Will Microsoft’s ambitious climate pledge encourage other large corporations to follow suit?

Last week, Microsoft announced that it is partnering with Alaska Airlines and SkyNRG, the global leader for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), as part of its effort to reduce carbon emissions.

More sustainable business travel

Through the new partnership, Microsoft will buy SAF from SkyNRG to fuel its employees’ business travel on Alaska Airlines. To start, the agreement will apply to business travel between California and the company’s global headquarters in Washington State. Microsoft plans to expand the agreement to apply to other routes.

Traditional aviation fuel is refined from petroleum, while SAF is produced from sustainable resources, like waste oils, feedstocks, and even carbon captured from the air. SAF reduces carbon emissions across its lifecycle. To date, SkyNRG has helped over 30 airlines around the world reduced their carbon footprints — but the partnership with Microsoft and Alaska Airlines is different.

The new partnership is the first of its kind in the United States and has the potential to become a model for other companies to reduce the environmental impact of their business travel.

10 years to “carbon negative”?

And Microsoft isn’t just trying to reduce its carbon footprint. Earlier this year, the company announced its goal to become “carbon negative” by 2030. This is more aggressive than common corporate climate pledges like “carbon neutral” or “net zero”, which indicate the company is removing an amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that is equivalent to their current emissions (or that they are preventing such an amount from being emitted in the first place). 

By contrast, a “carbon negative” Microsoft would mean that the company effectively removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits. Microsoft has stated that by 2050, it hopes to remove enough emissions to account for all the carbon released due to Microsoft activities since the company’s founding in 1975.

Environmental sustainability has been a major focus at many large corporations over the past few years, and climate pledges are certainly not new. Still, Microsoft’s targets are among the most aggressive of any large corporation to date. 

Investing in carbon reduction and removal technologies

In addition to reducing the carbon footprint of its business travel, the company has created the Climate Innovation Fund to help aid in its mission to become “carbon negative.” The fund will invest $1 billion of Microsoft capital to accelerate the deployment of emerging technologies that facilitate carbon reduction and removal over the next 4 years.

Will other large corporations follow Microsoft’s lead and make similar climate pledges to become “carbon negative,” and how will they get there? Only time will tell, but we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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