When we look across the tech landscape, it is often defined by a series of mini battles. Which company has the best cloud service, which delivers the best workplace chat took, which has the best mobile platform, and so on. One of the lesser discussed battlegrounds is climate. On the surface, companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Google are looking to outcompete each other in which is greener.
If you think about it, there's arguably no competition at all. Companies increasingly want to work to help the climate and the more that do, the better it is for all of us and the future of the planet. Tech companies being the ultra-competitive bunch they are actively competing on who can be cleanest. In return, they get a nice pat on the back.
In an extensive report, Vox looks at Microsoft's climate commitments and what the company is doing to achieve them. First and foremost, no longer are climate change, environment, and carbon commitments buzzwords with little meaning. Microsoft is now embarking on a top to bottom engagement to address its footprint on the environment.
This was encapsulated earlier this year when the company debuted a new commitment. In that pledge, Redmond said it will reduce emissions to become carbon negative by 2030. The decision followed a 2017 commitment to cut 75% of its carbon emissions by the same date and builds on 2019 revisions of 70% renewable energy by 2023.
During the summer, Microsoft has been ramping up its climate efforts as it takes the first steps towards its carbon negative goal. When announcing that commitment in January, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Brad Smith offered the following:
“At Microsoft, we expect to emit 16 million metric tons of carbon this year,” Smith wrote in a January blog post. “Of this total, about 100,000 are scope 1 emissions and about 4 million are scope 2 emissions. The remaining 12 million tons all fall into scope 3. Given the wide range of scope 3 activities, this higher percentage of the total is probably typical for most organizations.”
If you're confused about talk of scope emissions, here's what you need to know:
- Scope 1: resources that come from the company (Microsoft).
- Scope 2: Emissions that come from powerplants the company uses.
- Scope 3: Indirect emissions such as in the supply chain for product manufacturing or even business travel. One of the most interesting things about Scope 3 emissions is they typically outweigh both Scope 1 and 2 together.
Last week, Microsoft revealed a successful test running its datacenters on hydrogen fuel cells. This alternate fuel uses zero-carbon power using renewable energy sources. Microsoft's test was the largest of its kind. Microsoft has 160 data centers around the world so finding a way to sustain them renewably could be a massive evolution for the company's climate goals.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Microsoft's carbon negative commitment is that won't only address the here and now or the future. Redmond said it will go a step further and will decrease carbon use enough by 2050 to make up for all the carbon emissions it has used since starting in 1975.
In the winner takes it all dynamics of the tech world, it's a commitment that allowed Microsoft some bragging rights over its rivals. Some have described it as setting a new bar in corporate tech climate commitments.