Young woman holding pencil and notebook

Human rights

We work to understand our human rights impacts and to apply the power of technology to advance human rights.

Report last updated November 2016

Human rights are the inherent rights that belong to all people. At Microsoft, we endeavor to respect and champion human rights in the way we do business. And we work with some of the world’s leading human rights organizations to apply the power of technology to advance human rights.

The Microsoft Global Human Rights Statement details our commitment to respect and promote human rights. Read the full Statement

Our commitment

Since 2006, Microsoft has had a formal commitment to respect human rights as a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact.

The Global Compact is the most widely recognized corporate social responsibility (CSR) framework for businesses to respect human rights and labor rights, and to ensure environmental protection and combat corruption. Microsoft enhanced this commitment when we published our Global Human Rights Statement in 2012.

Our Global Human Rights Statement is itself grounded in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which establishes that in their work to respect human rights, companies “should avoid infringing on the rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.” This is now a global standard of conduct expected of all businesses.

Our Statement explains our intention to respect the rights defined in:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

International Labour Organization’s Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

To achieve our mission of empowering every individual and every organization, we recognize that some human rights and some specific groups require a special focus. Several conventions help Microsoft identify how we can better support some of the world’s most vulnerable groups and the extra efforts we can take to maintain their trust. These include:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Microsoft revised its Global Human Rights Statement in 2016 to reflect changes to our business, and to meet our increased standards and responsibility to respect human rights. The revisions were developed through:

  • An assessment process with the internal teams that are responsible for our salient and supplemental human rights issues
  • Discussions with external subject matter experts who are closely associated with Microsoft or the field of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and human rights
  • Review and approval by Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer

In addition to being publicly available in twelve languages, the Statement is shared among all employees globally through our Standards of Business Conduct. The Standards are based on Microsoft’s values and continued commitment to ethical business practices and legal compliance, which applies to all employees, directors, and executive officers of Microsoft and its subsidiaries and Controlled Affiliates. Employee compliance with the Standards of Business Conduct is reinforced through annual, corporate-wide, online training.

Our approach

All human rights are indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated: The improvement of one right enables advancement of others.

Our human rights-based approach to business recognizes that rights-holders are individuals – real people, from all communities – who have rights that Microsoft must respect. Rights-holders are also considered to be our partners in the realization of human rights, either directly or through representative organizations.

Microsoft is a diverse, worldwide business with billions of users and customers. We develop, license, and support a wide range of software products, services, and devices. We have over 100,000 employees and tens of thousands of suppliers. We touch a vast spectrum of rights holders and their needs.

Businesses are expected to determine their salient human rights, which are defined as the rights “at risk of the most severe negative impact through the company’s activities and business relationships.” Determining our salient human rights allows us to act on and report on the most critical human rights needs connected with our business.

Microsoft’s salient human rights issues are:

  • Accessibility: Creating and delivering technology that is accessible and functional for people of all abilities.
  • Online safety: Protecting the safety and security of vulnerable groups online.
  • Freedom of expression and privacy: Respecting peoples’ right to freedom of expression and their right to freedom from arbitrary and unlawful interference with privacy online.
  • Privacy and data security: Incorporating privacy considerations into our design and development processes, offering our customers meaningful privacy choices, and responsibly collecting, managing, and using the customer data that we store.

We recognize that there are additional areas where we must support the needs of rights holders. We regard these as our supplemental human rights issues:

  • Responsible sourcing: Upholding ethical business, employment, environmental, and worker safety practices in our global supply chains.
  • Corporate governance and ethics: Sharing ethical behavior and acting with integrity in everything we do.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Creating a global workforce and culture without discrimination.
  • Philanthropy: Empowering communities by implementing our philanthropic activities worldwide, led by our Microsoft Philanthropies group.

We follow these steps:

  • First, we engage with business and human rights specialists, including those with ICT expertise. This engagement enables us to learn the general approaches that ICT companies are taking or should take in respecting human rights.
  • That engagement is complemented by working with representatives of rights holders, meaning either rights-holder groups or multi-stakeholder initiatives which specialize in issues related to rights holders.
  • Finally, our experience in conducting human rights impact assessments validates the significance of the relationship between Microsoft’s business, products and services, and the salient and supplemental issues. All of these efforts are supported by the extensive internal expertise that Microsoft has in these subject matters in both our business functions and relevant engineering groups.

Microsoft’s strategy for the future is to build best-in-class platforms and productivity services for a mobile-first, cloud-first world.

As such, Microsoft is investing in three integrated ambitions:

  • Reinventing productivity and business processes
  • Building the intelligent cloud platform that is trusted, responsible, and inclusive of everyone
  • Creating more personal computing

As Microsoft adapts and grows within the changing ICT landscape, we expect our salient and supplemental human rights issues to remain consistent in the near term, and we will continue to monitor the salience and importance of our human rights issues so that we maintain an appropriate focus.

Crucially, our salient human rights issues are a mixture of challenges. Some relate to our own business conduct, while other issues relate to third-parties misusing our products and services, or actions of governments restricting freedom of expression or demands that conflict with privacy rights. Our responsibility to respect human rights requires us to act upon impacts we are associated with. Therefore, in addition to respecting human rights within our own business conduct, it is also important that we apply leverage wherever possible to maximize respect for rights holders.

Classroom in developing country with world map and computers

Human rights governance

Microsoft’s internal governance on human rights issues seeks to ensure that our human rights commitments are met across our global and diverse business. We achieve that commitment through:

  • Shared responsibility: Everyone within our business, including our partners, has a responsibility to respect human rights. This responsibility is established in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and is reflected in the Microsoft Global Human Rights Statement.
  • Focus on impact: Across our company, we have teams with dedicated responsibility to drive decisions that demonstrate respect for customers’ and end users’ human rights. These teams have an immediate impact on rights holders by ensuring that their needs are reflected throughout Microsoft’s products, operations, and partnerships as a result of the policies and management systems they establish in product or service design, sales, business and employment practices, and by working with rights holders to achieve the realization of their rights.

Two groups with the greatest focus on Microsoft’s salient human rights issues both report directly to Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer:

  • The Business and Corporate Responsibility Team (BCR) houses our policy efforts towards meeting our accessibility commitments and privacy.
  • The Regulatory Affairs Team houses our policy efforts towards meeting freedom of expression commitments and our online safety standards.

Many groups within Microsoft manage our broad range of supplemental human rights issues. The Microsoft Philanthropies team and our business ethics and anti-corruption work sit within the Corporate, External and Legal Affairs (CELA) group. The responsible sourcing program supports both the Windows and Devices Group (WDG), which is responsible for Microsoft’s software platform, apps, games, store and devices that power the Windows ecosystem, and the Global Procurement Group, which sources the goods and services supplied to the Microsoft business. The topic of global diversity and inclusion in our workforce is managed by the Human Resources division, which implements the policies and programs to recruit, retain, and develop employees and to advance our cultural transformation.

  • Programs and centers of expertise manage Microsoft’s human rights program by providing business guidance on human rights in the form of policies, due diligence, training, and transparency.

Within Business and Corporate Responsibility, the Corporate and Social Responsibility Team (CSR) houses our human rights program management, responsible sourcing, transparency and reporting, and coordination of our overall engagement with key international organizations including United Nations agencies. The CSR Team also operates the Microsoft Technology and Human Rights Center. The Center prioritizes and coordinates human rights due diligence, identifies emerging risks and opportunities related to human rights, and promotes harmonized approaches to human rights across Microsoft. The Center also fosters dialogue to advance understanding of the human rights impacts of ICT. Through the Center, Microsoft engages with a broad range of human rights groups, academics, and industry groups globally to share Microsoft’s experiences and lessons learned.

The work of the Technology & Human Rights Center is amplified by Microsoft’s CELA group, led by the President, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Compliance Officer of Microsoft. This group includes more than 1,300 business, legal, and corporate affairs professionals in 55 countries who are responsible for Microsoft’s legal, intellectual property portfolio, patent licensing, philanthropic, government affairs, public policy, corporate governance, and social responsibility work.

Organizational chart detailing the shared responsibility to respect human rights, starting with the board of directors, flowing through the entire corporation and ending with individual initiatives

Additional reporting

Regular and transparent disclosure on our efforts to respect human rights is essential for internal conversations, identifying opportunities for improvements in our corporate responsibility, and for ongoing dialogue with groups directly affected by or interested in our operations. These include customers and users, employees, suppliers, governments, civil society, investors and others.

Using the United Nations Guiding Principles Reporting Framework, we can transparently disclose our activities in the Technology and Human Rights Center and in each of our salient human rights issues in the previous fiscal year through an additional downloadable report.

Further reporting is available for the supplemental issues of:

Responsible sourcing

Corporate governance and ethics

Diversity and inclusion

Our philanthropic activities

Find out more about Microsoft’s activities related to each of our salient human rights.

Download the Microsoft Salient Human Rights Issues Report – FY16

News and updates

Statue of Liberty and fireworks
Follow Microsoft
Share this page