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Advancing a net zero future: Ahead of COP26, new carbon accounting tools available with the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, now in public preview

Today, we are announcing the availability of the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability public preview. It is an important moment. The work to reduce 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…

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Today, we are announcing the availability of the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability public preview. It is an important moment. The work to reduce 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.

Around the world, governments and companies – Microsoft included – have stepped forward the past two years with important carbon reduction pledges. But as the world heads to the 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow – or COP26 – to share net zero ambitions, it’s become clear that the world needs even more than pledges. We need progress.

A central question in Glasgow will focus on what it will take to achieve real and sustainable results. We believe the answer comes in three parts.

  • First, we can’t manage carbon unless we can measure it. We all must speak the same language and measure carbon emissions and removal in a consistent and accurate manner. In short, we must adopt a standardized approach to carbon accounting.
  • Second, every enterprise will need to adopt new carbon accounting standards and use them to record and report their carbon emissions.
  • Third, we can’t measure anything at scale unless we can automate it. We need new digital technology to create the tools and build a new ecosystem to connect emissions sources and enable a new generation of accurate and inexpensive carbon reporting.

Microsoft is focused on each of these steps. As a principal partner at COP26, we’ll use our voice to encourage new carbon accounting standards, and we’ll implement these to achieve our own commitments. And we’re moving forward with technology innovations and investments, including the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability.

Real progress starts with the recognition that, despite our best intentions, the ability to measure and account for carbon emissions is still remarkably nascent. That’s why we are sharing below recommendations on how we all can work together — and where Microsoft hopes to contribute as a company.

We need to speak the same carbon language

While many of us use the same words to describe the carbon problem and possible solutions, these words currently hold different meanings. We need everyone around the world to start speaking the same carbon language.

This starts by defining what “net zero” really means. Right now, some companies are declaring a “quick victory” in achieving “net zero” results, but it’s far from clear that all these “victories” are real. This creates the risk that we’ll collectively create more confusion than clarity and even undermine the credibility of the big efforts that enterprises must advance.

We believe that “net zero” starts by accounting for all scopes – one, two and three – of an enterprise’s emissions. The failure to include all these emissions may create a better-looking report card, but the results will fall short of what the world needs to meet our climate needs.

In addition, “net zero” means that these emissions are offset not by just “avoiding” them — for instance, by paying someone not to do something, like cutting down trees. It means removing carbon from the environment in an effective and sustainable manner. While this begins with nature-based removal techniques, it clearly also will require technology that is yet to be invented. That’s why we’ve made direct investments in several companies through our $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund and our $100 million donation to Breakthrough Energy’s Catalyst initiative to help accelerate and scale new solutions.

We need accurate and standardized carbon accounting

More than 1,500 companies with a combined revenue of more than $11.4 trillion have published net zero commitments. That’s good news. But the world will need improved common carbon measurement and accounting standards if enterprises are going to meet these goals and be held accountable. This requires that we bring the same kind of rigor to carbon accounting that the world has insisted upon for financial controls.

Today, businesses and increasingly other organizations, are subject to strong auditing, recording and reporting of financial results. If you’re a public company, for example, you publish your financial results and regulatory agencies ensure their accuracy. You don’t need a crystal ball to predict that the world will insist upon similar rigor for carbon accounting. And while we’re not there yet, a key principle for business planning should be to go where the puck is headed, not where it is today. This will require a standardized carbon accounting system with input from industry, but which is adopted by regulators.

The Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability delivers new digital tools to automate carbon accounting

Our customers tell us daily that managing data is one of the biggest pain points in their sustainability journey. There is a torrent of data from all areas of the value chain, and unfortunately much of it currently is often poor quality, siloed and difficult to share. The very real risk is that even with the best of intentions, carbon emissions data is meaningless if it cannot be properly ingested for analysis and action.

We experienced this across Microsoft as we work toward our own commitments to become carbon negative, water positive and zero waste by 2030. We soon realized that we needed to bring our world-class data and environmental science teams together with our engineering and product teams to build new and better digital technology not just for ourselves, but for our customers. This was the origin for the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability.

The Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability leverages the breadth of the Microsoft Cloud. It is a packaged Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that connects to data sources, accelerates data integration and reporting, provides accurate carbon accounting, measures performance against goals, and enables intelligent insights so organizations can take more effective action on sustainability. While the solution primarily supports emissions management today, there are plans to support water and waste in the future.

The Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability helps organizations advance the three critical processes that need to come together to achieve their sustainability goals.

The first is recording carbon emissions. The Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability automates data collection through connectors that can eliminate manual uploads through near real-time connections to emissions sources. You can set up your data connections from a catalog of prebuilt connectors and operational data providers, such as business solutions, energy providers, travel tools, trading partners, IoT and systems telemetry. And it leverages a common data model to break down data silos across emissions sources, accelerating data integration and reporting.

The second is carbon reporting. The Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability provides the capability to analyze, visualize and report your resource consumption, environmental impact and sustainability progress, including to stakeholders, regulators and the public. It provides data visualizations and dashboards to create a baseline, track your consumption, and measure performance against your goals. And it can easily export your data for public reporting.

The third is carbon reduction. The Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is designed to provide actionable insights and recommendations to help reduce emissions and improve business processes. You can set and track incremental and long-term goals directly tied to your data. Scorecards and insights help you stay on track and ensure you’re on a path to hitting targets. The common data model enables you to compare your progress with peers that are also using Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability. And it helps identify potential gaps in meeting regulatory requirements.

The work to measure carbon is not a separate or complete end goal. It’s instead a critical foundation for effective carbon reduction strategies and a step toward a sustainable future. It is part of what we offer more broadly through the Microsoft Cloud, creating the ability for customers to develop better data assets and use better digital tools to connect across an entire organization – from the frontlines to the boardroom – to predict trends and proactively make changes to hit sustainability targets together with other business objectives.

We need to build a new carbon technology ecosystem

As we’ve progressed with our work, we’ve concluded that the world needs not just new digital technology, but a new digital ecosystem that can better support recording, reporting and reductions in carbon emissions. The state of carbon accounting today is remarkably nascent. Organizations today typically must assess their spending records and then look up tables that estimate the average emissions associated with them. This falls far short of what the world really needs, which is the ability to pull accurate and near real-time data directly from the emissions sources themselves.

This has inspired us to develop not only the digital technology and common data model that underlies the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, but to lean in to help create a new and broad ecosystem that will bring together the wide variety of companies and industries that need to work together. We are advancing this by working with partners to create and deliver data connectors and industry-specific solutions to automate reporting from the complete range of emissions sources. This will help open up to every industry new horizontal and industry solutions that can use advanced analytics, AI, machine learning, IoT and digital twins to help capture and understand data across siloed systems.

Not just a new product, but a new and broad solution

As all this reflects, we are combining our technology development work with a broader commitment to help advance every aspect of the world’s carbon challenges. New products will be critical, but they won’t go far enough by themselves. That’s why we’re committed to doing everything we can to foster a common carbon language, develop effective carbon accounting, help customers reduce their carbon emissions and build the broad technology ecosystem needed to support all of this. You can sign up here to stay informed about Microsoft sustainability innovations, news and initiatives.

COP26 will provide an important moment for the world to take stock of where we all collectively stand. More important, it’s a moment that should inspire us to take new steps together. If one thing is clear, it’s this – we have a long and critical journey ahead!

Tags: Brad Smith, carbon reduction, COP26, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, net zero, sustainability

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Accelerate sustainability progress and business growth with Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability — starting June 1

It’s a moment we’ve been building toward — new capabilities from Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability that will enable faster, broader transformation for organizations at varying stages of their sustainability journey. We are pleased to announce the general availability of Cloud for Sustainability on June 1. Now, a growing set of ESG (environmental, social and governance)…

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It’s a moment we’ve been building toward — new capabilities from Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability that will enable faster, broader transformation for organizations at varying stages of their sustainability journey. We are pleased to announce the general availability of Cloud for Sustainability on June 1.

Now, a growing set of ESG (environmental, social and governance) capabilities from Microsoft and our global ecosystem of partners will give organizations the opportunity to accelerate their progress and business growth.

Watch the video.

Turning sustainability commitments into action with better data intelligence

To stabilize our future and build more quickly toward a global net-zero carbon economy, organizations of all types, sizes and sectors are facing the need to transform common practices. This includes more effectively managing their environmental footprint, embedding sustainability through their organizations and value chains, and making strategic business investments that drive value. And this starts with solving a data problem.

Organizations need more accessible, centralized data intelligence to make the high-stakes decisions that are required right now to address complex issues, weighing both business and ESG criteria to direct capital toward investment opportunities that balance growth and impact.

Wherever organizations are in their sustainability journey, together, we can accelerate progress to reach our collective goals.

Microsoft is energized about helping our customers accelerate their progress. Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability solutions will provide the intelligence and data management capabilities organizations need to respond to changes with agility and confidence.

Building on more than a decade of work on sustainability

Our own sustainability journey began when we set our first carbon goal more than a decade ago. This led us to better organize our data and realign our company’s vision and strategy with our sustainability goals. We continue to build on our commitments to innovate and invest in technologies that address environmental sustainability and to transparently share our achievements and setbacks so that we can all learn together. We’re also considering how to deliver on our ESG commitments while continuing to grow our business and drive shareholder value — not an easy challenge!

Now, with the release of Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, we’re bringing together powerful capabilities delivered by Microsoft and our partners to help organizations:

Unify data intelligence. To effectively drive sustainability reporting, sustainability efforts, and business transformation, organizations need better visibility into activities across their enterprise and value chain. Collecting and connecting IoT data from devices using sensors — combined with rich services at the edge or in the cloud — provides the basis to monitor and measure activities at scale. And now, Microsoft Sustainability Manager will empower organizations to more easily record, report and reduce their environmental impact through increasingly automated data connections that deliver actionable insights.

This extensible Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability solution centralizes previously disparate data in a common data format and offers organizations an increasingly comprehensive view into the emissions impact of their entire operations and value chain.

Sustainability Manager is available for a free test drive or to purchase June 1.

Build more enduring IT infrastructures. Organizations can reduce their environmental impact and increase business value when they replace tools, systems, or activities with more efficient options. Moving workloads to the cloud, for example, can increase both carbon and energy efficiencies. Emissions Impact Dashboard applications provide Microsoft customers with transparency into emissions produced from their use of Microsoft cloud services. Devices also contribute to an organization’s environmental footprint. Surface devices maximize sustainability of materials and extend product life while minimizing product carbon footprint and energy consumption.

Reduce the environmental impact of operations. With digital solutions delivered through Microsoft and our growing partner ecosystem, we’re already helping organizations maximize asset and production efficiencies, reduce the environmental impact of their buildings and spaces, and advance their transition to clean energy.

Create more sustainable value chains. Digital technologies are also helping organizations facilitate greater transparency and accountability through their value chain, from raw materials to product creation to distribution. A data-first approach can help organizations achieve data integrity and gain the visibility they need to drive efficiencies, reduce emissions and design out waste.

Learn more about how we’re helping organizations achieve positive impact on Microsoft.com/sustainability.

Global partners, a critical piece to extending impact

Much of this important work is being achieved through collaboration with our global ecosystem of partners who have helped us land our ambitions and transform our business. Today, they’re also pivotal to helping customers advance sustainability through robust, innovative solutions powered by the Microsoft Cloud.

Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability partner solutions span industries, from transportation to real estate to manufacturing, such as these early solutions that are already in market:

There are many more solutions coming. Our sustainability partner ecosystem also includes trusted advisers like these, who are actively helping organizations plan, design and implement strategies to enable sustainable growth:

Learn more about breakthrough work being done by our sustainability partners on Microsoft AppSource.

What’s next?
Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability availability coincides with Hannover Messe 2022. Watch for news and announcements around this keystone industry event — and stay tuned for additional solutions and capabilities.

Tags: Cloud, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, sustainability

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Celebrating many identities within a global community of impact: An Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month conversation

Srinivas Prasad Sugasani: It’s such fun to connect with you on Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As Asians and Pacific Islanders, I feel that we have so much to celebrate. At the same time, as we think about some of the events and realities that we have navigated recently, I’m curious from your perspective,…

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Srinivas Prasad Sugasani: It’s such fun to connect with you on Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As Asians and Pacific Islanders, I feel that we have so much to celebrate. At the same time, as we think about some of the events and realities that we have navigated recently, I’m curious from your perspective, Jane, what do you feel is different about this past year?

Jane Hesmondhalgh: We’ve continued on our journey of working to create an inclusive culture at Microsoft. And there is still a gap between our aspired culture and everyone’s lived experiences today. For some, that gap may be small; for others it may be larger. But the fact that at Microsoft we have this value system we’re aspiring to is, I think, very much aligned to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

We’re consistently working toward respect, accountability and high integrity at Microsoft. I would say that our continued work to make progress is not so much different this year, but that we’re focusing even more effort on it.

Unfortunately, this past year we have seen the continued trend of acts of hate toward Asians globally. But the fact that Microsoft is strongly supporting the community in the face of those is super critical for the community. And that much-needed support is not a one-time event where we say something and then we’re on to the next thing. It’s the ongoing recognition that acts against violence, injustice and inequities across the world are unacceptable.

SPS: That’s right. We’ve also been focused on community education in the wake of this alarming rise in acts of hate and violence — how the community can leverage safety practices, and how can we work with the local government communities to increase safety.

JH: Our Inclusion Council has also been really engaged in these discussions. Other examples of sustained commitment to the community include the events we’ve done to engage with external experts in ongoing learning such as Microsoft Include, and of course the support of our Asians at Microsoft Employee Resources Group (ERG). I have heard from the community specifically that one of the most powerful things they’ve attended this year are our community calls, where people have had the opportunity to talk through how they’re feeling with others who may have experienced similar things.

SPS: Based on what we heard from our community, we’ve also been increasingly focused on how we strengthen and support the advancement of the ERG and its members at the company. I am really proud of how we’ve been working with outside experts on leadership development across the company, all the way from entry-level employees to the most senior in the company. This is the kind of year-round investment that is directly benefiting the community.

JH: I’m so passionate about this piece — the leadership education for Asians and Pacific Islanders. When I started as the sponsor for the Asians ERG, that was the No. 1 feedback, that the community wanted unique and tailored leadership education.

As we know, there are 4.7 billion people in this broad community across the world. Asians and Pacific Islanders make up 60% of the world population. That really strikes me. Because within that, there are so many different perspectives. So, a question for you is, how do we ensure that different types of conversations and perspectives from the entire community are brought in?

SPS: As you said — 60% of the global population! And we are trying to represent diversity within the community at that scale. It’s actually one of our strategic pillars in our ERG — including all community members. I think we’re doing a really good job with that. The leadership team has ensured that we include many voices, and as a result of that diversity of thought, we’ve seen new steps and actions being taken. For example, we had an Asians ERG art exhibition. We had a day of remembrance where people could talk about their practices, cultures, ancestors. We had a stand-up comedy event. And we’ve focused specifically on women inventors. Those are just a few examples.

So, focusing on the many dimensions of identity within our global community ensures that we can all share our experiences and learn from each other.

JH: This leads me to reflect on the word “community” and what does that mean? With a global team located all over the world, how do we bring everybody together in a sense of community? At Microsoft the community is a combination of people, cultures and beliefs. So, I think that community piece is our connection to the history across the Asia Pacific region. Within this vast land mass, we can appreciate and understand the differences and uniqueness of the people in the sub-communities and societies. We talked earlier about Microsoft’s culture and values. I think one thing that helps us is that Asian values around integrity and respect are very similar to the company’s. And then of course we go beyond respect to actually celebrating our cultures. Each of our ERG chapters and groups, each culture, is a contribution that is valuable to the world.

And these values are actually critical for the work ahead, right? This year, next year and beyond, we want to tackle the biggest problems that divide us as a society. And we’ve got that microcosm of society within our Asian and Pacific Islander community. We can play a huge role in landing the mindset of interconnectivity and learning both within and outside the company. Each person must be committed to driving positive change, be more intentionally inclusive in the workplace and build our empathy. With this, we can build momentum to meet the challenges of the world.

SPS: Well said Jane. As you’re speaking, I’m thinking about my own personal journey as well. Part of my life I lived on a farm in a small village. I experienced a community there where everybody looked like me, spoke like me with a very similar kind of language. When I lived in various cities, that was the first time I’d experienced people looking like me but speaking different dialects.

And then when I started working on a multinational level, I encountered people who had such a range of cultural differences from me. What I’ve learned is whether it is living in a village, in a small community or at the global level, human values remain the same. I’ve realized more recently that as things become more complex, more turbulent, and we do not know what future will hold, the constant is the values that we all stand for. And that is true across the Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and all across Microsoft and our nine ERGs and many dimensions of identities.

JH: You know, I never thought about it in this way but because you shared a little bit about your own background, I’ll share something about when we moved from the U.S. back to the U.K. In his new school, my son felt left out, and suddenly struggled with questions around “I am British, but do they think I am American or Chinese?” He didn’t feel that sense of belonging, and all these new questions of identity came up which he held to himself. Things did get better, but it reminds me that it’s all of our responsibility to help each other understand that while people are different, everybody has something to offer. People need to feel like they’re valued and that they can contribute without being judged.

SPS: It is so true. Thank you for sharing that. Are there any misperceptions about the Asian and Pacific Islander community that you would like to address?

JH: I’ve heard people say things like, gosh Asians are good at math and science, and they have an easier entry to STEM fields and occupations. I don’t know that I would ever categorize it as easier or not easier. There are many Asians who are not good at math and science, right? It’s a generalization, and there are a lot of these.

Another misconception is that because the Asian population is large, there are a lot of Asian leaders. But actually, the statistics have shown that we’re the least likely of all racial groups to become managers and executives. We need more role models and pathways to that senior level, which is where those development efforts we spoke about earlier come in. And of course, some other misconceptions came up during the pandemic around Chinese people.

So again, what combats these types of misconceptions and harmful stereotypes is learning and building our understanding and empathy for one another.

SPS: I absolutely agree. We will continue this work with the Microsoft communities and our leadership. I look forward to the impact we will make in the coming year. Thank you so much, Jane, for the chance to have this conversation. I look forward to our celebrations and recognition this month!

JH: Thank you, Srinivas! Happy Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

Tags: diversity, inclusion

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