Microsoft Green announcements

Global Warming
Photo Credit frankfarm

Microsoft have been doing some work at a corporate level in an attempt to Green the company. According to this announcement (nasty pdf warning!), Microsoft’s foodservice at its Redmond campus has become the first corporate campus in the United States to meet the Green Restaurant Association’s Certified Green Restaurant™ standards.

I must admit I hadn’t heard of the Green Restaurant Association until I read this release and was pleasantly surprised to find that they have a search function on their site which allows you to find certified Green restaurants in your area (if you live in the US). I’m not aware of any equivalent European organisation 🙁

To achieve the Certified Green Restaurant status Microsoft is:

replacing plastic and Styrofoam™ cups, plates and eating utensils with biodegradable cafeteria and kitchen accessories; expanding its full-scale recycling program; and implementing a waste composting program. Microsoft is sending all of its kitchen scraps and compostable items to Cedar Grove Composting of Seattle and has reduced waste in its kitchens by 50 percent since the inception of the compostable program

Microsoft is even sending its 833 gallons of used fryer oil to biodiesel refineries every month for recycling into biodiesel fuel.

To keep this certification, Microsoft needs to implement four new environmental steps per year for the next five years. To that end, from the Microsoft blog entry about this

Microsoft and the GRA have identified the following improvements for 2009.

  • Sustainable Food: Increase organic and sustainable seafood offerings, to reach a goal of 30% of the menu.
  • Water Conservation: Install low flow aerators for hand washing and kitchen sinks, and install low flow pre-rinse spray valves on all kitchen sinks.
  • Waste Reduction: System of warewashing chemicals that results in less packaging and chemical waste.

Kudos to Microsoft for this achievement.

Microsoft also recently released a free power management tool for computers called Edison in conjunction with Verdiem. Edison allows you to simply set your computer to go to low power mode after a period of inactivity which you can set. You can also create schedules based around your working day and have Edison’s settings vary according to your work hours. Finally, Edison reports the amount of power you have saved.

This all sounds nice but as Edison is PC only and my computer is a Mac, I can’t comment on how effective it is. In fairness to Microsoft, Edison is Verdiem’s software and Verdiem appear to have decided not to support the Mac – however, it is unfortunate that Microsoft chose to partner with Verdiem and not someone like Bigfix which has power management software for Mac and PC .


Green is a form of Lean

Many of us are thinking through the implications of greener supply chains.

Al has been giving it some lately, for example, with his thoughts on the Carbon Added Tax. Over at SAP Research Andreas Vogel is leading the charge. IBM is doing some solid work here, as is BT. But we’re beginning to see a potential backlash, based on the Greens are Dreamers frame. The argument is that green thinking and approaches will be jettisoned as economic conditions toughen. But is that necessarily the case? Jason Busch from SpendMatters nails it in a post entitled How Will Green / Sustainable Procurement Play in a Recession?

While it would be easy to dismiss green and sustainable procurement practices as a luxury for companies to invest in when times are good, I actually believe that they could help organizations to buoy their top lines and pull up from a spiraling downturn or period of contraction. Whether it’s better marketing the benefits of green supplier practices to customers to spur pent-up demand or making investments in supplier development initiatives which reduce unnecessary packaging, supplier-focused sustainability initiatives have the potential to drive sales and reduce cost.”

I hold a similar line: it seems daft to argue, as the Bush Administration repeatedly has, that efficiency efforts harm economies. Efficiency can help you cut cost, even if (especially if?) its energy costs we’re talking about. Jason gets some great comments on his post. For actionable advice why not try Paul Gooch’s suggestion:

A former employer of mine ran an internal initiative called WRAP…waste reduction always pays. This applies as much to purchasing as any functional activity. The benefits go straight to the bottom line, and in the process you reduce your energy usage, carbon footprint, etc

But Lisa Reisman really distills the arguments to 100% proof: “green is a form of lean”. Thinking about carbon consumption is not just protectionist sabre-rattling: its an efficiency argument. It strikes me at the moment many economists and business commentators just aren’t thinking through their positions. We’re seeing rhetoric as the primary argument. Greens are luddites. Localisation means a return to the stone age. And so on. Green is a form of lean.

The implications for software and services companies are clear – keep investing in Green, recession or not. You can always change your marketing to read “cost-cutting”. If however you’re relying on a return to abundance as a primary planning assumption you could be in major trouble. Spend matters green or not.