Microsoft Corporation is a multinational company that provides consumer software and cloud services. The Redmond, Washington-based company is known for its Windows operating system. It is equally known for its suite of office products and its Internet Explorer. In 2016, it was the world’s largest technology company ranked by revenues.
Moreover, “By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975,” writes Brad Smith, president, and vice chair, in a blog.
— In 2021, it said it would cut its carbon footprint in half and remove more carbon than it emits each year by 2030.
— It is investing in carbon reduction and removal technologies. The monies will also go to reduce water and waste. It expects to deploy $1 billion.
— The company made a $100 million grant to Breakthrough Energy Catalyst to accelerate climate solutions. The areas: clean hydrogen, direct air capture, long-duration energy storage, and sustainable aviation fuel.
Please give us a progress report on climate-related matters.
Microsoft says it has reduced CO2 emissions by 17% year-over-year or from 2020 to 2022. That refers to its Scope 1 and 2 emissions or those tied to its operations and the electricity it procures from third parties. But it admits that its Scope 3 emissions or those linked to its supply chain have risen 23% year-over-year during the same period.
“Our emissions outputs took place against a backdrop of significant business growth in 2021. In this time period, our business revenue grew by 20%,” writes President Smith, in a separate blog. “We significantly expanded our global data center footprint to meet the increased demand for Microsoft’s cloud business, and we saw a growth in devices sales, especially Xbox and associated usage due in part to the pandemic.”
To that end, Microsoft says that its focus will be on the supply chain and collecting data from it. It has data from over 87% of these suppliers. Moreover, it is increasing its internal fee on carbon releases. The travel fee will rise to $100 per metric ton of CO2 equivalents, which will apply to its Scope 3 emissions.
The company purchases carbon offsets to help it meet its carbon obligations — things like saving the rainforests and planting trees. Last year, it made the world’s most significant purchase of carbon removal at 1.4 million metric tons. This year, it says that figure will be1.5 million metric tons. It expects those carbon credit purchases to keep growing.
What about water?
While water covers 70% of the Earth’s surface, 97% of that is salt water found in oceans and is undrinkable. The company is concerned that humankind depletes the available freshwater supply at a rate of 4.3 trillion cubic meters yearly – “the majority of which goes to agricultural and industrial uses.”
Therefore, Microsoft has set out to tackle the water challenges by reducing its water use intensity — the water it uses per megawatt of energy used for its operations. And it will also replenish water where it operates if such resources are now stressed. It aims to fill more water than it consumes on a global basis.
“Our pledge today to become water positive by 2030 adds a fourth pillar to this work. And as in our other areas, we’re committed not only to setting ambitious goals for ourselves but using technology to better help our customers to do the same,” says President Smith.
That includes making investments in wetland restoration projects. Microsoft will focus its efforts on the roughly 40 most stressed basins where it has operations. A basin is “highly stressed” if the water withdrawals exceed 40% of the renewable supply. Microsoft says that 4,717 basins are highly stressed globally and need attention.
These efforts are part of Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to address water at its data centers. That includes:
— Its new Silicon Valley campus has an onsite rainwater collection system and waste treatment plant to ensure all non-potable water comes from onsite recycled sources. It says that by recycling the water, the campus will save an estimated 4.3 million gallons of potable water each year.
— Its Israeli campus has water-efficient plumbing that improves water conservation by 35%.
— Its newest building in India supports 100% treatment and reuse of wastewater — used for landscaping and a cooling tower.
— Its campus in Puget Sound will reuse harvested rainwater, which is projected to save more than 5.8 million gallons annually.
— Its data center in Arizona is reducing water use intensity and replenishing water. “This system is highly efficient, using less electricity and up to 90% less water than other water-based cooling systems, such as cooling towers.”
And your zero-waste initiative?
In 2020, Microsoft announced a goal to achieve zero waste for its direct operations, products, and packaging by 2030.
“To address our own waste creation, Microsoft will reduce nearly as much waste as we generate while reusing, repurposing, or recycling our solid, compost, electronics, construction and demolition, and hazardous wastes,” says President Smith. “We’ll do this by building first-of-their-kind Microsoft Circular Centers to reuse and repurpose servers and hardware in our data centers. We’ll also eliminate single-use plastics in our packaging.”
Smith says that by 2030, Microsoft will divert at least 90% of its solid waste that would otherwise head to landfills. It will do so, in part, by using 100% recyclable packaging. Annually, there’s about 300 million metric tons of plastic produced. Fifty percent of that is used once — half of which comes from packaging.
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