Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By John Seethoff, Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft
With the approach of Microsoft’s annual shareholders meeting on November 15th, I am excited to take a look back at some of the recent results of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to promote the long-term interests of our shareholders, as well as to maintain internal checks and balances, strengthen management accountability, and foster responsible decision making.
· Corporate Citizenship: In March, Microsoft was one of a select few companies named to the Ethisphere Institute’s 2011 List of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. On October 3, we released our annual Citizenship Report describing the many activities Microsoft has been pursuing under the dual themes of “Serving Communities” and “Working Responsibly.”
· Say-On-Pay at Microsoft: Back in 2009, I blogged about the Microsoft Board of Director’s decision to implement a “say-on-pay” policy. At that time, the Board of Directors determined that a triennial vote would be preferable based on a number of reasons I outlined in the blog. In our first say-on-pay vote, shareholders overwhelmingly supported Microsoft’s executive pay practices. At this year’s shareholders meeting, we will hold Microsoft’s second ever say-on-pay vote in addition to a say-on-frequency vote. We continue to believe there are valid arguments for a variety of vote frequencies depending on a company’s specific circumstances. Nevertheless, considering input we have received in our shareholder outreach and the preference evident from voting results at other large companies, we recommend shareholders vote to hold the say-on-pay vote every year.
· Director Video Series: In 2009, Microsoft began posting video interviews with members of its Board of Directors to provide deeper insights into our directors’ backgrounds and perspectives on board service. In July, we posted our most recent interview, with Charles H. Noski, a Microsoft board member since 2003 and currently Vice Chairman at Bank of America Corporation.
I am excited that Microsoft Board members Dina Dublon, Reed Hastings and I have been selected to the Directorship 100 by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), which honors individuals who are committed to the highest standards and best practices in corporate governance, as well as helping to promote NACD’s initiatives to further boardroom diversity.
In June, I was elected as Chairman of the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals for the 2011-2012 term. During my chairmanship, I hope to work with other corporate governance leaders to develop new approaches to continue advancing governance practices that build long term value for companies, their shareholders and other stakeholders.
As we prepare for the annual meeting, I encourage all shareholders to review Microsoft’s Annual Report, proxy statement and a letter from our Governance and Nominating Committee with an overview of our citizenship and governance efforts from the past year. I look forward to meeting with our shareholders again in November as we continue our work to implement forward-thinking corporate governance practices and to develop new policies that further promote the interests of our shareholders.
I invite you to leave a comment on this blog below. For additional information about corporate governance at Microsoft, please click here.
Photo: Drumming with Jason Brown at Visitacion Valley Boys & Girls Club, from the Performing Arts Workshop Flickr
While tough economic times have forced many arts organizations to cut back on staff and programs — or worse, close their doors — Performing Arts Workshop in San Francisco is expanding its reach to help even greater numbers of at-risk youth.
“The information we have been able to present about our programs has allowed us to make our case and secure funding when many other nonprofits have not been so fortunate,” says Anne Trickey, the nonprofit organization’s program and communications manager.
But this wasn’t always the case. Before the Workshop started using Microsoft Office 2010, important communications and fundraising vehicles sometimes got short shrift. For example, its annual report wasn’t always annual, admits Trickey. “We rely heavily on our donated Microsoft products from TechSoup to fulfill our mission and demonstrate the effects of high-quality arts education,” she says.
Without the new features of Office 2010, Trickey says it would be challenging to compile data for the organization’s annual program report in a timely fashion. “I especially love Microsoft Excel’s graph and chart features that allow us to pinpoint the exact data we wish to highlight and present it in a manner that’s consistent with our brand and formatting,” she says. Staff then uses this data to illustrate in Microsoft Word areas where the organization is excelling and where it can improve. “The report formatting allows us to present this data in a visually appealing way for internal stakeholders as well as funders,” explains Trickey.
Dedicated to helping young people develop critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills through the arts, Performing Arts Workshop was established in 1965 to provide a creative outlet for inner-city teenagers. It was based originally at the Telegraph Hill Community Center and later at the Buchanan Street YMCA. Founder Gloria Unti led neighborhood youth— most of whom were in gangs or had dropped out of school —through improvisational dance and theatre.
Today, the Workshop’s commitment to underserved youth is stronger than ever. Its Artists-in-Schools and Artists-in-Communities programs reach thousands of young people in public schools, transitional housing facilities, and community centers each year. “Five years ago we were serving approximately 4,000 youth. Now that number is over 9,000,” says Trickey.
Each year, with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint, Trickey presents program highlights to the Workshop board and administrative staff at the organization’s annual retreat. “It’s very important for us to be able to strategically assess our impact over time and make decisions that affect programming for next year,” she says.
The organization also uses Microsoft PowerPoint as a training tool for its artistic staff. “Being able to link to documents and websites directly from the PowerPoint presentation keeps the teaching artists engaged and conveys the large volume of necessary information more easily,” notes Trickey.
Demonstrable results have never been more important for nonprofits to get noticed and win the favor of funders. “Before Performing Arts Workshop had Microsoft Office, we didn’t have a way to provide a quick overview of the necessity of the arts in education,” Trickey explains. Now the Workshop creates multiple handouts with graphic images, created from data compiled and formatted using Microsoft products, to tell its story in a compelling way. “We are able to successfully promote the benefits of teaching critical thinking and creative expression and to extend the reach of our advocacy efforts,” she says, “And it’s the TechSoup donations of Microsoft Office 2010 that made all this happen!”
To learn more about the Microsoft Software Donation Program, visit www.TechSoup.org/Microsoft.
Over the past few weeks we’ve posted several important public reports on our progress advancing environmental sustainability at Microsoft, including the Environmental Sustainability chapter in our just-released 2011 Citizenship Report and our 7th annual filing with the independent Carbon Disclosure Project. With that information as a foundation, I wanted to share a few thoughts on both the progress I’m proud we’re making and where we have more work to do.
For several years, we have championed the need for optimizing the energy-efficiency of information technology and this year, we released our most comprehensive guidance to date: “The IT Energy Efficiency Imperative” including guidelines for developers to design energy-smart applications. We’ve provided this framework for driving energy efficiency at every level of the IT environment to our wide partner and customer community, ranging from software developers and hardware manufacturers to Chief Information Officers.
We have also worked diligently on the transformational role of cloud computing. The cloud will allow us to rethink the role of IT and energy, so that we’re not just thinking about how to reduce the impact of IT, but also about how IT can reduce the impact of the other 98 percent of the energy consumed by buildings, transportation, industrial processes, etc. The cloud both creates great opportunities to increase the net energy efficiency of computing and to enable new environmental solutions, but the same technology also poses challenges for us at Microsoft as we seek to meet our ambitious carbon reduction goals at a time of rapid growth in our data center capacity.
The tremendous energy savings potential resulting from more efficient use of information technology is only part of the story, however. Even more significant are the savings across the economy that cloud computing can enable. For example, Microsoft has partnered with Ford and Toyota to offer cloud-based software programs that will manage when electric vehicle owners recharge their vehicles. This will help make electric vehicles more efficient to operate and reduce demands on the power grid that could require new power plants be built. We’ve also helped innovative small businesses like Wisconsin-based Orion Energy Systems Power use the cost savings and scalability of the cloud to develop innovative new energy saving services for their lighting customers. Microsoft and our ecosystem of partners are working to accelerate the development of energy-smart solutions, which we’ve detailed in a recent paper “The Central Role of Cloud Computing in Making Cities Energy-Smart.” We believe that the rich capabilities of the cloud enable more people and organizations to use energy and resources much more efficiently by providing new ways of getting, managing, and understanding valuable data, and automating conservation activities.
Part of the challenge we face comes from the increasing number of customers who’ve moved their IT services to Microsoft’s more efficient cloud. This has serious repercussions for Microsoft’s carbon footprint. While some of our data centers rely on renewable power sources—hydropower in Quincy and wind power in Dublin—the overall growth in our data center services has increased Microsoft’s electricity use and therefore our carbon emissions.
Understanding the global and local impact of cloud computing is a priority for Microsoft. In 2010, we commissioned one of the first studies of the relative energy impacts of cloud computing: a study by Accenture and the environmental consulting firm WSP that looked at the total energy and carbon savings resulting when organizations move common business applications such as Microsoft Exchange for email from their own servers to servers hosted in Microsoft’s data centers. The study found that large enterprises can expect to cut their energy and carbon emissions per user by at least 30 percent, and in the case of small businesses, the result is even more dramatic, with potential savings of up to 90 percent.
What accounts for these savings? A good analogy is mass transit, where moving thousands of people around on a shared infrastructure rather than single-occupancy vehicles results in significant energy savings and reduced environmental impact. The same is true in cloud computing. In many businesses today, applications often run on servers that are only using about 10 percent of their capacity, yet still draw a significant amount of power.. With huge economies of scale, cloud operators like Microsoft can optimize the processing of computing workloads and operate computer hardware in the most efficient manner. Microsoft’s recently opened state-of-the-art data centers in Quincy, Washington, and Dublin, Ireland that use 50 percent less energy than traditional data center designs.
We are continuing to drive efficiency measures in our data centers and across our operations. We are also creating a roadmap for our environmental commitments beyond 2012. We continue to work with customers, developers, partners and others to ensure that together we unlock the energy saving potential of cloud computing.
By Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft
Charles Thrasher, Operations Project Manager and Co-Chair Microsoft Net Impact Chapter
I spent four hours talking to MBA students at the annual Net Impact conference this past weekend. I talked continuously about Microsoft as a matrixed organization and the potential for an individual to influence change far beyond their pay grade. I talked about Microsoft’s sponsorship of the first corporate chapter of Net Impact and how Net Impact could be used as a fulcrum for employees to lever change, exerting greater influence than possible for an individual alone. Together we’re stronger, more capable, more innovative and bolder than we are alone.
Our presentation Bringing Net Impact to Your Organization: A Microsoft Case Study proved popular. The room was crowded to capacity with an audience of MBA grads, professional chapter members and corporate representatives. They were engaged and filled the Q&A session with relevant questions, continuing even after the presentation.
There are a lot of people closely watching what we’re doing and an audience eager to follow our experiment. We have more than just internal stakeholders.
One thing I realized from the conference was the discrepancy in the number of full-time positions available in corporate citizenship and the number of people hoping to fill them. The odds are slim to none that all of those hopes will be realized. Many will be unsuccessful if they define success as a full time position in citizenship. Then something Dan Bross said resonated with me. Any employee can more effectively influence sustainable business practices at Microsoft than can a full time employee working in corporate citizenship.
That surprised me. It seemed counter-intuitive. Later it made sense.
As members of Net Impact we have the power of the group and the freedom of volunteers. We can focus on achieving resulting and taking responsibility for our passions without assuming all the overhead of a full-time position. We can be as fluid as water flowing through the cracks of formal org structures, finding the point of leverage where persistence and passion can produce outsized results. We can work for a meaningful outcome rather than an annual review, an outcome that’s personally meaningful like the recent conversation about creating learning software for autistic children. There was passion in that conversation because it was parents talking about their children or the children of friends and relatives. It was personal. It meant something to them and the people they loved. Acting upon that passion, whether or not it contributes to the company’s bottom line or is captured in a balanced scorecard, is the freedom of a volunteer.
Team Oasys, a team made up of Mohammad Azzam, Monir Abu-Hilal, Hani Abu-Huwaij from the German Jordanian University, in Jordan, also the third place winners in the Software Design category at Imagine Cup 2011, recently presented their technology solution at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Approximately 40 people from around the world gathered for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities where Hani AbuHuwaij gave a live demonstration of the cost effective assistive technology his team developed that allows people with severely limited mobility or quadriplegia to use a computer by moving their head.
Members of national delegations to the Conference of State Parties, government members, nonprofits and the Disabled Persons Organization watched as Hani demonstrated how his system allows people with quadriplegia to control the computer, move the mouse, and type by utilizing an infrared device and a Wii-mote. After seeing the demonstration, one attendee even expressed interest in deploying Project Horizon in her own country.
From the beginning, Hani and Team Oasys have been determined to create not only an exciting idea, but a practical solution that can be manufactured and distributed to individuals with quadriplegia. The team competed at Imagine Cup 2010 with a project that could detect the spread of deserts; they received feedback from the judges that they needed a stronger business plan. They spent the next year cultivating their business knowledge and a strong understanding of the assistive technology market they wished to enter through Project Horizon. Their hard work was acknowledged in New York this July when they visited the James J. Peters VA Medical Center and demonstrated their software to Patient Care Center Director, Edward McLaughlin, who said, “It’s the best system that we have for our patients.” The video below shows more from their visit.
When we caught up with Hani after his presentation he told us, “It was such an honor to be at the United Nations Headquarters to present our project to some of the world's biggest changers. The feedback I received for the project was amazing; lots of representatives were interested in learning more about Horizon. Presenting at the United Nations was an experience that I will remember for a long time from now, and I think that it was the perfect chance for us to let the world know about Horizon and its value.”
Hani and his colleagues haven’t lost any momentum since the Imagine Cup or their UN presentation; they are committed to turning Horizon into a real, implemented project that can change lives around the world. Currently, they’re spending time tweaking the technology behind their software to make it more user-friendly and cost effective.
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