28 Apr 2022

Making sustainability a focus for everyone in the business (Guest Blog from Microsoft)

Author: Glen Robinson, National Technology Officer at Microsoft UK

In January 2020 Microsoft made a commitment to be carbon negative by 2030, and removing all the emissions it has ever created, by 2050. We also committed to become water positive, waste neutral, and protect ecosystems.

Two years into this journey and we’re constantly learning and adapting our approach, having seen success in reducing our direct carbon emissions by around 17% year on year, but at the same time we’ve seen a 23% increase in our scope 3, or supply chain emissions.

So, what are we doing about this, what have we learnt, and how can you benefit from our learnings?

“We can’t solve problems we can’t measure” is a popular phrase at Microsoft. We rely heavily on data. This starts with a data standard around carbon emission reporting which is where we partner with the CDP, previously known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, ensuring we submit carbon data in a standardised manner, as well as being able to report on 3rd party emissions using the same data standard. To help with this, we released a set of in-depth capacity building tools and resources, developed in partnership with ENGIE Impact, WSP, and CDP to help companies, especially our suppliers, report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and set strategies to reduce emissions from electricity. Global progress in carbon reduction relies on us all counting carbon consistently!

Since 2012, we’ve had a carbon tax which the teams must ‘pay’ out of their P&L which we use to invest back into our sustainability programmes. In 2019 this tax was doubled to $15 per metric ton of CO2, in 2020 this was extended from our direct emissions to also include scope 3 emissions. This has made sustainability a focus for everyone in the business and a problem they are incentivised to continually improve.

The scope 3 emissions are the hardest. These are ones that mostly fall outside of our direct control, they are emissions produced by the supply chain involved in producing our technology. Currently we have around 87% of our suppliers who provide their emissions data to the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) meaning we can access and report on this data. We require this via our supplier code of conduct which is the lever we use to drive our supply chain to create this transparency.

The scope 3 emissions also account for the carbon produced by the use of our technology, for example, the electricity needed to power an Xbox over the course of its life. By reporting on scope 3 emissions, it drives the innovation focus in areas such as our devices to ensure we are creating power efficiency and low power standby modes. This has resulted in a reduction from 15W down to 0.5-2W for an Xbox in standby mode.

So, what can you do?

Think about implementing internal carbon taxes for your teams to drive focus on these issues, as well as provide routes to fund sustainability programmes.

The carbon tax applied to scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions drives innovation and creativity in areas we haven’t seen it before.

Think about the influence you have over your supply chain and how you can ask them to commit to their own sustainability goals and provide the metrics allowing you to measure your own scope 3 emissions.

In summary, driving to a carbon negative future requires a holistic approach whereby organisations take responsibility for their entire carbon impact across scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Tracking and reporting on these emissions needs to be done in a consistent and transparent manner which allows organisations to track progress and target the areas which will have the most impact.

In the words of Brad Smith, President at Microsoft: “It’s what the world needs us all to do.”

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