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Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability: Tackling net zero with data

A tree grows in green meadow during spring in the United Kingdom.

This year’s Microsoft Ignite arrives just months after NOAA reported the hottest global surface temperatures and highest ever ocean CO2 levels on record.1 The world faces an extraordinary challenge—to stabilize our climate by building a net-zero carbon economy.

At Microsoft, we’re optimistic. We believe that it’s not too late to meet the net-zero challenge, but the time to act is now.

We’ve recently announced the availability of the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability public preview. Reducing carbon emissions has become a global priority that requires focused and urgent action by all of us, individually and collectively. We believe this new offering can make an important contribution to this effort, helping customers move toward more sustainable operations.

Momentum is growing. In response to greater pressure from regulators, employees, investors, and consumers, more than 1,500 companies with a combined revenue of over $11.4 trillion have published net-zero commitments.2 These commitments are made partly in recognition of vast growth opportunities: The carbon footprint management market alone is expected to reach a value of $11.5 billion by 2026.3 The energy optimization opportunity is valued at $60 billion, carbon offsets at $60 billion, and sustainability all-up at $26 trillion.4, 5, 6

Your journey starts with smarter data management

Advancing sustainability means tackling complexities like consumer transparency, accurate reporting, operations and value chain visibility, and fragmented technologies—a list that’s by no means exhaustive. These challenges are exacerbated by a lack of global standards for measuring progress and targeted technology solutions for reducing emissions and environmental footprint.

Our aim at Microsoft is to help organizations like yours advance on this journey. We’re striving to help you record your environmental footprint, report to stakeholders, and reduce your resource usage—all toward taking industry-specific actions on your path to net zero.


Today, much of a company’s data is meaningless, as it can’t be integrated, analyzed, and acted on due to the disparity of data sources and data quality. To solve this requires a near real-time flow of data including everything from a company’s electricity consumption and industrial processes to all of its environmental impact points along the value chain.

At Microsoft, we learned early in our own journey that by organizing our operational data to be more auditable and ready for third-party certification, we can achieve more consistent reporting over time and across emissions categories.

Streamline data integration, calculations, and reporting

Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, our Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that’s now in preview, leverages the Sustainability Common Data Model (CDM). Rely on the CDM to centralize data to track your organization’s carbon footprint across the entire operation—including enterprise resource planning (ERP) data, plant data, IoT sensor data, telemetry at the edge—and improve visibility across your value chain, which can account for up to 90 percent of the average organization’s resource footprint.7

“The world faces an extraordinary challenge—to stabilize our climate by building a net-zero carbon economy.” – Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer, Microsoft.

By selecting operational data sources and using always-on data connectors, you can automatically reduce errors from manual data entry and keep the data relevant to your goals. And because the CDM will be published independently as part of our existing open-source industry data model libraries, you’ll be able to enlist vendors and trading partners to help drive data integrity and consistent reporting and expand your positive impact.

Accelerate net-zero with powerful capabilities

Using Cloud for Sustainability, you can:

Improve emissions recording by using recommended calculations specific to emissions source and activity, and with industry-standard coefficients. Or generate more accurate results for your specific needs with custom calculations. In the current preview, you can easily connect to precalculated data across Scopes 1, 2, and 3 or use the prebuilt calculation for Scopes 1 and 2 with additional calculations coming for Scope 3 in future updates.

Boost reporting with a complete set of understandable data. Better track consumption with accurate baselines. Assess and accelerate progress toward goals and compliance with emissions and operational dashboards. Gain insights to identify areas of concern, goals that are at risk, and possible solutions. And streamline public reporting with built-in preparatory reports for reporting to agencies such as DEFRA, GRI, and CDP.

Go further reducing emissions with data-driven scorecards and goals. Set and track incremental and long-term goals, and stay aligned to hit those targets.

​How organizations use Cloud for Sustainability will vary—but in simplest terms, all organizations will be empowered to do more to accelerate their sustainability, faster.

Take, for example, an international company that heats and cools 50 manufacturing facilities from Siberia to Arizona. To move the needle on carbon reduction, the company needs an easy, reliable way to see its purchased electricity consumption throughout the year and compare this data to the revenue generated from those facilities. Armed with emissions and revenue intensity data provided by Cloud for Sustainability, the company can make decisions about where and when it manufactures goods to drive efficiencies and carbon reductions—and to move faster toward net-zero.

Uniting progress and opportunity through extensibility

Cloud for Sustainability is completely extendable on both front and back ends. Microsoft partners will provide prebuilt data connectors to expand front-end functionalities and will build robust back-end solutions including additional analytics, digital twins, and AI-driven automation to help drive significant progress. Customers and partners can all extend Cloud for Sustainability to meet their needs.


Data is captured from operational sources within an organization and up and down the value chain, including ERP applications, energy providers, other third-party industry partners, and many others. The data is integrated and visualized by the solution and reported to regulatory agencies. Partner solution connectors extend Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, tailoring for industry and region-specific needs and bringing greater accuracy.

Built on Azure, a decade of action—and belief in our customers and partners

Cloud for Sustainability runs on Microsoft Azure, the world’s most trusted cloud, providing an integrated set of powerful technologies. It’s also built on our deep expertise and commitments in sustainability, starting with our first carbon reduction goal in 2009. In 2020, we pledged to go beyond neutral to a real net-zero target and to become carbon negative, water positive, and zero waste by 2030.

With Cloud for Sustainability, we offer a marriage of our ambitious goals, the best of our expertise in sustainability and data-driven innovation, and our belief that together with our customers and partners, we can build a more sustainable future.

Get started today

Ready to get started? Sign up for a free trial.

We invite you to start your sustainability journey with Microsoft by visiting our sustainability website and sign up for future updates. Get inspired by watching our “What’s Next for Sustainability” launch event.

¹State of the Climate in 2020,” NOAA
²Commitments to Net Zero Double in Less Than a Year,” UNFCC
³Carbon Footprint Management Global Market Trajectory and Analytics,” StrategyR
⁴Global electric energy efficiency spending is expected to near $60 billion by 2028,” Electrical Line Magazine
⁵Climate Smart Growth Could Deliver 26 Trillion USD to 2030, Finds Global Commission,” United Nations Climate Change
⁶Global carbon offsets market could be worth $200 billion by 2050: Berenberg,” S&P Global
⁷Value chain and supply chain sustainability,” Carbon Trust