Taking on human rights due diligence

Respecting human rights is a core value of Microsoft. We believe that with technologies as powerful as those that we develop, we need to think not only about what our products and services enable, but what unintended consequences might flow from their use in real-world deployments. We do that by conducting what are known as human rights impact assessments.

We recently decided to conduct additional human rights due diligence regarding the role of our technology and its potential impact on certain communities in select situations. Given this, I thought it would be useful to provide additional context behind this decision, and what it does and does not entail.

In advance of the Microsoft Annual Shareholder Meeting on November 30, we received a request to explore how Microsoft products licensed to public sector entities are experienced by third parties, especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)and other vulnerable communities. We agree this is a question that warrants greater attention and are contracting an independent third-party to help us identify, understand, assess, and address actual or potential human rights impacts of our products and services.

In conducting investigations like this, we are guided by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). In particular, UNGP Principle 18 notes the value of drawing on external human rights expertise and the importance of meaningful consultation with affected groups and other relevant stakeholders. That will be our approach to this work: We will task the independent third party to engage an expansive audience, with particular focus on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and other vulnerable communities.

We also want to be clear that this is not a review of all the specific contracts we have in place today, nor is it a broader statement that goes beyond what I’ve shared above about where, when and with whom we do business. It’s also not a blanket prohibition on providing technology across the public sector, as we sell numerous solutions to many public sector customers around the world, and will continue to do so.

We are committed to transparency on this topic – there is little value in a report that simply sits on a shelf. With that in mind, we will publish the findings of this study in 2022.