Big business is increasingly pointing the finger of blame back at itself regarding global warming — banks are cutting loans to coal projects, delivery firms are exploring electric vehicles and food conglomerates are pitching plant-based meats.
Microsoft is the latest to vow to take ownership of its carbon footprint. The software firm pledged to be “carbon negative” by the beginning of the next decade, and to remove all the carbon it ever emitted, since its 1975 founding, by 2050. The company also created a $1 billion fund to speed development of technologies that remove carbon from the air.
The last year has seen a big shift in corporate attitudes as wildfires scorch the Amazon and Australia, polar ice caps retreat and scientists announce that the previous decade was the hottest on record. The Davos summit founder called for, in a new manifesto, a focus on “stakeholders” and not only “shareholders.” The Business Roundtable declared this summer that corporations must consider the needs of employees, environment and suppliers while maximizing profits.
Banks from UBS to Citigroup have been boosting their so-called impact funds, in response to customer demand for investments that seek profit and social good. BlackRock, like many other banks, is exiting coal projects and has promised that sustainability will be a guiding principle when it invests client money.
Among tech companies, Amazon and Google are investing in more renewable energy as they take criticism for the amounts of energy their data centers use.
Microsoft’s plans may be more ambitious than its rivals. The company gave itself a five year deadline to move to all renewable fuels, and to all electric vehicles by 2030. It will also start paying a so-called internal carbon tax of $15 per ton. While many startups are exploring carbon reduction, Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund is the largest dedicated to the field.
The company acknowledged success isn’t guaranteed: “The significance and complexity of the task ahead is incredible. This is a bold bet — a moonshot — for Microsoft.”