One of the Eastside's largest businesses, , is taking a big step in Sustainable Business Practices this July by going Carbon Neutral.
I spoke with Rob Bernard, the company's chief environmental strategist, online today. According to Bernard, the move is at least partially driven by Microsoft's bottom line.
"The cost of carbon is to drive behavioral change," he said.
Microsoft is putting an internal price on carbon and making carbon neutrality everyone's responsibility at Microsoft. The comprehensive process includes data centers, software development labs, air travel and office buildings. Not only will the project "infuse" environmental awareness, but it will also establish a discipline at scale across the business. To support this program, the company has the three pillars—Be lean, Be green and Be accountable.
How is it going so far?
"The real test will be 6 to 9 months from now, once it is all rolled out. Then we will see how it's being adopted," Bernard said. "So far, there are good signs—a keen interest from around the company."
Self-selected "sustainability champions" within the company play an important role in how this program is adopted by helping to drive the reduction of energy use in buildings by 3 to 10 percent. Communication with the champions is done through newsletters, emails and meetings.
Each quarter Microsoft hands out an "Environmental Action Award." The most recent recipient of this award is currently being spotlighted on EcoEastside's Facebook page.
Reporting carbon footprint and other sustainable practices, like waste diversion, is nothing new for Microsoft. Bernard describes the process as determining "how technology can be leveraged to make better use of all resources."
"It is important to get done, so we do it," he said.
Other active sustainability programs at Microsoft include:
- Reduction goals for waste—including a 63 to 80 percent diversion rate and 95 percent diversion rate in the company's dining facilities. Ninety-five percent! It is no surprise that Microsoft was one of the recipients of the 2012 WSRA Recycler of the Year. Bellevue College and Bellevue School District also received this award for 2012.
- The smarter buildings pilot is predicted to save $1.5 million in 18 months. This takes part in the operations of the building. "It is being done using technology," Bernard said.
- White Paper—The IT Efficiency Imperative.
- Carbon Systems—Enterprise Systems Platform (ESP). Microsoft has been carbon reporting through this carbon disclosure project platform for the last seven years.
- The company has an internal open forum called MS Green. This is a self-selected email group of about 1,000 employees and contractors that discuss mass transit, energy conservation, organic farming and more.
- For more examples, check out the Microsoft Environment site here.
Will the three pillars be enough to drive a large corporation like Microsoft to carbon neutrality?
Be lean. This is taking something we are all familiar with—efficiency—and adding a technology element to the mix. Where better to start then Microsoft?
Be green. Purchasing more renewable energy is going to get easier as more options are opening, and the technology is advancing rapidly in this field, too.
Be accountable. With an internal price on carbon being set, a quantifiable measure has been added to the picture. It is a new variable not be taken lightly in daily operations.
Microsoft's track to carbon neutrality is worth following in the coming months. As company officials mention in Microsoft's carbon neutral document, "This is a learning process, and we will evolve our approach over time based on results." Stay up-to-date on this journey through the Microsoft Environment blog.