December, 2013

  • UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights Provide Clarity

    By Dan Bross, Senior Director, Microsoft Corporate Citizenship

    On December 2, 2013, I spoke at the Business Stakeholder Meeting held during the pre-day of the UN Forum on Business and Human rights


    Senior Director of Microsoft Corporate Citizenship Dan Bross speaks at the Business Stakeholder Meeting held during the pre-day of the UN Forum on Business and Human rights.

    The meeting was convened by the UN Global Compact, the International Organization of Employers, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights, and Business for Social Responsibility. Designed to provide a safe space for business representatives to engage in peer learning, the meeting provided an opportunity to discuss challenges and opportunities in implementing the Guiding Principles on business and human rights.

    I pointed out that before the introduction of the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights, Microsoft and other companies struggled mightily in trying to figure out how to “scope” or define a framework for managing their human rights related issues and responsibilities. Many companies (including Microsoft) lacked clarity on what exactly our individual and collective human rights responsibilities really were. Professor John Ruggie, the UN, and the Working Group deserve thanks for developing and continuing to advance the Guiding Principles. 

    While the Guiding Principles state very clearly that it is a corporation’s responsibility to respect human rights, they call on businesses to do a few specific things that are particularly relevant. I focused on two in particular — the expectation that companies will adopt a human rights policy statement and the responsibility of companies to “know and show” their impact on human rights through an internal due diligence process — popularly known as human rights impact assessments. 

    In July 2012 Microsoft took the first important step in implementing the Guiding Principles by issuing our first formal global human rights statement. The process of developing our global human rights statement gave us the opportunity to review and assess the wide range of policies we long had in place for protecting the privacy of our customers, for promoting free expression, for ensuring the security of our customers data, for managing our supply chain and for meeting our responsibilities as a responsible employer of our nearly 100,000 employees.

    Four key beliefs make up our approach to human rights:

    1. The power of technology to promote human rights
    2. The importance of adherence to internationally recognized standards — including the Guiding Principles, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and others
    3. The effective role business can play in respecting human rights through presence in, rather than absence from, countries that present human rights risks
    4. The need for business to promote good governance and rule of law around the world

    Our statement also addressed issues related to internal governance, due diligence, and remediation. The Regulatory and Public Policy Committee of the Microsoft Board is responsible for reviewing our human rights work while our General Counsel oversees the implementation of the policies working through members of our Legal and Corporate Affairs team.

    Our statement also includes our commitment to assess the human rights impacts of all our operation on an ongoing basis. We regularly review and update our relevant policies, processes, and management systems to help ensure that we have the appropriate policies and practices in place to meet our responsibility to respect the human rights of our “rights holders.”

    At the beginning of our last fiscal year, we committed to a series of human rights impact assessments of our commercial relationships. Those assessments focused on various products, services, business relationships, and markets. Our work began with a corporate-wide mapping to identify relevant human rights issues, followed by an assessment of how we were managing these issues, and finally prioritizing those commercial relationships presenting the greatest potential of human rights risks to rights holders. 

    In addition to executing on the human rights impact assessment recommendations and findings to date, we have embarked on a new round of impact assessments — again — focused on those areas of our business with the likelihood of the greatest human rights impact.  

    Finally, I think it is important to recognize (as other companies did during the session) that our duty to respect the human rights of our rights holders is an ongoing responsibility – requiring ongoing commitment, focus and work.  During the question and answer portion of the session someone referred to this work as a journey.  I could not agree more.  Corporations are dynamic organizations and as such must continue to respond to ever changing markets and associated responsibilities. We are commitment to that journey and to our responsibility to respect human rights.    

  • Join Us in an Hour of Code for Computer Science Education Week

    By Karen Bergin, Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs

    Today on the Official Microsoft Blog, Satya Nadella, executive vice president, cloud and enterprise at Microsoft, kicks off Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). In partnership with Code.org and other leading tech companies, Microsoft is encouraging 10 million students of all ages to spend an hour this week learning basic coding skills.

    Right now, less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, yet computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average. This is partly why, as part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative, we run a program called TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools). TEALS pairs computer engineers from Microsoft and other tech companies with full-time high school teachers to teach basic and advanced computer science.

    To find out more about Microsft’s participation in CSEdWeek and how you can get involved in the “Hour of Code,” please read the full post on the Official Microsoft Blog.


  • Reunion with a Purpose Honors Microsoft Alumni Making a Difference

    By Karen Bergin, Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs 

    Microsoft’s Chief People Officer Lisa Brummel recently reflected upon the energy and passion Microsoft employees dedicate to helping people less fortunate in communities at home and around the world. This dedication to giving is core to Microsoft’s culture and, even as some employees move on, it remains central to their lives.

    Through its Integral Fellows Awards program, the Microsoft Alumni Foundation honors those alumni who’ve gone on to make a meaningful difference in the daily lives of others through philanthropy and nonprofit work. At its fifth annual celebration this past November 1, the foundation announced the 2013 fellows.


    A mix of Microsoft alumni and current Microsoft executives attended the 5th annual Reunion with a Purpose. From left to right: Jeff Raikes, Brad Smith, Ida Cole, Hadi Partovi, Marylou Brannan, Suzi LeVine, and Lisa Brummel. Photo by Randell Walton Photography

    “As a member of the Microsoft alumni community, I witness firsthand the energy, business savvy, and creativity that my peers bring to the philanthropy world,” said Jeff Raikes, chairman of the board, Microsoft Alumni Foundation, and CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “This year’s Integral Fellows Award winners, Ida Cole of Seattle Theatre Group, and Hadi Partovi of Code.org, represent some of the best examples of Microsoft alumni tackling big problems and striving to make a difference in the world.”

    Ida Cole, who served as director of international products and marketing and vice president of applications at Microsoft, created the Seattle Theatre Group with the vision of saving a beloved historic landmark. Eventually, she transformed the theater into the largest cultural institution in King County and a model for cultural innovation other cities emulate.

    Once general manager for Microsoft, Hadi Partovi now leads the charge to create a strong, widely implemented computer science curriculum as founder and chief executive officer of Code.org. With 10,000 schools interested in a 21st century computer science curriculum and 25,000 software engineers who have volunteered to help create one, Hadi advances towards his vision to give all American students the opportunity to write their own code.

    Code.org’s dedication to growing computer science education is shared by Microsoft. This past October 14 we joined Code.org in announcing a nationwide campaign urging schools, teachers, and parents across the country to participate in the “Hour of Code” initiative. Held during Computer Science Education Week (December 9 – 15), this initiative will help introduce more than 10 million students to computer programming and the exciting careers of the future.

    “Five years ago we introduced the Integral Fellows Award to recognize and support the alumni whose post-Microsoft pursuits are dedicated to improving their communities, whether on a local scale or global,” said Marylou Brannan, Microsoft Alumni Foundation executive director. “It is a joy to gather together at our annual ‘Reunion with a Purpose’ with the award winners and nominees, fellow alumni and friends to reaffirm our commitment to changing lives and making a positive difference in the world.”


  • Another Year of Innovation – Imagine Cup Grant Winners Announced

    By Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Community Affairs

    Australian Imagine Cup grant winners Team Confufish (from left to right) Kenneth Wong, Matt Moss, Brad Lorge, and Nick Darvey

    Today we are announcing the 2013 Imagine Cup Grants winners – a part of Imagine Cup, a Microsoft YouthSpark program. I’ve been very proud to be involved in the Imagine Cup Grants program since its inception as part of our commitment to providing opportunities to youth through YouthSpark. For the past three years, these grants have helped young people realize their vision of bringing their technology enabled projects to life.

    We are excited to share these five, inspiring grant-winning teams who participated in the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in Russia earlier this year. Their ideas were the best and brightest examples of how technology can be used to address challenging problems. Without further ado, the winners are Team OHS from Taiwan, Team Confufish from Australia, Team RUOK from Ireland and Team Dora from Slovenia.

    In addition to cash awards, grant recipients will receive a tailored package of support including software, access to resources such as mentorship and training from Microsoft to aid in the development of their project. Our goal is to help these bright young minds create a business or nonprofit organization that will ultimately bring the benefits of their solutions to their community or the world. 

    The Imagine Cup blog today provides more details about the winning teams and information about additional changes to the Imagine Cup competition that include new challenges that map to the software development lifecycle, and better prepare competitors for work experiences beyond the event.

  • From Combat to Coding

    By Bernard Bergan, Guest Contributor

    Bernard Bergan

    Bernard Bergan

    Over the past five years, I have been serving all over the world for the United States Army as a communications sergeant in First Special Forces Group Airborne, 3rd Battalion. Serving in the Army has taught me the value of teamwork, selfless service and a commitment to excellence. It also has allowed me to see up close how technology connects us all. While in Afghanistan, I used Skype as my primary tool for keeping in contact with friends and family.

    Now, I am in the processing of starting a new journey as I consider opportunities to work at Microsoft. I’m one of the first people to complete the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy – a training program provided by the company to help active duty service members transition out of the military into technology careers. This week, I officially completed the 16-week program where I obtained certification required to be a software tester, and was proud to stand next to 21 other service members as we were recognized in a special ceremony attended by Senator Patty Murray. Now, I have a path beyond my service to the military in yet another field I am passionate about. Transitioning to a job at Microsoft, the very company that made it possible for me to connect with my loved ones while in the military, is more than amazing; it is surreal.

    My experience in the program has been very positive but it did not come without its challenges as I learned the new language of code. My introduction to C sharp, Visual Studios and the .Net framework was fast and furious. The support offered by Microsoft employees who came down to our classroom and provided training sessions via Skype was tremendous in helping us problem solve. It also reminded us that learning to understand software engineering is a simple process. Hearing from industry professionals helped ease my concerns and they also provided many more resources available through Microsoft.

    Prior to Microsoft’s program, there were no seamless training programs available for soon-to-be veterans who wanted to work in tech. Any career transition is difficult but, for those of us in the military, there are unique challenges. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state assists with this process by providing training while being able to maintain my financial stability. The guarantee of a job placement within Microsoft or through one of its partners was an incredible opportunity with a major impact on my family.

    The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy has been an extremely rewarding experience. Learning to code has been a challenging journey worth the effort. My experience in this program has reminded me that stepping out of one’s comfort zone and following a different path will always have its challenges. However, if you believe in what you’re doing, and you have a big enough answer to why you’re doing it, in the end it will all come together.

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