Microsoft Citizenship Blog

  • How many people does it take to make a difference? Just one. That person can be you...

    By Lori Forte Harnick, general manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs

    Today is a good day to remember that it takes just one person to have a positive impact on another person’s life. 

    Today is #GivingTuesday and as part of our ongoing YouthSpark initiative, we’re rallying support for young people around the world. 

    Would you like to make a difference in a young person’s life? If so, we’d like to help.   

    Starting at 9 a.m. Pacific Time today, Microsoft will match donations — dollar for dollar — that are made to nonprofit organizations serving the needs of youth at GlobalGiving.org/YouthSpark/Heroes. We’re also offering Microsoft Store shoppers a $25 donation gift card with any purchase. 

    How can you change a young person’s life? How can you help them get the education they need? Open doors to new opportunities? Spark their passion to discover and create and change the world for others? 

    Find out today at GlobalGiving.org/YouthSpark/Heroes and let us help…let us double the impact you can make today in a young person’s life.

    Thank you.

  • 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.”


  • The Latest Idea in Wearable Tech: the Panic Button Bracelet

    By James Rooney, Senior Program Manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs

    It’s a wearable “panic button” for the unexpected dangerous circumstance. Attached to a bracelet, the panic button will signal to a Windows Phone OS, sending a 30-second voice clip to a pre-identified emergency contact with the phone. A GPS system will keep track of the person wearing the device.

    SafeWear was designed by a team of Microsoft software engineers led by Thambu Zaemenock Kamalabai, who came up with the idea after hearing about a woman attacked on a bus in India. “She didn’t have a phone or any way of notifying someone,” Thambu said. “She was totally alone.”

    Thambu wanted to come up with a device for people who may need to call for help but don’t carry a phone. Children will be able to wear the bracelet and be connected to parents’ phones. Runners can connect to a friend or family member. Travelers and seniors can be connected to loved ones.

    “I have a five-year-old daughter and I’m not ready to give her a phone so a wearable solution is perfect,” Thambu said. “It’s safe and easy to operate in case of an emergency.”

    At our Hackathon last month at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA, employees from across the globe worked in teams, hacking for two days to come up with apps and solutions for government, consumers, nonprofits and more. More than 30 of the teams created Tech for Good solutions designed to address social issues. 

    Thambu and his team won in the Tech for Good category. Judges said the project was innovative, useful, and they liked the wearable angle. The team was awarded a $1,000 donation gift card for YouthSpark on GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding program that finances important projects around the world.

    The two other winners in the Tech for Good category were Ability EyeGaze which uses Microsoft tech like the Surface 3 and Kinect to enable people with ALS and other degenerative diseases to control their assistive technologies, such as wheelchairs and communication tools, using only their eyes. Another winner, MATT: Microsoft Accessibility Testing Tool, makes accessibility testing for products faster and easier.

    Team SafeWear is already turning its winning idea into a reality. The team is currently working with hardware engineers to perfect the bracelet prototype, and has been pitching the concept and product to potential investors and Microsoft development teams.

    Microsoft Citizenship is proud to sponsor the Tech for Good category as part of our commitment to creating solutions that serve the needs of people around the globe.

    About the //oneweek Hackathon, Thambus said, “It was such a great experience turning my idea into a product, I can’t wait to take this to the next level.”

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