Is Microsoft on track to become carbon neutral in less than a decade?
Just over a year ago, Microsoft revealed an audacious plan to become a carbon-neutral company by 2030. For a leading tech company with a presence on every continent, committing to carbon neutrality on such a short timeline is, to borrow Microsoft‘s term, a “moonshot.”
So, one year on, are Microsoft on target?
Microsoft‘s Carbon Neutral Pledge
Smith lists three key milestones that Microsoft has already hit:
- The reduction of Microsoft‘s carbon emissions by 6 percent, which is roughly 730,000 metric tons.
- Microsoft purchased the removal of 1.3 million metric tons of carbon, contributing to 26 projects worldwide.
- Introducing transparency measures, working with accounting firm Deloitte to audit annual sustainability reports.
Microsoft has taken some important steps forward, too. For example, the company has expanded its internal carbon tax to cover more products known as “scope 3 emissions.”
For years we have applied an internal carbon tax to our scope 1 and 2 emissions. This meant that each part of Microsoft paid internally (at a rate of $15 per metric ton) for the carbon emitted for its direct emissions like travel and electricity. At the start of our new fiscal year this past July 1, Amy Hood expanded our internal carbon tax to include scope 3 emissions, beginning with a lower rate of $5 per ton that will increase each year.
Other improvements come from small changes that add up to large savings. The new Xbox consoles include a new feature that reduces power consumption from 15W to 2W when the device enters standby mode. For one console, that’s great. With tens of millions of consoles, it adds up considerably.
Microsoft Setting Carbon Removal Standards
The enabling conditions that we must address inside Microsoft are clear—broadening and strengthening our governance and accountability frameworks while building a culture of sustainability investment and innovation.
There are six core “enabling conditions” that Microsoft must work towards or adhere to if the goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2030 is to be achieved. Those six enabling conditions are:
- Risk recognition: Understanding and mitigating the risk of environmental damage and how that risk will impact the business going forward.
- Standards setting: Create and deliver accountable standards that clearly measure and explain the environmental resources a company is using.
- Data digitization: Build and implement digital monitoring and recording systems for “carbon emissions, water consumption, waste generation, and ecosystem health” to help the private sector build transparency.
- Innovation investment: Carbon neutrality will require new technologies that either don’t exist or are too expensive to implement. Therefore, climate investments must increase to aid innovation.
- Market maturation: The current markets that help sustainability efforts, like carbon offsetting or carbon-credits, are poorly understood. These markets require updating, extending, and ultimately must become easier to use.
- Policy progression: Simply put, global policy must continue pushing toward sustainability, carbon reduction, and other environment-saving measures. Leading tech companies can and should lead the way, but governments must also push other sectors to act.
Can Microsoft Become Carbon Neutral in Less Than a Decade?
Key to the success of Microsoft achieving its goal is focusing on actual carbon removal. For a long time, tech companies were focusing on carbon avoidance rather than removal or as part of removal and sustainability schemes.
Even if Microsoft misses its carbon neutral by 2030 goal, it is still a huge win for the environment and the world as a whole.
These sites help you visualize the devastating effects of global warming and climate change.
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