Microsoft's Green Initiatives Stretch Into Its Supply Chain

Green initiatives at Microsoft extend to hardware and packaging requirements, and reducing the carbon footprint of Surface tablets, Xbox consoles and other devices.

Green IT

Microsoft isn't only relying on energy-efficient cloud data centers and renewable energy to lessen its environmental impact. The company is also pushing sustainability within its supplier network.

The company announced March 7 that its supply chain for hardware and packaging has been certified ISO 14001-compliant. "ISO 14001 is an internationally recognized framework for organizations to strategically manage and continuously improve their environmental performance," Josh Henretig, head of Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.

While Microsoft already had strict supplier practices in place, ISO 14001 certification "represents a new commitment to minimizing the environmental footprint of our hardware and packaging," he said.

Many of the company's business units, including global travel and real estate, collaborated to help Microsoft get the nod from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). "Working together, they were able to certify the entirety of Microsoft manufacturing and supply chain under one certificate," he added.

The move burnishes Microsoft's reputation as an environmentally-conscious technology organization, he said. "Demonstrating the link between people, profits and the planet, the certification also provides our customers and other stakeholders with the objective assurance that Microsoft is responsibly managing the environmental impacts of our hardware and packaging products and enhances Microsoft's reputation as a preferred business partner."

And the company won't stop there in its quest to reduce the carbon footprint of its Surface tablets, Xbox consoles and other electronics. "We will continue to take steps to reduce the environmental footprint of our supply chain and Microsoft devices," wrote Henretig.

Microsoft's push into a more sustainable direction also extends into the company's massive data center operations.

In January 2013, the company announced a $348 million expansion to the company's cloud computing facilities in Mecklenburg County, Va. "These facilities showcase state-of-the-art designs developed from our latest technology and infrastructure research that continues to minimize water, energy use and building costs, while increasing computing capacity, software capabilities and server utilization," Christian Belady, Microsoft's Data Center Services general manager, said in a statement.

This year, the company announced that it was nearing completion on a zero-carbon data center pilot program in Wyoming called the Cheyenne Data Plant. The 18-month project derives energy for its servers and IT systems by leveraging biogas (methane) from local municipal waste.

Microsoft has also invested in renewable energy purchase programs, and in one case, a clean power producer, albeit indirectly. The company announced Nov. 4 that it had inked a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Keechi Wind Farm Project in Texas.

The project is headed by energy developer RES Americas and will incorporate 55 wind turbines that generate 110 megawatts of electricity when it is completed in 2015. Without Microsoft's involvement, the project may never have gotten off the ground, according to Susan Reilly, RES CEO and chair-elect of the board of the American Wind Energy Association.

"Microsoft is making the financing, construction and operation of this 110-megawatt project possible," she said in a statement. "To be clear: It would not have happened otherwise."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...