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Microsoft Makes Ambitious Carbon Neutral Pledge 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-will-grow-a-rainforest-on-the-moon dept.
Qedward writes "Chief operating officer Kevin Turner says Microsoft will be 'carbon neutral across all our direct operations including data centers, software development labs, air travel, and office buildings' from July 1, the start of the 2012 fiscal year. Turner added: 'We are hopeful that our decision will encourage other companies, large and small, to look at what they can do to address this important issue."
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Microsoft Makes Ambitious Carbon Neutral Pledge

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  • Microsoft (Score:4, Informative)

    by Valacity (2634575) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @05:32PM (#39934383)
    I think this is a great initiative by Microsoft. They have shown that they greatly care about the environment and common good. Not only that, but they spend lots of money on their R&D (Microsoft Research) which has come up with tons of great things that has made the world better.

    On top of that Microsoft's founder Bill Gates has spent most of his fortune [wikipedia.org] to help the world, especially for healthcare and making the poor countries better. Even if you don't like MS products you have to have deep respect for them for this reason. Compare this to Google CEO's who spend their money on luxury yachts [dailymail.co.uk].
    • Sounds like a lot of hot air to me.

      • Re:Oh yeah? (Score:5, Informative)

        by rwa2 (4391) * on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @10:55PM (#39937369) Homepage Journal

        So I just started working for M$ this year.

        They're a big proponent of alternative commutes, so there's lots of incentive to bike to work, carpool, etc. http://www.gortrip.com/ [gortrip.com] . Everyone gets a free bus pass. (yeah, I know everyone can write off ~$120 a month in taxes for using public transit, but not every company bothers with it).

        They also run a pretty generous on-demand shuttle service around their campus and surrounding facilities. (I know Google does the same, but we never hear about the M$ one.) They also have a special bus that ferrys like 12 bikes at a time across the 520 bridge, since the city busses can only 3 at a time.

        Also, most of their cafeteria stuff is compostable, which leads to some hilarity because all their compostable plastic utensils melt in hot food / drinks. But it's great fun using that to demonstrate to visitors how strong the coffee is.

    • by daniel78 (2563977)
      Since you're arbitrarily comparing Microsoft founders to Google CEOs (as if that was even in any way relevant to his story) it seems a little ironic you'd bring up private yachts, when Paul Allen is infamous for his own "mega yacht" [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Surt (22457)

      As I always say: the level of your charity is defined by how much you have left when you're done.
      A poor man with two dollars who gives one is far more generous than a rich man with 40 billion who gives 39 billion.

      • Re:Microsoft (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jeremi (14640) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @06:38PM (#39935247) Homepage

        As I always say: the level of your charity is defined by how much you have left when you're done.
        A poor man with two dollars who gives one is far more generous than a rich man with 40 billion who gives 39 billion.

        On the other hand, one dollar isn't enough to buy a single cup of coffee these days, whereas 39 billion dollars could improve the lives of a substantial number of people.

        Your definition of generosity might be useful for deciding who gets in to Heaven, but it doesn't have much to say about who is making a difference in the world.

        • by Surt (22457)

          Entirely true. Though at that end of the scale, I'd make an argument about harm done to acquire the billions vs good done with them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Barlo_Mung_42 (411228)

            And you would be wrong with that argument. Even if you assume MS is responsible for all the jobs lost at netscape and word perfect plus 10 other companies of similar size you would be wrong. Those people went on to get other jobs and life went on. Weigh that against the 10s of thousands of lives that MS money has saved and harm done just doesn't compare.

            • by Surt (22457)

              How about all the lives lost due to lack of progress in computer technology?

      • by geekoid (135745)

        man gives his last two dollars, then what?

        It' was stupid. Should have used that 2 dollars to get a pencil and paper and make a plan, then spend his time implementing his plan. In 5 years when he goes from nothing to middle class, he can then donate more money, and eat.

        Your idea of charity is short sighted, and, frankly, stupid.
        But you keep reciting shit religion has been telling people in order to get there last 2 dollar for as long as there has been religion.

        • Re:Microsoft (Score:5, Insightful)

          by edumacator (910819) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @08:50PM (#39936533)

          Should have used that 2 dollars to get a pencil and paper and make a plan, then spend his time implementing his plan. In 5 years when he goes from nothing to middle class, he can then donate more money, and eat.

          This is a canard that helps us sleep at night. If only poor people worked harder or planned ahead, they would dig themselves out of poverty. For every story you find where this is successful, I could show you 100 people who worked as hard, planned as well, and ended up still poor. Bad planning or a bad work ethic is not what makes people poor. It's a confluence of factors that are by and large out of the individual's control.

          To suggest otherwise simplifies a very complex and important global issue. Certainly there are elements of any population that just don't work hard, but that is generally not the case. You can argue that it isn't your place to help someone out of poverty; you can say that poverty is inevitable, but to allay your fears or guilt by claiming a person with only two dollars should write a five year plan to solve his woes and provide for others is extremely overly-simplified, don't you think? His idea of charity is not stupid. It is noble. We could compromise and say foolhardy if you wish. Nevertheless, kindness to another human being, whether you think people who do so are indoctrinated by religion or just plain caring, is something beautiful.

          I know I'm blowing against the wind, but I'd suggest you tone down the name calling too. I know, I know...this is /., but I'm a romantic and believe people can have a civil discourse on important issues.

          • Why is that a canard? Do you believe individuals simply float on a wave of historical forces, and the *lucky ones* inevitability say it was their hard work that got them where they are? Instead of saying "It's a confluence of factors that are by and large out of the individual's control ...", the fact is people make choices every minute of every day that affect the well-being of themselves and those around them: Do I spend or save? Do I get things done or do I procrastinate? Do I watch TV or go exercise
            • Do you believe individuals simply float on a wave of historical forces, and the *lucky ones* inevitability say it was their hard work that got them where they are?

              No. I believe the people who are successful generally work very hard for their success. They persevere in the face of extreme difficulty and use their talents to great effect. I never discounted hard work. I'm saying that not every person that works hard will eventually rise out of poverty. There are many other contributing factors.

              Do I spend or s

        • by Surt (22457)

          If all you want to be is generous, it is what it is. If you want to be more famous or more effective, pure generosity may not be the best strategy.

      • by cupantae (1304123)

        I get it! If I get paid one penny at a time, keep no savings and donate some of my first pennies in each pay cheque, I'll be the most generous man in the world!

        I'm no fan of MS or Gates, to be honest, but that is way too simplistic. Giving 39 of 40 billion is obviously more generous, because of the difficulty in regaining it and the enormous amount of power surrendered.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      It's not like other MS founders don't have luxury yachts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octopus_(yacht), and lots of rich people don't necessarily feel the need to give the money to charity which may not be all that effective and robs governments of tax revenue from estate taxes (where such things exist) http://www.onlinecardonation.org/charitynews/archives/102.

      It's not like MS trying to go carbon neutral is a bad thing. Both Google and apple have massive solar power generators, and there are lots of peopl

  • Other companies large and small will probably be wondering why they couldn't just pay less for their MS licenses instead.

    • Re:Charge less (Score:4, Informative)

      by cowboy76Spain (815442) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @07:49PM (#39935883)

      I find amusing that while everybody claims to know how capitalism works, they still get wrong.

      Repeat with me:

      The only relationships between costs and price is that, IF MY PRICE GOES BELOW MY COSTS, I GO BROKE.

      If I get a product for free, I can sell it for $1 or $1.000.000. The decission will be based in which price gives me more profits (perhaps at $1 I get so many customers that it offsets the lower prices, in the other hand it will mean that I will have bigger production/distribution costs). With many products, market share is very affected by price, but that is not universal (you only get one dose of a vaccine, no matter how cheap the second one is; no matter how expensive is it, you will a bottle of water if you are in the middle of the desert).

      The theory says that if I get a big difference between price and cost (-> profit) then other bussinesmen will catch up and enter my bussiness, leading to competition and eventually lowering prices. Of course, what is not usually said is the long list of "exceptions":

      *) My product is unique -let it be by its properties, by copyright or even by marketing/branding-; nobody can copy it.

      *) Time to market is big: even if the other bussinesmen begin trying to catch me today, they will spend years until they get a product ready (think of designing a car, or a full new OS).

      *) Investment is big: bussinesmen do not have enough capital to invest as they should in this market, if they ask for loans the interest to pay will be a significant disavantage against me. And when if they finally get to do it, I am in a good position to dump prices so they can not recoup their investments, let alone get benefits (this one works better when coupled with the previous ones, see nuclear electricity).

      • by XanC (644172)

        Well, okay, then the shareholders should be wondering why their dividend is smaller than it should be.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Sorry buy there is another real and true relationship between cost and price. It's called integrity, a sense of fairness. So as an estimator contract administrator in the highly competitive building industry, even though at many oppurtunities I could get away with 100% markup or more, I did not and only held to the original profit margin upon which the contract was based even when it was not disclosed.

        Pride in profession, a sense of truly delivering valuable service to your fellow human beings, a degree

        • No, sorry, you are wrong.

          You are entitled to your integrity, fairness, pride, however you word it. You are entitled to decrease your benefits whatever you want due to these issues (in fact, it is not that different from MS buying carbon credits).

          However, if we go back to economic theory, these issues are counted as "cost of opportunity"... all of the money that you could be doing but that you do not get. (note that it is not the same that accepting now a lower profit in the hope of increased bussiness with

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            Which is exactly why economist never understand why companies go belly up when they get caught ripping off their customers while the companies psychopathic executives wander off with the bonuses and golden parachute. The world is littered with bankrupt companies employing your thinking, whilst companies that demonstrate and maintain integrity can survive centuries.

  • by Scareduck (177470) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @05:35PM (#39934439) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft to hire Accenture to audit these claims ...

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Deception and creative accounting would be more of an issue if somebody were compelling them to do it, but that's not the case.
      • by XanC (644172)

        It would also be an issue if they were making a claim to score marketing points without really caring whether they lived up to it.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          I think it would be somewhat dangerous as an empty marketing ploy. There is enough sentiment against both Microsoft and environmentalism to ensure that in a couple years somebody will at least try to prove this effort was either futile or undertaken cynically in the first place.
    • by Surt (22457)

      LOL. Sometimes I wonder how anyone lives with themselves working for a company like Accenture. And yet so many people do. Really undermines my limited faith in humanity.

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @05:35PM (#39934449)

    They use a lot of electricity. Unless Microsoft is planning to buy "carbon offset" credits, so they can pollute and yet just handwave it away.

    I'd prefer they take a pledge to be megabyte neutral, and learn to develop a new OS that doesn't use any more megabytes of RAM (or virtual ram) then Windows 7. Ditto for Office, Visio, and other products.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Windows 8 uses less ram than windows 7, which is about the same as windows xp.

      You just have to turn off the trimmings.

      http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2011/10/07/reducing-runtime-memory-in-windows-8.aspx

    • by el jocko del oeste (2450190) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @05:43PM (#39934557)

      They use a lot of electricity. Unless Microsoft is planning to buy "carbon offset" credits, so they can pollute and yet just handwave it away.

      That's exactly what they're doing. They're touting their effort to reduce their energy usage and their purchase of carbon offsets to cover the energy that they can't avoid using.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Okay. That means somebody else (us maybe) has to cut back on their pollution to offset Microsoft's pollution credits.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Yes, and the market will decide how much that somebody gets paid to do it. As long as there's no outright fraud, I don't see how that's any worse than directly reducing emissions.

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            Someone's going to pay me to turn-off the heat & sit in a cold house? Cool. Where do I sign up?

            • by pijokela (462279)

              Here in Europe, you are already "payed for using less electricity" because the carbon market thing has raised your electricity price. Unfortunately, electricity users are all either paying more or at least the same. Carbon neutral electricity producers are the ones making money.

        • by Jeremi (14640)

          Okay. That means somebody else (us maybe) has to cut back on their pollution to offset Microsoft's pollution credits.

          Yup, but it also means that Microsoft will (indirectly) be paying for that improvement. It's hard to see that as a bad thing.

          • Yup, but it also means that Microsoft will (indirectly) be paying for that improvement. It's hard to see that as a bad thing.

            True as long as the carbon credits are priced in the right ballpark.

            The idea is to turn an externality (a cost to society at large) to something the "invisible hand" of the market will take care of fixing. As long as the market for carbon credits is well regulated it does not get any more libertarian than this.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        BAsed on what?

        Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Microsoft as the third largest purchaser of green power in the U.S., purchasing more than 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually. This is enough green power to offset 46 percent of our electricity use, and is the annual equivalent to taking more than 150,000 passenger vehicles off the road.

        So it's a a lot more the offsets.

        Carbon offset vary. Some are good , some are pretty thin. I didn't see that the spe

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Technically what they're doing is claiming to be "carbon neutral", and inviting other companies to address that "important issue".

        Never mind, when we're sailing around with Kevin Costner looking for Dryland, the free marketeers will just invent a new planet.

    • They use a lot of electricity. Unless Microsoft is planning to buy "carbon offset" credits, so they can pollute and yet just handwave it away.

      They can also claim their Microsoft-branded hardware like the XBox, keyboards, mice, etc., are all made by other companies, so they're not responsible for anything but the ink used to print "Microsoft" on it. And having dug into their statement... it appears they've done exactly that. They appear to be claiming only their offices and data centers towards the "carbon neutral" claim. It's not hard to claim you're "carbon neutral" when all you do is lease office space and consume electricity. -_- I'll believe

    • by noh8rz3 (2593935)
      I agree mostly with you. Yu're right, they can directly mitigate their own emissions when possible, and buy renewable energy credits to cover the rest. RECs aren't hand waving. It's an established system for optimizing and maximizing green hous gas reductions across the economy.
    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @06:25PM (#39935055) Journal

      They use a lot of electricity

      I don't know about all operations, but the bulk of development work, and most internal servers and such, are in Redmond, and elsewhere in Puget Sound area. Most electricity generated there comes from hydro - about 75% - and you can actually get 100% renewable sourcing for your own power bill if you're willing to pay extra to the power distribution company (they'll basically buy more kWh from "green" provides with that money, even if their prices are higher).

      I'd prefer they take a pledge to be megabyte neutral, and learn to develop a new OS that doesn't use any more megabytes of RAM (or virtual ram) then Windows 7

      This is essentially what the bar is for Win8 - it should run on any PC that runs Win7 today, which in practice means same or lower RAM usage. It's actually lower overall, because of all optimizations that had to be done to squeeze it onto tablets (for the ARM edition especially), which still have an effect on desktop machines.

    • by pnot (96038)

      They use a lot of electricity. Unless Microsoft is planning to buy "carbon offset" credits, so they can pollute and yet just handwave it away.

      It seems they're taking the obvious step of trying to make sure that the power comes from carbon-neutral sources. From TFWhitepaper linked from TFA:

      we are considering a portfolio of approaches, including: Signing long-term renewable power purchase agreements... Investing capital in new renewable energy projects... Connecting data centers directly to innovative energy sources...

      Read all about it here [microsoft.com].

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Even with "carbon off-set credits" you are generally not carbon neutral.

      Carbon neutral to me means: not adding any extra carbon to the atmosphere (typically as CO2). This means that for ever ton of carbon emitted thanks to burning of fossil fuels for electricity for office, or for fuel for a trip by plane, you would have to take out a ton of carbon back from the atmosphere.

      Growing trees is not doing much: only when a tree grows it takes in carbon. Most forests, when fully grown, don't take in much, as the d

  • I am strongly ambivalent on this story.

    Will this help prevent global climate change? To quote Futurama: "Neutral President: All I know is my gut says maybe."
    • by cupantae (1304123)

      And I think it's roughly neutral in terms of good and bad. Here's my personal summary:
      I'm assuming that the things written in the article are true.

      The good:
      - Microsoft will spend money on planting trees and all that jazz with the carbon offsets.
      - This loss of money will promote efficiency as a cheaper alternative to buying offsets.
      - More large companies publicly reacting to climate change might be some evidence to deniers that this is not some kind of hippy nonsense.

      The bad:
      - The effectiveness of carbon off

  • ...microsoft pledges to make contact with the borg
  • ..for a fucking software company. Wake me when a company involved in things like steelmaking, mining, transport and heavy engineering become carbon neutral.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Microsoft's pledge includes their use of the services you mentioned. If all the customers of all airlines, for example, were carbon neutral including their use of air transport, then the problem is solved. Whether that's possible I don't know, but since we are hardly even making an effort yet, large gains are relatively easy.
    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      They aren't just a software company. They have a huge amount of online services which consist of a large number of datacenters and hundreds of thousands of servers around the world. not to mention all their offices and services staff.
    • By my estimates Alcoa uses 22.4 billion kw/h per year smelting Aluminum. (One of the most electricity intensive industries).

      All data-centers in the US used 66 billion kw/h and Microsoft has some of the largest data-centers in the world. I'm sure they're not up to Alcoa's standards but they also aren't insubstantial.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @05:47PM (#39934611)

    Great that Microsoft is going carbon-neutral, that they're "hopeful that our decision will encourage other companies, large and small, to look at what they can do to address this important issue," but Google's been carbon neutral since 2007:
    http://www.industryleadersmagazine.com/how-has-google-managed-to-be-a-carbon-neutral-company-since-2007/ [industryle...gazine.com]

    Dell has been carbon neutral since 2008:
    http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/dell-reaches-carbon-neutrality-goals-5-months-ahead-of-schedule.html [treehugger.com]

    If anything, Microsoft is a bit late to the party. Still, good work.

    • If every company in the world became carbon neutral, then Google might have accomplished something big. Now, given what the electricity situation is in Japan at the moment, the real news is going to be when Sony or Hitachi goes neutral.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        I think with the incoming heat deaths and rolling blackout,l Japan might change their tune. When they do, I hope they look at cutting edge plant, not those 50 year old monstrosity designs.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      And to their credit, that mention they aren't he first in the article.

  • They are extracting energy from flying chairs. Ba-Dum-Tssssss
  • ...Is sort of like Starbucks pledging to stop using the red bug dye [npr.org]. Some people will say it's responsible of them, but I really don't give a rat's ass.
  • Yeah, the whole article is just a business case for this because they know what would happen if there wasn't a business case. And there wouldn't be a business case, but for carbon taxes. Exactly how it was supposed to work. Good job, government. Good job doing what you had to do, MS.
  • now if only they could become product neutral.

  • https://pinterest.com/climatebrad/heartland-institute-sponsors/ [pinterest.com]
    Looks like almost $60k and they haven't withdrawn their support (yet?)

  • Consider what tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of a percent they'd have to drop CPU load in every copy of windows, in order to equal the trivial saving they are attempting to make.

  • MS can power their data centers from the hot air put forth by Ballmer's mouth.
    This is the second time I have posted this comment... the first mysteriously disappeared. I am really beginning to wonder who foots the bills at /.
    • This is because the first time WE(the ominous conspiracy of evil overlords who control the internet from our black helicopters) pardoned you...

      However, your perseverance and technical expertise has defeated our cleverly masterminded operation, and your clever words have been made public. This time there will be clemence.

      If I were you, the next time you go driving somewhere, I would be cautious. I would be looking at the side lanes before entering an intersection. I would respect right of way. I would check

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Cause you certainly couldn't make a mistake. no no,. they are watching you, and out ogf all the anti-MS posts, they pick yours to mysteriously disappear.

  • by vik (17857) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @07:45PM (#39935853) Homepage Journal

    They've managed to fiddle the figures to show virtually no taxable profit, so fiddling them to show zero carbon emissions should be a piece of well-iced cake.

    Vik :v)

  • by cowboy76Spain (815442) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @08:04PM (#39936035)

    Half of the MS employees perish in a cave collapse during the company picnic.

    The CEO explained to the press that MS had found the way to combine "carbon secuestration" with "reduced operation costs"

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @11:12PM (#39937467)

    Don't forget that this is a company whose entire business model is based on planned obsolescence and the endless hardware upgrade treadmill. Without that carbon-belching "ecosystem" of hardware "partners", Microsoft would be toast.

    A similarly meaningless situation would occur if Bucyrus, the producer of gargantuan coal strip mining machines, had made their factories "carbon neutral".

  • So Microsoft is going green.
    Easy for a company that makes ones and zeros.
    Not so easy for a steel mill, a trucking company or auto manufacturer.

  • What about indirect carbon footprint due to wasted CPU cycles due to Windows' inefficiencies?

    What about carbon emitted by users fuming at Windows numerous bugs?

    Pollution due to throwing away perfectly good computers that user erroneously thought broken due to various Windows problems or Trojan infections?

  • Those of us in the carbon offset industry will smile for the few more years the scheme will last.

"I got everybody to pay up front...then I blew up their planet." "Now why didn't I think of that?" -- Post Bros. Comics

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