Technology isn’t just about making hardware and software. It’s about improving the world and how we can live in it. And while there’s little doubt that technology companies like Microsoft have revolutionised how we create, manage and consume information, it’s less clear how they have impacted the world we share.
To that end, Microsoft has just announced it will invest heavily in carbon-removal technology, with the goal of “removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits” and eventually erasing its carbon footprint entirely.
CEO Satya Nadella recently noted: “We must begin to offset the damaging effects of climate change.” He added that if climate change continues unabated, “the results will be devastating”.
Investing in the future
Microsoft President Brad Smith noted that this ambitions program “will require technology by 2030 that doesn’t fully exist today”, which is why Microsoft has committed US$1 billion to a ‘Climate Innovation Fund’ that will invest in carbon-removal technologies.
Microsoft already charges its business groups a fee to cover their carbon emissions; this will be expanded to help fund the program and further encourage the environmentally responsible use of travel and electricity, among other measures.
The immediate goal is, by 2030, to halve its carbon emissions. The longer-term goal is, by 2050, to have removed enough carbon to offset the company’s historical carbon footprint, from its founding in 1975 to the present day and into the future.
It’s a significantly more ambitious goal than those of other technology companies. Many have committed to reducing emissions or becoming carbon neutral, but few have committed to taking the next step of removing carbon from the atmosphere.
Taking care of the present
We’ve all seen technology companies face internal criticism from workers who are concerned they’re not doing enough to combat climate change. For example, Microsoft provides cloud services to energy companies on long-term contracts.
Microsoft believes that engagement is the best way to encourage and enable such companies to change their policies around carbon emissions and climate change, stating: “It’s imperative that we enable energy companies to transition, including to renewable energy and to the development and use of negative-emission technologies like carbon capture and storage and direct air capture.”
Leadership at all levels
While Microsoft’s internal program requires input from staff at all levels, it’s clear that the leadership team is fully committed to the new goals. And this is nothing new: Microsoft founder Bill Gates has for many years been a strong voice for effective action on climate change. He’s an investor in Breakthrough Energy Ventures, for example, and is interested in new approaches to carbon capture, electrification, fuel switching, recycling and more.
Locally, here at Eagle360 we’re also doing what we can to manage and reduce our carbon footprint – and our clients’. For example, we’re working on a Dynamics 365 app that would allow companies to estimate their carbon footprint for every employee and product they sell within their ERP system, and then create a provision to pay for carbon credits at the end of each financial year.
While it’s certainly true that global companies – like Microsoft – have contributed to global emissions, we hope that more will take its lead and commit to going beyond emission reduction and begin taking steps to reduce our atmosphere’s carbon load.