Microsoft has committed to become carbon neutral beginning on July 1, the start of the company's new fiscal year. The shift results from three years of internal discussions within the company to improve Microsoft's carbon footprint and environmental performance. The company will roll out the new changes, including a new accounting system, across its operations in over 100 countries.
The new accounting system at Microsoft will be based on an internal carbon fee that the company's finance department will charge to all of the company's business groups. Each division will be tasked with finding a more efficient way to offset the carbon emissions associated with their fuel consumption and air travel. Hence the new carbon strategy at the company's Redmond, WA headquarters and beyond will have three pillars: be lean, be green and be accountable.
Employees within at all functions within Microsoft will be affected by the new carbon accounting rules, whether they work in data centers, software development laboratories, administrative buildings, or are traveling for the company. The carbon pricing and charge-back model will push the company to increase its overall energy efficiency and consume more renewable energy instead of conventional fossil fuels. For carbon emissions that cannot be canceled out via efficiency measures, Microsoft promises to purchase renewable energy credits and carbon offsets.
The plan will evolve through four steps. First, beginning on July 1, all business groups must include the price of carbon into their budgets. The business units in turn will be able to reduce their "carbon liability" by decreasing their usage of energy by sourcing renewable energy directly or cutting back on air travel. Each group in turn will pay a carbon fee for each metric ton of carbon associated with their operations. Finally, those carbon fees will be deposited into a central fund from which carbon offsets or renewable energy can be purchased.