In pursuit of a greener future for Canada, no organization can be an island. Companies like Microsoft Canada are building the tools to enable a sustainable net-zero strategy, but they also recognize that they can’t achieve their vision alone.
Climate change and sustainability are not tractable to simple and unilateral solutions. The intricacies of our personal, societal, and global carbon footprints are systemically intertwined between individuals, corporations, and governments. But just because a problem is complex and interconnected doesn’t mean it’s unsolvable. It means, instead, that a robust and collaborative solution is needed. Companies like Microsoft Canada are stepping to the plate with innovative technologies and collaboration strategies that can help organizations of all sizes and stripes work together to understand their climate impacts and accelerate their sustainability outcomes.
As Microsoft Canada’s business has grown year over year, the company has consistently worked to green its internal operations, with considerable success. “In terms of our corporate strategy, sustainability is one of our key values that drives the direction of everything we do, both internally and with our partners and customers,” says Chris Barry, President of Microsoft Canada. “Our global sustainability commitments include reaching carbon negative, water positive, and zero waste status by 2030. In addition, it’s our goal that by 2050, we will remove from the environment all the carbon we have emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since Microsoft was founded in 1975.”
And yet, even as its own operations become cleaner and more efficient, Microsoft has seen its total scope footprint, including metrics like emissions from public electricity generation and the concrete used in facility construction, continue to grow. Rather than accept that these climate vectors are outside of its control, the team has instead chosen to approach this as a challenge of collaboration.
Sending green strategy up the wire
One of the more direct approaches has been through a historic partnership with Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Ontario’s largest electricity generator. This strategic collaboration is designed to help create a path to clean energy usage to cities around the world and to help address climate change by delivering innovative clean energy solutions powered by the Microsoft cloud. powered by the Microsoft cloud. As part of the partnership, Microsoft announced it will procure Clean Energy Credits (CECs) sourced from OPG’s carbon-free hydro and nuclear assets in Ontario on an hourly basis. The two companies are also working on a series of technology initiatives including an hourly energy matching platform that utilizes Microsoft Azure IoT and AI technology to match a customer’s power needs with local carbon-free energy sources, helping to balance dynamic supply and demand on a grid that is growing smarter, greener, and more responsive by the day.
“Our partnership with Microsoft will not only spur economic development in Ontario but also serve as a model for other companies and jurisdictions to encourage the use of clean hydro and nuclear power,” says Ken Hartwick, President and CEO of Ontario Power Generation. “As part of OPG’s Climate Change Plan, we’re committed to achieving net zero as a company by 2040 and to act as a catalyst for efficient economy-wide decarbonization. Ensuring industry has access to clean energy to offset emissions assists in meeting that goal.”
Demonstrating sustainable leadership
In addition to reaching vertically along its value chain by partnering with OPG, Microsoft Canada is also extending itself laterally to bring its sustainability technologies, strategies, and resources to organizations across Canada. A key collaboration in this initiative is the company’s work with Export Development Canada (EDC), the crown corporation dedicated to helping Canadian companies respond to international business opportunities.
“A major priority for us is helping these businesses become more competitive through strong sustainability practices,” says Dominic Mailhot, Chief Information Officer of EDC. “Navigating the difficult realities of climate change will be one of the biggest challenges of our time, for all organizations. What’s clear is that the digital transformation is a key element to driving progress and change, for both ourselves and our customers, and to help us achieve our 2050 net-zero commitment.”
Even as EDC is helping businesses throughout Canada grow their competitiveness and resilience through sustainability, the organization is also leveraging Microsoft technologies internally to empower its own sustainability goals. For example, as part of its IT infrastructure transformation, EDC has started with moving the vast majority of its internal datacentre capacity to the Azure cloud platform. “This was a critical step that generates a big impact, as our datacentres consume the lion’s share of EDC’s power requirements at our head office,” says Mailhot.
Solving climate challenges will only be possible if we act together, across the globe.
In the end, as Microsoft Canada, OPG, and EDC map their path to a more sustainable future, all three recognize that this is not a journey that can be undertaken alone. “Solving climate challenges will only be possible if we act together, across the globe, to reduce our carbon emissions and advance sustainability goals,” says Barry. “Our most important contribution toward a sustainable future will not come from our work alone, but by helping organizations around the world reduce their carbon footprints through data science, artificial intelligence, and digital technology.”