Microsoft announced today a new sustainability commitment, aiming to be “water positive,” replenishing more water than it consumes on a global basis by 2030. The technology giant stated that it would approach this goal both by reducing its water use intensity, and by replenishing water in the water-stressed areas in which the company operates.
Microsoft’s new commitment mirrors its carbon “moonshot,” announced earlier this year, in which the company pledged to become carbon negative by 2030, removing more carbon from the environment than it consumes, and further committing to remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.
In a blog post introducing the new initiative, Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote:
“While water is plentiful – covering 70% of the Earth’s surface – 97% of this water is saline, located in our oceans, and not fit to drink or use for crops. The world’s fresh water is not equally distributed or accessible and is found disproportionately in places where people do not live. And as human civilization has expanded, we have reached the point globally where humanity depletes the available freshwater supply at a rate of 4.3 trillion cubic meters every year – the majority of which goes to agricultural and industrial uses.
“This needs to change. That’s why we’re announcing an ambitious commitment for Microsoft to be water positive for our direct operations by 2030. We’re tackling our water consumption in two ways: reducing our water use intensity – or the water we use per megawatt of energy used for our operations – and replenishing water in the water- stressed regions we operate. This means that by 2030 Microsoft will replenish more water than it consumes on a global basis.”
According to Microsoft, the company’s new water initiative will see it putting back more water in stressed basins than its global water consumption across all basins, with the amount of water replenished determined by how stressed the basin is. The company will invest in projects such as wetland restoration and the removal of impervious surfaces like asphalt, which will help replenish water back into the basins that need it most.
In addition to addressing water availability, Microsoft announced that its sustainability efforts will also include improving water accessibility, through partnerships with NGOs to ensure more than 1.5 million people have access to clean drinking and sanitation water, with initial work focusing on Brazil, India, Indonesia and Mexico, and later expanding to China, Malaysia and South Africa. Other water-related initiatives the company announced include using technology to better understand where water stress is emerging and optimize water replenishment investments, investing in the Global Impact Fund, and working with customers to better understand and improve their own water use.
“Getting ahead of the world’s water crisis will require a reduction in the amount of water humans use to operate economies and societies, as well as a concerted effort to ensure there is sufficient water in the places it is needed most. This will require a transformation in the way we manage our water systems and a concerted effort for all organizations to account for and balance their water use. As a global technology company Microsoft is prepared to act on both accounts, taking responsibility for our own water use and partnering on technology platforms to help others do the same.”