The pressure on firms to become sustainable is mounting. Customers care more than ever about business practices. Regulators are considering legislation that would force companies to meet net zero and other ESG (environment, social and governance) benchmarks. And activists and the press are increasingly holding businesses to account over whether their behaviour matches their climate rhetoric.
Microsoft is taking this seriously. The company is on track to nearly eliminate Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025, and to be carbon negative by 2030. Microsoft is working in the Middle East and Africa – announcing a sustainability partnership at Cop27 with Nedbank, one of Africa’s largest financial services groups, for example – to become a climate leader, in this part of the world and beyond.
This is not a passing fad, but a tectonic shift. There couldn’t be a more urgent moment for companies to ready their businesses for the age of the green economy.
At the heart of becoming a sustainability-first organisation is understanding the business inside and out. This is why Microsoft has taken a data-driven approach to its own business, upending silos, splicing and recombining data in novel ways, and developing cutting edge tools to scour for patterns and insights that can inform its sustainability journey.
[See also: Seven ways to make leaders act on climate change]
Microsoft is not only using these tools to peel back the layers of its own business, it’s putting them into the hands of customers too, so that they can take a forensic approach to recalibrating in pursuit of a more sustainable way of working and doing business. This is not only the hallmark of a future-looking organisation ready to thrive in the green economy, but as ESG laws become more stringent, it’s making businesses more responsive to the regulatory imperative, too.
Microsoft’s flagship product that empowers customers on this journey is the Microsoft Sustainability Manager, a Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability solution. The foundational block of the sustainability journey is unifying data intelligence across the organisation: this tool lets organisations record, report, and ultimately reduce their environmental impact. It fuses business intelligence from every part of the organisation and allows businesses to calculate the precise sources of emissions. It offers a dashboard view of the organisation, providing the visibility that companies desperately need but typically struggle to obtain.
The Emissions Impact Dashboard provides Microsoft customers with transparency about the emissions produced from their use of Microsoft Azure cloud services, providing the impetus companies require to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. Customers can also sign up for add-ons such as the Carbon Offset Manager.
Microsoft Sustainability Manager expands the field of view outwards to areas that businesses often have difficulty gaining visibility over: supply chains. New legislation in EU countries and growing regulatory scrutiny in the UK mean that making sure supply chains are ESG-compliant is vital. With Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, customers can, through direct and partner solutions, conduct Scope 3 real-time monitoring, and tap into product life-cycle traceability and supply chain insights across the entire value chain.
One customer that is leveraging these tools is Grupo Bimbo, the Mexican multinational food company. With more than 200 bakeries and other facilities in 33 countries, including in Asia and Africa, and a distribution network serving more than 54,000 routes, Bimbo is a complex global operation. Before partnering with Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, the company relied on several piecemeal internal systems that required intensive work to manage, as well as manual data collection that introduced the opportunity for human error. Now, the company boasts an integrated, automated solution that absorbs data from all across the business – including from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors across its operations and supply chain – tracking and optimising emissions across Scopes 1, 2 and 3.
Microsoft Sustainability Manager can be harnessed by businesses across many different sectors, from energy, financial services and agriculture, to government. The platform is also helping FLSmidth, a company that delivers engineering, equipment, and service solutions for the mining and cement industries. FLSmidth aims to wield the Microsoft Sustainability Manager to become a sustainability leader in the mining sector, by achieving its plan for zero emissions and zero waste by 2030, and offering sustainability solutions to its own customers.
FLSmidth relies on Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability to set emissions baselines for its operations, set goals and track progress. Microsoft Sustainability Manager lets companies plan for the future by integrating emerging technologies like AI and IoT sensors that can help businesses track emissions, waste and water.
A sustainability leader in its own industry, Microsoft technology enables businesses across a wide range of sectors to differentiate themselves from the pack. These companies focus on sustainability not just as a necessity, but as a unique selling point that will make their businesses indispensable in the green economy.