Looking ahead to the future – Microsoft’s dedication to sustainability

This must be a decade of ambition paired with action. At Microsoft, we appreciate the urgency, responsibility, risks, and opportunities ahead.

For Microsoft to do well, we need the world to do well. This belief is why our mission is to empower every person on the planet to achieve more, and why our CEO, Satya Nadella, stated, “the purpose of a corporation is to find profitable solutions to problems of people and the planet.“

Unfortunately, 2020 brought an array of new challenges to this already complex work. COVID-19 has devastated human lives in every corner of the globe, while climate change caused unprecedented environmental and economic damages.

While vaccines are becoming available as a solution for COVID-19, solutions for climate change will require deploying a host of different tools to combat the many drivers of climate change. For the survival of people and our planet, this is a battle we can’t afford to lose.

This will require the dedication of individuals, organizations, and governments, all focused on stabilizing Earth’s climate and properly managing its natural resources.

We have a limited amount of time to accomplish what will be the most significant behavioral and technological societal transformation in modern human history. By 2030, society must be well on its way to mitigating and adapting to rapidly changing climates, ensuring resilient water supplies, reducing the amount of waste we generate, and reversing the ongoing and catastrophic degradation of ecosystems while halting the extinction of species.

That is why this must be a decade of ambition paired with action.

At Microsoft we appreciate the urgency, responsibility, risks, and opportunities ahead. That is why a little over a year ago we began a process to transform our company’s work on sustainability to better align with the scope, scale, and speed of the world’s environmental challenges and yet-to-be created solutions.

As we worked to set and implement our commitments to become carbon negative, water positive, and zero waste and to deploy a Planetary Computer, some of these global challenges came into sharp focus. There is a suite of enabling conditions that must exist for Microsoft and the world to effectively and efficiently achieve a more sustainable and just future.

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. But it will be the creation of six enabling conditions outside Microsoft that will ultimately dictate success or failure of the sustainability agenda. Resolving or improving these conditions will ensure a coherent, coordinated, cost-efficient approach to individual and collective action on climate change.

By 2030, we must progress on the six enabling conditions:

1.         Risk recognition

            A widely adopted and comprehensive risk framework will need to be in place to ensure every business integrates environmental risk at the core of their corporation’s corporate governance process.

2.         Standards Setting

            By well before 2030, we must be operating in a world where companies have come together across sectors to agree on common sustainability units and methods of measurement across carbon, water, and waste.

3.         Data digitization

            Digitized sustainability data must become a platform that allows society to stitch together the dimensionality of the sustainability landscape from the bottom up, and analyze them from the top down.

4.         Innovation Investment

            Most climate investments will need to fit within a well-structured and accepted framework that aligns investment vehicles along an appropriate risk-tolerance spectrum, targeted on the most impactful areas.

5.         Market Maturation

            Carbon offset and removal, water replenishment, and ecosystem service markets can supply greater and growing demand, transparently and with standard insurance guarantees.

6.         Policy Progression

            A globally coordinated policy regime should be in place that limits emissions in line with a 1.5°C future, while respecting political sovereignty and the cross-boundary nature of the Earth’s life support systems, and does so with a focus on the need to equitably share these resources across cultures and communities.

— Dr. Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer, <Microsoft 2020 Environmental Sustainability Report>

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