How Microsoft is going green

Microsoft, with 70,000 employees spread out across the world, is deep into a corporate-wide evaluation of how it can become a more environmentally friendly corporation.


The effort encompasses hardware, software, datacentres and Microsoft's role as a corporate citizen. The hope is to initiate Microsoft's people, products and programmes into the green revolution.

Microsoft's early results include a PVC-product-packaging purge begun in 2005 that has resulted in the elimination of 1.5 million pounds of the environmentally unfriendly plastic, as well as a soon-to-open Microsoft datacentre near Chicago that is a state-of-the-art monument to energy efficiency.

As part of its green revolution, Microsoft also is partnering with such movers and shakers as former President Bill Clinton and his Clinton Foundation to discover how the world's largest cities can reduce carbon output and greenhouse gases. Microsoft also is part of The Green Grid consortium and Climate Savers, two industrywide power-efficiency initiatives.

In July, Microsoft put US$500,000 into university grants to stimulate research on environmentally sensitive computing, and is turning a green light on its sixth-annual Imagine Cup software development challenge; the theme for 2008 is environmental sustainability.

The green monster

The company's effort is not all self-motivation and altruism, however.

Microsoft was jabbed in November by the pointedly critical watchdog group Greenpeace, which berated the company for its 2011 time frame for eliminating toxic chemicals from its electronic products. Competitors Apple, Dell and others are targeting 2008 and 2009. After the criticism, however, Greenpeace lauded Microsoft for contacting the organization, updating its Web site with a list of banned substances and making immediate changes where possible.

In addition, green proselytizers have attacked Vista recently for its energy appetite and for the fact that many users upgrading to the operating system need to acquire new PCs and dispose of old ones.

To coordinate the proactive and the reactive, Microsoft last November appointed Rob Bernard to the newly minted position of chief environmental strategist, and told him to look at all aspects of the company and initiate improvements.

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