Turning ambitions into action: Lessons from our sustainability journey

Field engineers using a laptop on truck tailgate to review data after inspection of turbines on a wind farm.

The business world is facing a new reality: sustainable transformation. Today, more than 4,000 companies across the globe have made climate pledges. Those companies add up to 80 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. The impact that those companies collectively have on global emissions is massive. If they all succeed on their sustainability journeys, emissions will fall substantially. 

Yet sustainability does not come easily. With global supply chains impacting the environment in many different ways, it can be hard to know where to start. At Microsoft, we know what this feels like. We’ve been working toward each of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since 2015, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Our experience has shown us that moving from climate ambitions to real performance demands both organizational and digital transformation. So in honor of Ideagen’s 17 Days of Sustainability, we’re revisiting some of the biggest lessons we’ve drawn from our sustainability journey. 

Identifying data as the first step toward meaningful sustainable transformation 

Microsoft is connected to suppliers and customers all over the world. We need data to understand where we are in order to get to where we need to be. To meet our commitment to be carbon negative, water positive, and zero waste by 2030, our developers created a host of data and reporting tools for internal use. Recently, we brought them to market as Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, which provides businesses at any stage of their sustainability journey with comprehensive sustainability management. 

Many of our customers are also on sustainability journeys themselves. One global baked goods company, Grupo Bimbo, set out sustainability goals for both the short and long term. Though it was making progress, the company had trouble unifying its carbon emissions data across the value chain. To get more insight into its emissions, Grupo Bimbo started using Microsoft Sustainability Manager, which automates calculations for sustainability management. The group uses its new automated reporting and data visualization tools to advance its sustainability journey. Its suppliers are following suit. That’s the power of data. 

Powering sustainable development through collaboration

Collaboration is at the heart of the actions we take on all the SDGs. It lies at the core of our efforts with the $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund, which invests in new technologies and companies such as LanzaJet, TerraPraxis, and Climeworks. These companies are creating new solutions not only to reduce carbon emissions but to remove carbon from the atmosphere. 

Climate change doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. In fact, it’s clear that it disproportionately affects the Global South. Collaboration with local and regional organizations is the key to making an impact where it matters most. That’s why we expanded our AI for Good Research Lab into Egypt and Kenya. Our work with Planet is also accelerating climate adaptation solutions in support of the Early Warnings for All Action Plan

Sustainability gives businesses a competitive advantage

Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword: it’s good for business. For example, reducing waste and reducing cost often go hand in hand. Since Microsoft shifted to smart buildings, we’ve realized a 20 percent reduction in energy costs. But sustainability is about more than reducing costs. It’s a real driver of consumer demands. 

Championing sustainability also boosts brand trust, which leads to greater employee and customer satisfaction. Consumers, lenders, and investors are already rewarding sustainable organizations with their purchases, preferable ratings, and investment terms. In fact, 73 percent of investors say that efforts to improve the environment and society impact their financial decisions. 

Business leaders know that people are the key to success. Today, 93 percent of employees say companies should lead with purpose. At Microsoft, we have many purpose-driven employees. In fact, over 9,000 employees have formed a sustainability connected community to drive innovative initiatives across our business. Our experience shows that businesses that want to attract and retain talented and motivated employees must make real commitments to sustainability. 

Sustainable transformation is more than a vision 

All business sectors have a part to play in moving the planet toward a more sustainable future.  Microsoft is committed to helping customers and partners join us in our sustainable transformation. Explore the Microsoft Sustainability Manager and learn how to record, report, and reduce your environmental impact. 

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