Advancing Sustainable Development through an Internal Price on Carbon — Microsoft’s Approach to Harnessing Tech and Innovation to Advance the SDGs

| TJ DiCaprio

This week, the U.N. hosted a great event in New York exploring how science, technology and innovation can advance the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The theme, ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world’, aligns closely with Microsoft’s mission to help every person and organization on the planet achieve more, and we were proud to participate as a company in a panel session and through our Digital Transformation showcase.

As a company, we’ve embraced the SDGs as a way of expanding upon the work we already do to drive global change and transformations. We do this in a variety of ways, ranging from philanthropic giving to working with customers to changing our business practices.

One of those practices that has been in place for some time is our carbon program. We have been carbon neutral since 2012, but we continue to evolve our strategies to address new goals. With the introduction of the SDG’s last year, we continue to pursue opportunities that will help us drive more impact through this program. I wanted to share a few examples of the work we are doing, which we hope contributes to the SDGs.


Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts includes a target of increasing institutional capacity for climate change mitigation and impact reduction.  For our part, we have contributed by funding more than 50 emission reduction projects in 30+ countries over the past few years. These investments have helped reduce emissions by more than 2.25 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (mtCO2e).




Today, one in five people still lacks access to modern electricity and three billion people still rely on wood, coal, charcoal, kerosene, or animal waste for cooking, lighting, and heating. These sources of energy contribute to climate change and human health impacts.

Our carbon offset community project investments include renewable energy projects in five geographies, cook stove projects in seven geographies and biomass-to-energy projects in two geographies. For example, the India Solar Water Heating project manufactures, distributes, installs, and maintains solar-powered water heaters for a variety of residential, commercial, and community buildings in urban areas throughout the country. Providing an in-house hot water supply fueled by renewable energy rather than carbon-intensive grid electricity both helps to reduce emissions and deliver significant financial savings on energy use.


Approximately 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood. Forests are home to more than 80 percent of all terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Our forestry-related projects help improve life on land through reforestation, improving forest management, and helping protect against deforestation and degradation of existing forests. We also educate local communities about the value of their forests and how to create alternate forms of livelihood.

We look for opportunities around the world to invest in projects which can help preserve, restore, and improve forest health. While many of these projects are in iconic locations associated with deforestation, others are in areas that aren’t always thought of as degraded forestlands. For example, the Mississippi Valley Reforestation project aims to reforest one million acres of the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, an area once covered by 22 million acres of dense forest. Less than 20 percent of this forest remains today. Landowners who enroll in the project commit to planting and protecting trees, reducing an estimated 200 mtCO2e per acre. The project creates revenue for participants, brings jobs to the area, and enhances local water quality and biodiversity.


Today, at least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is contaminated by fecal matter. This requires boiling water for sanitation, which in the developing world is often achieved by burning biomass. Our water-related projects include delivering new filtration systems and repairing deteriorated boreholes.

For example, a Guatemala Water Filtration and Improved Cook stoves project enables access to clean water by distributing water filters, and improves cooking conditions by increasing fuel efficiency and reducing harmful indoor air pollution. This organization’s goal is to stem the tide of infant mortality caused by dirty water: the largest single contributor to childhood death in Guatemala.


These handful of projects are just a few among the projects we are investing in around the world through our carbon offset projects and we are excited to see how these projects, and others, can align to the U.N. SDGs. The SDGs provide clear goals and targets that help us to focus our investment, plus they offer a common language for us to use in communicating the impact of our investments with customers, partners and investors.

You can read about the evolution of Microsoft’s carbon fee by downloading our latest white paper here.

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