Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: AI Can Help to Address Climate Crisis
October 22, 2023 by Joe Panettieri
In his annual letter to shareholders, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella describes a world that faces "ongoing economic, social, and geopolitical volatility." But he describes how a "new age of AI" will help to address some of the world's most pressing challenges.
Dig a little deeper into the letter, and Nadella raises the key question: "How can we advance sustainability?"
"Climate change is the defining issue of our generation, and addressing it requires swift, collective action and technological innovation. We are committed to meeting our own goals while enabling others to do the same. That means taking responsibility for our operational footprint and accelerating progress through technology.
We continue to see extreme weather impacting communities globally. To meet the urgent need, this must be a decade of innovation and decisive action—for Microsoft, our customers, and the world.
In our latest Environmental Sustainability Report, we shared our progress toward our 2030 sustainability targets across carbon, water, waste, and ecosystems. In 2022, our overall carbon emissions declined by 0.5 percent while our business grew. Addressing scope 3 emissions, which account for the vast majority of our emissions, is arguably our ultimate challenge—one we’ll continue to tackle through our supply chain, policy advances, and industry-wide knowledge-sharing.
We’ve provided just under 1 million people with access to clean water and sanitation, one of five pillars on our path to becoming water positive. And in our pursuit to be zero waste, we achieved a reuse and recycle rate of 82 percent for all our cloud hardware and diverted over 12,000 metric tons of solid operational waste from landfills and incinerators.
We also continue to take responsibility for the impacts of our direct operations on Earth’s ecosystems. We’ve contracted to protect 17,268 acres of land, over 50 percent more than the land we use to operate. Of that, 12,270 acres—the equivalent of approximately 7,000 soccer fields—were designated as permanently protected.
Technology is a powerful lever to help us avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. That’s why we’re accelerating our investment in more efficient datacenters, clean energy, enhancements to the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability and Planetary Computer, and green software practices. To date, through our Climate Innovation Fund, we’ve allocated more than $700 million to a global portfolio of 50+ investments spanning sustainable solutions in energy, industrial, and natural systems.
Finally, we believe AI can be a powerful accelerant in addressing the climate crisis. We expanded our AI for Good Lab in Egypt and Kenya to improve climate resilience for the continent. And, together with our partners, we launched Global Renewables Watch, a first-of-its-kind living atlas that aims to map and measure utility-scale solar and wind installations, allowing users to evaluate progress toward a clean energy transition.
Although this new era promises great opportunity, it demands even greater responsibility from companies like ours. As we pursue our four commitments, we focus on transparency—providing clear reporting on how we run our business and how we work with customers and partners. Our annual Impact Summary shares more about our progress and learnings this year, and our Reports Hub provides detailed reports on our environmental data, political activities, workforce demographics, human rights work, and more."