Sustainability in product design
We design our products to meet the highest expectations for performance, safety and sustainability.
Our implementation framework is based on the product life cycle and value stream thinking. These set the basis for the product design and help us continuously improve the environmental aspects of our products and processes in each stage of the product life cycle.
Life Cycle Thinking
What gets measured, gets managed; we at Microsoft use life cycle assessment (LCA) for calculating the environmental impact of our hardware products and activities. Our calculations include the entire product life cycle, from raw material acquisition to the end of the product’s life. The main goal of the LCA calculation is to reduce the environmental impacts by guiding the decision-making process. The results of the LCAs can be used internally to help identify the key stages in the product life cycle—for example, where the largest sources of emissions and energy use over the device life cycle take place—and to take action to minimize these impacts. We use Life cycle assessment to monitor the development over time and assess many different environmental impacts beyond just emissions to avoid burden shifting ensuring to drive the development in the right direction.
We publish Greenhouse gas emission, primary energy consumption and material composition data for all our products in our Eco Profiles. We follow developments and participate in improving the methods and data that the calculations are based on.
Greenhouse gas emissions across the life cycle of Surface 4 Pro
Read more about how we calculate our LCAs
How do we calculate this?
The results of a life cycle assessment (LCA) always depend on the calculation method, scope, and assumptions used. Although general LCA standards and also devices specific documents are available, due to the characteristics of LCA, assessments of different producers are not comparable. We use the ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards, complemented by devices specific ETSI TS 103 199 and ITU-T L.1410, as a framework for our calculations, and they include the entire life cycle, from raw material acquisition onwards. The source data is measured at our operations and collected from suppliers. In addition, we use internationally available LCI databases.
Based on life cycle assessments, we are able to identify component types and processes that are more impactful than others, make choices to decrease the environmental impacts of our products and operations, and set and monitor reduction efforts. Life cycle assessments help us to continuously improve resource efficiency of our products in every life cycle stage. We are constantly evaluating different methodologies, methods, tools and databases. As the LCAs, devices, and technologies are continuously developing, our LCA results represent the understanding at the time when published and are revised if needed.
What do our assessments cover?
In the LCA calculations for Phones and Surface -line products, we assume 3 years of usage time, including both the impact of charging and "no-load" time (i.e. charger plugged into the mains without a device attached). For the transportation phase, both inbound and outbound logistics are included, as well as transportation to recycling facilities. The recycling phase also contains the pre-treatment of devices. The impact derived from different accessories, packaging, user guides, and corporate overhead including travel is not included.
The energy consumed by mobile and wireless networks and related infrastructure is excluded from the analysis as it forms a complex, separate system of its own and creates various kinds of environmental impact depending on the differences in network configuration and the services available. Modeling of such variables is considered to belong to the LCA of particular telecom operators or service providers.
Design for Green
We balance functionality with environmental criteria as part of our Design for Green initiatives. Our criteria and sustainability evaluations cover all stages of our products’ life cycle.
We strive for better resource efficiency in the materials we use. The Design groups work with experts to evaluate and encourage the use of more environmentally benign materials and increase the recyclability of our products. We work as an integrated team with selected suppliers to develop indicators of environmental performance for the components and materials in our devices.
Energy efficiency is important at all stages: materials choices, designing energy smart products with the best power and battery types, and minimizing energy used in the manufacturing and transport of our products and operations. All Surface products are ENERGY STAR certified.
As sustainability is important and to increase overall transparency of our activities, we publish an Eco profile for our products. The Eco profile tells you about the materials, energy efficiency, packaging, environmental impact and recycling of your product. Look up the Eco profile for your product here.
Our Design for Green initiatives need constant development, innovation and benchmarking to stay relevant. This is why we also use external labels, ratings and rankings to guide us. We especially evaluate requirements that establish multiple-attribute sustainability criteria − criteria developed based on the life cycle stages of the electronics. Sustainability factors considered in these requirements are: materials, packaging, manufacturing and operations, energy efficiency of the external power supply, health and environment, and end-of-life management. Credit for innovations in these or other factors not listed is also addressed in these requirements.
Example of these labels demonstrating the sustainability and green credentials of our products are:
Starting from Surface Pro3, all new Surface Line products are EPEAT registered to silver level. We will continue to seek these eco-certifications with a goal to increase our scores over time. Our aim is to achieve the gold level
ULE 110 certifications of mobile phones. This certification has become a requirement with some of our customers, and the first certified models (Lumia 635 and Lumia 735) reached their highest scores, the platinum level.
The Microsoft Corporate Product Safety Principles guide our product safety management system. This system is embedded throughout the hardware devices’ product life cycle. This ensures that our focus is on bringing devices to market that are safe for their intended use and that can be safely and responsibly recycled or managed at the end of their useful life. Product safety reviews are conducted at initial product concept and repeated through design, prototype review and testing, during manufacturing, during consumer use, and at the end of the product’s usefulness. Hazard analyses and risk assessments are conducted during product concept and early design, and identified risks are eliminated or mitigated during subsequent design, testing, and manufacture consistent with the hierarchy of health and safety controls methodology.
Microsoft is a member of several organizations through which we learn about upcoming and proposed regulations and share best safety practices related to consumer products with representatives from industry and trade associations and with other manufacturers. For example, related to electromagnetic fields, our mobile devices operate below the relevant exposure guidelines and limits set by expert bodies such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection and the US Federal Communications Commission. We also have supported the World Health Organization’s (WHO) efforts to coordinate global regulations on electromagnetic fields.
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