Microsoft’s Director of Environmental Sustainability Talks Green Initiatives, Copenhagen Summit
In the past, Microsoft has had a reputation for being slow moving in the areas of green technology and energy-saving innovation. However, in the last two years, the corporation seems to have turned the tide, stepping up to the sustainability plate and implementing a number of company-wide green initiatives.
First, it hired Rob Bernard as chief environmental strategist, a position created specifically for him. It began integrating power management capabilities into its products—the latest release of Windows 7 and Microsoft Hohm include new energy tracking and management features. Partnerships were formed with the Clinton Foundation, the Carbon Disclosure Project, and the European Environmental Agency. And, most recently, Microsoft sent a 12-person delegation, led by Bernard, to the COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Microsoft’s director of environmental sustainability, Francois Ajenstat, has been with the company for nine years, working in various groups including Office and SQL Server. He moved to sustainability, a personal passion of his, 18 months ago. His job includes everything from working with product teams to reduce the harmful environmental impact of their customers to talking with governments and NGOs around the world about climate change, and working on Microsoft’s own commitment to going green.
On the last day of the conference, Friday, I spoke with Ajenstat about how the company was received in Copenhagen and what its current environmental strategy entails.
“A lot of people join Microsoft to change the world,” he said. “This is clearly an opportunity where I could go in and have a significant impact on the world by also helping change the company.”
Here are a few edited highlights from our conversation:
Xconomy: Microsoft has recently put much more emphasis on sustainable technology. Why now?
Francois Ajenstat: The way that I describe how things were originally is we had a lot of what I call “well intentioned chaos”—a lot different people within the company doing great work, but not necessarily a line to a broader vision or broader strategy. Sustainability has moved to the forefront of everybody’s minds, both in terms of our customers asking Microsoft how we can help, government talking to Microsoft, our employees looking for what the company was doing, shareholders. It was almost more of a whole mountain of requests coming from all directions. What we wanted to do was have a thoughtful approach that made sense based on what society needs and also based on the real capabilities that Microsoft can bring to the table.
X: What are the key components of Microsoft’s environmental strategy?
FA: There are really three parts to the strategy. The first one is to use IT to improve energy efficiency. The second is to accelerate research breakthroughs. And the third is about responsible environmental leadership. A number of different studies have shown that the IT industry represents about 2 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that are emitted. And you might say that 2 percent is … Next Page »