Microsoft Lags on 2012 CO2 Goal

by | Oct 10, 2011

Microsoft is behind schedule on a goal of reducing carbon emissions per unit of revenue by 20 percent by 2012, from a 2007 baseline, according to the company’s 2011 Citizenship Report.

The company emitted 1,502,736 metric tons of CO2e in 2010, 16 percent more than its 1,299,356 metric tons in 2009. Despite setting its goal in terms of revenue, the report only provided CO2 data as absolute emissions.

From 2009 to 2010, Microsoft’s scope 1 emissions rose from 41,649 to 47,383, and scope 2 emissions rose from 1,035,385 to 1,144,271.

The report (pdf) said that the rise in cloud computing is requiring more data center capacity and in turn more energy use. But the company says it is still committed to its CO2 reduction goal – particularly by making its data centers more efficient.

The firm says it is on track to meet its goal of building new data centers that average 1.125 in power use effectiveness (PUE) by 2012, with a PUE of 1.15 to 1.20 achieved in its newest data center in Quincy, Wash. The facility gets its electricity from hydropower.

Microsoft says it has also reduced power use for mechanical and electrical infrastructure from an estimated industry average of 50 percent of data center power to less than 10 percent for its Generation 4 data centers, built in FY2011.

Microsoft’s corporate travel increased in 2010, leading to a significant rise in air travel emissions. Scope 3 emissions (which include air travel only) jumped by 40 percent from 222,322 to 311,082. Microsoft says this was a result of the recovering economy, as trips meant to be taken in 2009 were postponed to 2010.

But the company says it took several steps towards improving its travel-related emissions in 2010. It adopted a policy requiring CO2 emissions for all new Microsoft company cars to average 130 g/km, a significant reduction versus the previous averages. And it added 12 electric vehicle charging stations to its Puget Sound campus to support employee-owned electric vehicles, as well as other company service vehicles.

The company’s environmental priorities for FY2012 include:

  • Developing new strategies to meet its goal to reduce carbon emissions per unit of revenue by 30 percent by 2012.
  • Sourcing more renewable power and implementing its Generation 4 modular data center designs.
  • Piloting an energy management program to decrease energy use in 10 percent of the buildings on its campus in Redmond, Wash.
  • Improving its governance model to increase accountability to corporate environmental goals.

The company has developed energy-efficiency guidelines for Windows products, and in FY2012, says it will work to develop energy-efficiency guidelines for its cloud services.

It has partnered with automakers such as Toyota and Ford to provide technologies that enable drivers to track and reduce their power consumption, and collaborated with companies including Alstom Power, Johnson Controls and Sensus Machine Intelligence to improve the management and measurement of energy in buildings and data centers.

It also launched the Sustainability Champions program, an initiative for Microsoft employees to rally their coworkers to adopt more sustainable work habits. The goal is to reduce energy consumption in all Puget Sound buildings by 3-5 percent.

The company says it is on track to meet a goal of enabling its global carbon footprint tracking system to also track water consumption and waste by FY2011. Last year was the first year that Microsoft reported on water, and the company said that its data collection system for water currently covers 100 countries or less. The water figure reported in the 2011 report represents about 65 percent of Microsoft’s global portfolio by square footage.

The firm says it is working toward adding more detailed waste reporting in FY2012.

In FY2011 Microsoft says it increased its total waste diversion rate to more than 80 percent overall and 95 percent within its dining services – but the report does not include previous rates.

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