Microsoft: ‘carbon negative’ by 2030 even for supply chain

Microsoft is pledging to become 100 per cent “carbon-negative” by 2030 by removing more carbon from the environment than it emits.

CEO Satya Nadella said Thursday that the commitment will happen “not just across our direct emissions, but across our supply chain, too.”

It’s a major step up from Microsoft’s previous green pledges. The tech company had previously said its data centres would be 60 per cent powered by renewable electricity by the end of last year, but environmental groups have said it has fallen short of such rivals as Google and Apple by relying too much on purchasing renewable energy credits to make up for its carbon emissions.

“Microsoft has really been in the middle of the pack,” said Elizabeth Jardim, senior corporate campaigner for Greenpeace USA. “Not an `A’ student but clearly not doing nothing.”

Jardim said that Thursday’s announcement shows a “more serious and holistic” approach and that Microsoft “understands climate science and the shrinking window for action.”

Microsoft had previously set an interim goal of 70 per cent renewable energy by 2023. It now says it will hit 100 per cent renewable for all of its data centres and buildings by 2025. Google and Apple have already said they reached the 100 per cent milestone.

Microsoft’s announcement was timed ahead of next week’s gathering of elites in the Swiss resort of Davos. Catastrophic trends like global warming and the extinction of animal species will be front and centre at the World Economic Forum.

Microsoft is responsible for about 16 million metric tons of emissions per year, said Brad Smith, the company’s president and chief legal officer.

“When it comes to carbon, neutrality is not enough,” Smith said. “We have to get ourselves to net zero.” That means removing from the atmosphere all the carbon one emits, he said.

The pledge to include supply chain emissions follows a similar move by Apple. Microsoft says that after reaching its 2030 goal, it will, by 2050, remove from the environment all of its historical emissions since the company was founded in 1975.

But Jardim said Microsoft has also undermined its climate goals by taking the lead among tech firms in partnering with oil and gas companies, providing cloud computing and artificial intelligence that can speed up the extraction of fossil fuels.

Microsoft is also starting a $1 billion fund for developing environmental technology.