Microsoft Announces New Sustainability Initiative

(NEW YORK) — Microsoft has announced a new sustainability initiative focusing on perserving and protecting biodiversity and ecosystems around the world.

“Nature and the benefits that it provides to people are the foundation of our global economy, our culture, and the overall human experience,” writes Microsoft President Brad Smith in the announcement. “We depend on clean air, water, food, medicine, energy, and building materials that nature provides, but these very ecosystems are threatened or already in decline. Maintaining nature for the benefit of current and future generations is one of humanity’s greatest challenges. Deploying technology to support this global effort is one of ours.”

The decision to focus on biodiversity and ecosystems comes after the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released its first Global Assesment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Findings include half of all living coral on coral reefs have been lost since 1870, a quarter of Earth’s species are threatened with extinction and 75 percent of land surface has been significantly alerted by human activities.

Microsoft’s initiative involves four principles to guide their work: Put data and digital technology to work; Empower Partners and customers around the world; Use our voice on ecosystem-related public policy issues; and Take responsibility for our land footprint.

Put data and digital technology to work:

Smith writes they will build a Planetary Computer that will aggregate data from all over the world from both people and machines that are on the ground, in the water, in the sky and in space. The computer will allow insights into questions about tree density, forecasts of water availability, wildlife surveys and more, using technology like satellite imagery, local measurement and predictive algorithms.

This computer is the next phase for Microsoft’s AI for Earth program, which gave artificial intelligence technology to nearly 500 organizations in 81 countries. As part of this new venture, Smith says they will deepen their partnership with Esri, a market leader in geographical information system software. The two companies joined together at the launch of the AI for Earth program two-and-a-half years ago.

Empower Partners and customers around the world:

Smith says they are building tools and services to help customers understand the ecosystem around them and how it may change from climate or human behavior.

He adds that ecosystem protection requires on-the-ground action, which is why Microsoft will continue to work with organizations like Wildlife Protection Solutions and Peace Parks. The two organizations depend on remote cameras to detect and respond to poaching threats and use Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service, along with Microsoft AI.

Use our voice on ecosystem-related public policy issues:

Smith writes Microsoft will push for national ecosystem assessments, infrastructure to accelerate measuring and monitoring of ecosystems, public land and water conservations, and public-private partnerships around the world.  

Take responsibility for our land footprint:

Microsoft will protect more land than they use by 2025. Currently, Microsoft operates 11,000 acres of land around the world. Smith writes they will protect land by purchasing land, conservation easement, national park creation, and community or indigenous-led conservation.

They will also protect and restore land with The Nature Conservancy around the world and the National Fish and Wildlife foundation in the US.

This latest announcement comes three months after Microsoft announced a pledge to become carbon negative by 2030.

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