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Microsoft Citizenship: Community Work on a Global Scale

Words by Leon Kaye

Microsoft will leave an impact on the world the way Andrew Carnegie did with his philanthropic programs over a century ago. Following the lead of Microsoft’s co-founder, Bill Gates, the company is on an remarkable course to improve the lives of millions of citizens in at least 160 countries. But the software giant goes far beyond philanthropy with its sizable donations of cash and software, as it demonstrates in its most recent corporate social responsibility report.

Microsoft’s environmental policy has resulted in a sharp drop in its overall carbon emissions while the company shifts towards its goal of carbon neutrality by the end of 2013. From insisting on an ethical supply chain to a commitment to human rights, Microsoft sets the bar high for an effective corporate social responsibility agenda--one which other companies are wise to emulate.

Some of the Microsoft’s recent highlights include:

YouthSpark: As youth unemployment continues to fester around the world, the launch of Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative could offer hundreds of millions of young people economic opportunity otherwise denied them. A $1 million Imagine Cup grant program currently helps students launch their business ideas; 600,000 students now use Skype to connect to classrooms; and the company’s IT Academy provides technical skills for which students are desperately searching in 160 nations.

Carbon neutrality: Earlier this year Microsoft announced its finance department will levy a carbon fee on the company’s business units. The new policy will push the company’s various departments to find ways to offset carbon emissions associated with their energy consumption and business travel. Other programs that have reduced the company’s carbon emissions, which decreased 30 percent this year, include a 9.9 million mile reduction in automobile travel and an overall 80 percent waste reduction at Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters.

Human rights: Microsoft’s global human rights statement is closely aligned with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (GPs). The company’s human rights policies are particularly focused on privacy and data security. In both Europe and North America, Microsoft is funding efforts to combat child exploitation. And Microsoft applied rigorous human rights screening and auditing to almost 100 of its large hardware suppliers.

Empowering nonprofits: Since 1983, Microsoft has contributed $6.5 billion in cash and software to NGOs across the world. Over 62,000 non-profits have received $804 million in software and services--and that number increased 33 percent more this year. The results have been technical innovations that help boost humanitarian aid, anti-corruption efforts around the world, transfer of technical skills and improved donation programs.

Supply chain: Women-owned, veteran-owned and minority-owned businesses generated $1.5 billion in business during Microsoft’s most recent fiscal year. The company pushed 20 key suppliers to document their policies using the Global Reporting Initiative’s reporting guidelines. Working with socially responsible investors and NGOs, Microsoft made progress on gaining more transparency from suppliers affected by conflict minerals. And in 13 nations, Microsoft worked with suppliers to build community technology centers to expand citizens’ access to digital technologies.

From Microsoft’s top executives to its rank-and-file employees, this software giant serves as an example of how corporate social responsibility can become embedded within a company’s DNA.

Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable BusinessInhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter.

Photo of Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters courtesy Wikipedia.

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye