How did Microsoft succeed in making Surface devices the most sustainable devices on the globe?

Working as a trusted advisor and architect with many customers in IT, I often hear this about Microsoft’s Surface devices; “we really love them”, “they are awesome” or “I would do anything to get one and use as my work device”. But, then there is this but. They all end with the same words: “But, they are too expensive”.

Now that is a fact, Surface devices are expensive if you solely look at the price tag. Quality comes at a price. Security comes at a price. And to be honest, so do sustainability. How Surface devices can be cheaper if you look at the entire lifecycle is for another blog post, let’s focus on sustainability for now.

Comparing devices reveals who is top of the game

Having browsed and studied a significant number of manufacturers sustainability reports for most common computer models, it is obvious that Surface devices are outperforming the competition in terms of being the most sustainable Windows devices that you can get your hands on.

I must add that there is no standard for measuring carbon emissions for computer manufacturing, so a direct comparison is a bit off, and there are many variables which affect the level of some carbon emissions. However, I would say that it is fair to say that it still is comparable and even if the difference is +-10% it would mean total and undisputable victory for Surface devices.

Microsoft and their carbon work is a role model

How did Microsoft succeed in doing so? Well, I think there is an easy answer to this. In 2012 Microsoft established an internal carbon “tax” or fee if you will. The logic behind this is to make each business take carbon emissions into consideration, and with that being financially responsible for whatever carbon emissions each business unit generate. This was the start on the journey to becoming carbon neutral. And I would say Microsoft has a good head start over the competition in this.

We know that Microsoft have great ambitions for the environment and will be carbon negative in 2030. By 2050 they will have removed all carbon generated since Microsoft was founded back in 1975. That’s bald I must admit. In 2019 Microsoft doubled the internal carbon fee to 15 US dollars per metric ton carbon, and this is raising the bar and helping achieve the goals for 2030 and 2050.

You have a chance to influence and make a difference

For the moment, Microsoft seems to be the top player in the sustainability area when it comes to computer devices, and not to mention datacenters. Ultimately, we know that sustainability will become a more important factor in IT departments, and the sooner IT departments take computer and devices and climate footprint into consideration, the better. 

Leader now – leader tomorrow?

My final words for now are that even though Microsoft are top of the game right now, that might not be the case forever. The more we talk about sustainable devices and the more requirements we put on other vendors, this will accelerate the other manufacturers to start thinking and working even more with sustainability. Competition between companies and customer demand have delivered results before, there is no reason to think it will not deliver this time.

Sources and additional links:

Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030 – The Official Microsoft Blog and One year later: The path to carbon negative – a progress report on our climate ‘moonshot’ – The Official Microsoft Blog

A modern workplace architect and advisor who has been a Microsoft MVP for 15 years, now combining all my passions from work and personal hobbies and believes; The IT workplace, traveling and climate smart options and actions. On a mission to spread the knowledge and help make more climate smart choices when it comes to IT!