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Microsoft, founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in April 1975, is an American multinational technology company producing computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services. Some of the most well-known software products include Microsoft Windows operating systems, Microsoft Office suite, Internet Explorer and Edge web browsers.

As of 2016, Microsoft was the world’s largest software maker by revenue, and reclaimed their position as the most valuable publicly traded company in the world in 2018. In 2019, they reached the trillion-dollar market cap, becoming the third US public company to be valued at over $1 trillion after Amazon and Apple respectively. This money and security that comes from such success has allowed Microsoft to invest significantly into sustainability and to focus on environmental impacts as well as their own growth. Recently, there has been a period of significant growth in terms of this focus with the introduction of a $1 billion investment into the Climate Investment Fund, for example.

What it's made of:


As well as providing excellent technological software and related services, Microsoft has a wide range of sustainability solutions available. These include Automotive, Energy, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Retail and Infrastructure Management solutions, all of which are complemented by insight from experts. These take the form of outlined guides made alongside sustainability partners such as Bentley and Ecolab, for example.

The Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability allows the consumer to record, report, and reduce their organisation’s environmental impact, and is pioneering in terms of its size. There is extensive documentation regarding sustainability progress/aims available to the public as well as consumers such as regular progress reports. This provides disclosure to help stakeholders evaluate how they are meeting their commitments and these reports are in one place for easy reference and download. Given the large size of influence and wealth of the corporation it is very encouraging to see such a transparent and proactive approach as it ensures that the message is received by a large audience.

How it's made:


Microsoft has chosen to address four broad areas of focus: carbon, ecosystems, water, and waste. The main goals are to be carbon negative, zero waste and water positive by 2030, and also to build a planetary computer. An example of a project outlined to help achieve these goals is the creation of Microsoft Circular Centres, which aim to reduce the e-waste created by today’s servers which have an average lifespan of five years by recycling and repurposing devices. Whilst the prospect of achieving the 2030 goals may seem overly ambitious, I believe that the ideas and plans outlined are achievable, especially given the extent of funding into the projects. Microsoft also emphasises a strong grounding in science and maths and provides evidence of extensive research and calculations that improve their understanding of their current situation and changes that need to be made as a result to achieve their goals.

Microsoft is relatively transparent in their production of physical goods and equipment, stating their commitment to responsible sourcing of raw materials in their Responsible Source of Raw Materials Policy. This is important since there are many significant negative environmental impacts associated with technology development, especially the pollution and displacement associated with mining for raw materials. Eco profiles are available for products and helps to identify and minimise the stages that pose the greatest environmental impacts. This information can benefit both the producer and the consumer.

The Climate Innovation Fund investment is a $1 billion investment initiative to accelerate technology development and deployment of new climate innovations through equity and debt capital. There is a focus on funding investments primarily based on four criteria: Climate impact, shared alignment, underfunded markets, climate equity. The progress on all of these fronts will be published in a new annual Environmental Sustainability Report that will detail the carbon impact and reduction journey which ensures effective transparency. The size of this fund is very encouraging and shows the serious attitude that Microsoft are taking with regards to sustainability.

Who makes it:


Sustainability has become a key point of interest for Microsoft in recent years, as emphasised by the statement “At Microsoft, we believe sustainability is critical for meeting the economic, societal and environmental needs of today and of future generations. We also believe sustainability is good for business”. Documentation regarding sustainability reports and other such information is readily available to the customer and the public and the corporation is very transparent in terms of their goals and actions.

As well as being environmentally aware, Microsoft also seems keen to acknowledge corporate social responsibility, with a mission to “empower everyone on the planet”, including their own employees, through their practices. Back in 2010, Microsoft were accused of unacceptable working conditions, with an undercover investigation carried out by the National Labour Committee on Chinese factories revealing that workers were treated “like garbage”. Work has since been done to improve such conditions, with Microsoft workers calling on Chinese tech companies to comply with local labour laws, limiting workers to 40 hours a week with a maximum of 36 hours per month overtime. The male:female ratio, although still predominantly male with 71.3% male in 2020, is slowly becoming more balanced. Issues regarding working conditions are apparent at all levels of the company. In March 2021, Bloomberg released results of a survey of global workers that found that, although most business leaders were “thriving”, 46% of workers were considering leaving their job, with 54% feeling overworked and 39% being exhausted. This however may be influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.