streamlined. It aids in reducing the need for commuting and business travel as well as improves business outcomes, enhances environmental sustainability, and lowers cost. In the last year, Unified Communications helped Microsoft save on 17,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and reduced overall travel costs by more than $90 million.

8) Policy on Substances
Microsoft takes the environment extremely seriously. Because of this, the company remains committed to meeting all regulation requirements to minimize the total impact of all products as well as global policy. This includes providing full disclosure regarding all substances and materials that are used in products. While Microsoft does have restricted substances a specification regarding substances that will not be used, Microsoft has no problem telling anyone what is not utilized in products. For all the banned substances, Microsoft requires that test reports are provided on a regular basis, and manufacturing facilities are audited to ensure all environmental policies regarding substances are followed.

9) More Sustainable Packaging
Microsoft is always looking for ways to reduce its environmental footprint, and one of the ways they are able to do this is my implementing a practice of environmentally sustainable packaging throughout the distribution practices. For example, the Windows 7 packaging weighed less and had fewer components then the packaging for Windows Vista. Furthermore, the Windows 7 packaging used paperboard that came from sustainably managed forests and could be easily recycled. Microsoft also works with the Australia Packaging Covenant that employs a number of techniques to minimize the impact of packaging on the environment.

10) Saving Energy
Microsoft understands that businesses are able to reduce their total energy consumption as well as save money by taking full advantage of all the built-in power management features available from Microsoft products. For example, Windows 7 can aid in decreasing power consumption and enhancing user experience by providing processor and platform efficiencies. Windows 7 also provides IT professionals with all the necessary tools they will require to configure and then resolve all issues regarding power management.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He is also author of The 2012 Cleantech Directory. He can be reached at

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