Microsoft started 2020 with a bold plan: become carbon negative by 2030. Now it's announced a new coalition of global companies with the goal of catalyzing the shift away from fossil fuels.
"This has to be about much more than just Microsoft," Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer at Microsoft, told Cheddar. "This has to be about leading companies across the private sector coming together to work on this challenge."
The industry and continent-spanning coalition, dubbed Transform to Net Zero, includes Maersk, Danone, Mercedes-Benz AG, Microsoft, Natura & Co, Nike, Starbucks, Unilever, and Wipro.
"What we're focusing on is going beyond making commitments," he said. "We need all companies to make meaningful, significant climate commitments. But those of us that have made those commitments, now it's time to get to work."
One shared goal of the group will be to develop playbooks based on their experiences decarbonizing, which they can then share with other companies unsure of how to proceed.
Microsoft's short-term goal is to remove 1 million metric tons of carbon from the environment within the year. It began the process this week by issuing what it calls a "groundbreaking" request for a proposal to source technology and nature-based carbon removal solutions from other firms.
Another piece of Microsoft's climate plan is switching its data centers to renewable energy sources. The company is partnering with Sol Systems, energy developer and investor, to build that capacity in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution.
This will be the first major investment from the company's $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund that launched in January.
The partnership aims to add 500 megawatts to Microsoft's renewable energy portfolio, which already has approximately 1.9 gigawatts, according to Joppa. Microsoft says 500 megawatts would provide enough energy to power 70,000 U.S. homes.
Joppa said Microsoft is shooting for 100 percent renewable energy by 2025.
As Microsoft attempts to drive change in the corporate sector, Joppa is still banking on the public sector to step up with new regulations to combat climate change.
"It can't just be about us," Joppa said. "I believe that we need a much more level playing field. We need everybody to be required and incentivized to go and operate in this space, to move everybody's business practices to net zero by 2050. Ultimately we're going to need regulation and policy to get us there."