Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Software Enabled Earth blog.

By Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft Corporation

Three years ago, Microsoft adopted a broad environmental strategy that included commitments both to reduce the impact of our operations and products and to accelerate the use of information technology in addressing serious environmental issues. Our CEO sent out a company-wide email detailing our strategy and highlighted some of the steps the company would take to be more environmentally responsible.

Over the past three years subscribers to this blog have received updates on some of the ways we’re accomplishing those goals and acknowledgements of where we know we need to do more. Today as we approach Earth Day 2012, I’m pleased to announce that we’re passing an important milestone on our sustainability journey—not the only one nor perhaps even the most important, but one worth celebrating nonetheless.

As part of the strategy we laid out three years ago, Microsoft committed that by 2012 we would reduce carbon emissions at least 30 percent per unit of revenue below our 2007 baseline. I’m pleased to report that we’ve met this goal through a combination of energy efficiency measures and an investment in high-quality externally verified renewable energy and carbon reduction projects. Next week, I will be going to Washington DC where Microsoft will receive recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency for our commitment to renewable energy.

Achieving our 2012 carbon goal, however, is only the beginning and naturally raises the question of what comes next? As I noted in my post in October, there is more to be done. Within the next few weeks, we will announce our next goal for carbon reductions and some significant ways we will continue to tackle our environmental footprint.

One of the keys success factors which has helped us make progress in reducing our impact on the environment is based on engaging employees and enabling them to make more sustainable choices at work. Some examples of our work here have included:

  • Connector: In our Puget Sound offices, employees are taking advantage of free Connector buses to and from work, eliminating approximately 9.9 million miles of auto travel in Puget Sound each year. In Ireland and France, our employees can ride in our electric shuttles.
 
  • Engagement in Microsoft Subsidiaries: Our team in Ireland was awarded the Microsoft FY11 Global Environmental Action Award for achievements including reducing emissions at its Irish operations by over 50%. In 2012, the supply chain team which is responsible for sourcing and delivering Microsoft’s full range of products across Europe, Middle East and Asia, won the Green Supply Chain Award for improvements in packaging. Our offices in Hong Kong, Switzerland, Netherlands, UK, France, India and China have all made important contributions to our progress.
  • Recycling and Composting: For our corporate campus, where nearly 50% of our employees work, we have a robust recycling and composting program in place. This program enables Microsoft to exceed 95% waste diversion for our dining facilities, and more than 80% of waste overall. By actively recycling and composting, our employees have helped the company earn recognition by Washington State Recyclers Association as the 2012 WSRA Recycler of the Year.
  • Sustainability Champions: This volunteer program with over 650 members lets Microsoft employees play an active role in reducing energy consumption through leading by example and encouraging colleagues to lessen their footprint.
  • Recognizing Success: Every quarter we recognize an employee with the Environmental Action Award for the impact they were able to drive in the way we run our business or the way our products and services can impact society at large. Recipients have helped drive changes in the way in which IT is used to manage buildings around the world, lighting systems for major cities, datacenters for UNEP’s world headquarters, and for showing how to increase productivity and work from home by leveraging IT.

To reduce the footprint of buildings, we made the choice to use our own corporate headquarters, with over 115 buildings and 15 million square feet, as a living lab. The early results of that work illustrates how IT can reduce energy use in buildings. We are sharing our experiences to help accelerate learning and lead to faster adoption of technology to drive energy reductions in cities around the world.
 

Of course addressing our operational footprint is just one element of our multipronged environmental efforts. On the product side, I’m particularly proud of include cutting edge work to integrate energy efficiency breakthroughs into Windows 8 and the work we’ve done to highlight the importance of efficient IT and energy smart software. The expansion of our presence in the cloud means that we will are taking on increasing amount of our customers’ IT, and therefore, the associated energy and carbon for these operations. This makes it extremely important for us to design software and data center infrastructure that maximize performance while minimizing energy consumption.

Microsoft and our partners are applying our expertise in IT and cloud computing to provide society with a new level of understanding about the resources and systems we depend on. We are collaborating on computational tools to enable our customers to unlock energy and economic savings in building, grids and transportation efficiency. We are examining constraints on ocean and air quality, food systems, and other global systems on which life on Earth depends.

And I’m constantly inspired by Microsoft Researchers who are working in myriad ways with leading scientists around the world to expand the boundaries of our knowledge about the planet and providing a foundation for technological advancements in energy usage, resource management and environmental planning.

I hope you will keep tabs on our further progress and future announcements on Software Enabled Earth and at our website www.microsoft.com/environment. In the run up to Earth Day and every day, I think I have the best job in the world getting Microsoft to contribute our knowledge and efforts to addressing the pressing environmental challenges that we can only solve by working together.