Microsoft progress on emissions 'too slow', says its CSO

Chief Sustainability Officer Melanie Nakagawa says 2022 emissions 'can be counted as progress' but adds that 'it’s not happening fast enough'

Microsoft saw a modest fall in its carbon emissions for 2022, as the tech and gaming giant grew its business by 18%, it has announced.

In its 2022 Environmental Sustainability Report, Microsoft provided details on its carbon cutting efforts. It also detailed programs it is running to help customers measure and reduce their climate impacts, as well as discussing its work on initiatives to address global climate change.

Last year, Microsoft reported releasing just under 13 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. It has publicly reported its carbon impacts since 2017. Its emissions fell slightly in 2019 and 2020, but spiked in 2021 due to a COVID driven surge in business.

But the company is not making too much of its progress on the net zero front, with Chief Sustainability Officer Melanie Nakagawa saying on LinkedIn that, “while this can be counted as progress it’s not happening fast enough”.

Such circumspection might be explained by recent accusations of greenwashing levelled at the company, when it made bold pledges to be carbon neutral by 2030, only later to reveal its Scope 3 emissions had risen by 22.7% year-on-year. It transpired that most of the headway it had made on carbon savings had been pandemic-driven. 

Nakagawa’s note of caution is well placed for another reason, because she says an estimated 96% of Microsoft’s emissions come from sources “we don’t directly control and that are going to be difficult to shrink”. 

Nakagawa added: “We call on governments and organisations who want to make meaningful change to join us in this race to build the foundations and overcome obstacles that will help us all meet our commitments for a healthier planet.”

Among Microsoft’s programme of initiatives to cut carbon emissions listed in the report include: 

  • Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, a tool for calculating and reporting climate and water-use impacts.
  • Microsoft Planetary Computer, a tool for managing ecosystems impacted by a company’s business operations.

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