Last week, Microsoft made several bold commitments related to its carbon footprint. The tech leader has set a goal of going “carbon negative” by 2030. In other words, Microsoft will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it produces. Additionally, the Seattle-based company will pour $1 billion into the development of clean technologies.
Microsoft president, Brad Smith, explained the moral motivation behind his firm’s ambitious commitments. “While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so.”
Currently, Microsoft emits close to 16 million metric tons of carbon every year. Going carbon negative requires that the company cut its level of carbon production by more than half across its entire supply chain. Doing so won’t be easy.
Microsoft All-in on Sustainability
President Brad Smith believes the entire organization must buy-in to reach Microsoft’s sustainability goals. One way the leadership team aims to accomplish this is through its existing “internal carbon fee.” Beginning in 2012, Microsoft began charging its own business units a per-metric-ton tax for carbon emissions. Last year, the fee doubled to $15-per-metric-ton.
In 2020, the scope of the fee will broaden even more to include indirect emissions. Activities, such as manufacturing and customer electricity use for Microsoft products, will be included as taxable events.
On the direct emissions front, Microsoft is following several strategies. The company plans to establish a “climate innovation fund” for developing carbon reduction technologies. In the next five years, Microsoft plans to purchase enough renewable electricity to offset its electricity consumption. Also, only electric vehicles will be allowed on campuses by 2030.
Perhaps most shocking (and inspiring) is Microsoft’s 2050 goal to remove the total amount of carbon from the atmosphere that it has produced since its founding in 1975. Although a moonshot goal, Microsoft’s leaders believe it’s a worthy benchmark and example for the rest of the world to follow.
What Else Are Tech Powerhouses Doing?
In general, the public is putting a lot of pressure on consumer tech developers to address their environmental footprints. Amazon has responded by making a similar commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 and 100 percent renewables by 2030.
Apple has pledged to produce every product in its portfolio with recycled or renewable materials in the future. The company has already moved its corporate locations, stores, and data centers to run 100 percent on clean energy.
Google employees have also taken their fight public. Although the company has been carbon neutral since 2007, over 1,100 employees signed a letter to CFO Ruth Porat, demanding that Google achieve zero emissions by the end of this decade. The letter also included requests that the company not fund organizations or individuals who deny the reality of climate change.
These are just a few examples of how much influence the public has over Big Tech when it comes to encouraging sustainable practices and operations. Let’s hope Microsoft can continue its streak of revolutionizing the world, this time for the sake of the planet’s health.