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Microsoft
Gap Score: -9.1
#bestglobalgreenbrands
  • In 2013, Microsoft upped its use of renewable energy nearly 73% to 1,935,637,485 kWh annually, an increase of more than 815 million kWh from 2012. Also in 2013, Microsoft committed to achieving carbon neutrality for its data centers, software development labs, offices, and employee air travel.

  • Microsoft employees are helping to reduce campus waste in the U.S. by using compostable plates and utensils. The move to compostables reduced its cafeteria waste by 50%.

  • Microsoft’s CityNext solutions are helping cities improve water conservation and quality and cut maintenance and support costs by using software to collect and analyze both real-time and historical data from a wide range of sources.

  • Microsoft is turning the 125 buildings in its Redmond, Washington, headquarters into a smart campus. Referred to as “88 Acres,” the project’s building management system increases efficiency and corrects 48% of found faults within 60 seconds. The company forecasts energy savings of 6–10% per year, with an implementation payback of 18 months.

Working Together

Microsoft has advocated for large-scale ecosystem modeling through a partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre. It has worked to restore large aquatic ecosystems—particularly in the Puget Sound region—through a cooperative project with the U.S. EPA. The Microsoft Research Connections team explored how available data and technology can help build relationships between community members, landholders, and decision makers at the county and city level. It has also mapped out threats to endangered wildlife in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resource’s Red List of Threatened Species and helped preserve threatened plant and animal species in Latin America through LiveANDES, a data collection and processing tool developed by Microsoft Research in collaboration with the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and The Latin American and Caribbean Collaborative ICT Research Federation (LACCIR Virtual Institute).

The Green Advantage

After making important strides in the previous year, such as achieving its ambitious carbon neutral goal, the fruits of these efforts are difficult to reap even for Microsoft. Though it has begun to invest in renewable energy, Microsoft has thus far relied heavily on buying Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and carbon offsets. In terms of perception, wider public discussion around ethical sourcing, which put the brand under scrutiny for its tin mining in Indonesia, has possibly had an impact. In order to further enhance its green reputation, the technology giant must increase disclosure (particularly around supply chain and stakeholder engagement) and make a greater effort to communicate its sustainability commitments and contributions to social good. Toward that end, actions such as signing a 20-year power purchase agreement to buy all the energy from the Keechi Wind Project and sharing stories like “88 Acres” about turning its 125 buildings in Redmond into a smart campus help to create positive impact for the Microsoft brand and our world. The brand’s increased performance score in 2014 is proof of its progress, but Microsoft’s drop in rank, despite so much improvement, shows just how serious leading brands are about meeting increasingly ambitious sustainability targets.

Links

First renewable energy purchase
88 Acres
Microsoft CityNext
Microsoft on reducing impact, including a video of campus waste reduction
Renewable energy and green power
Carbon Fee Playbook