In a bid to combat climate change, Microsoft set an ambitious target in 2020 to become “carbon negative” by 2030. The company aimed to achieve this by reducing its carbon emissions by over 50% by 2030, encompassing both direct emissions and those of its entire supply and value chain. However, a recent report from The Verge suggests that achieving this goal may prove more challenging in 2023 than it appeared three years ago.
The Verge conducted an analysis of Microsoft’s top 100 supply chain partners, selecting 27 of them at random to examine their recorded fossil fuel emissions. The findings revealed that a majority of these supply chain companies had actually increased their reliance on fossil fuels and emissions in 2023 compared to their 2020 levels. Shockingly, some of these suppliers did not have a single contract to power their factories with electricity from renewable sources, indicating that all their electricity consumption, a significant source of emissions, was derived from fossil fuels.
While Microsoft, along with tech giants Apple and Google, has made progress in reducing emissions in their direct operations, with all three companies utilizing 100% renewable energy sources, this achievement represents only a fraction of the overall emissions associated with Microsoft’s supply chain partners.
Notably, several of Microsoft’s third-party partners, including major CPU and GPU companies such as AMD, Intel, Qualcomm, and NVIDIA, exhibited increases in emissions during either 2021 or 2022. However, Intel did inform The Verge that it had managed to reduce emissions by 4% from its direct operations in 2022. Similarly, another Microsoft supplier, SK Hynix, stated that it had decreased direct emissions from its operations in 2022. Notably, Microsoft and the other suppliers mentioned in the report declined to comment on its findings.
The report highlights the significant challenges Microsoft faces in achieving its carbon-negative goal by 2030, particularly in influencing and mitigating the emissions of its supply chain partners. While Microsoft’s own efforts in reducing emissions are commendable, the dependency on suppliers with high carbon footprints poses a significant hurdle. Going forward, it is essential for Microsoft to work closely with its supply chain partners, urging them to adopt sustainable practices and transition to renewable energy sources to make meaningful progress toward the company’s carbon-negative vision.
Achieving carbon neutrality requires collective efforts and collaboration across industries, and Microsoft’s experience underscores the importance of engaging suppliers and fostering sustainable practices throughout the entire value chain. As the company continues its sustainability journey, it will undoubtedly face challenges and setbacks, but with perseverance and strategic partnerships, it can work towards a greener and more sustainable future.