Microsoft has announced the creation of a new tool designed to help businesses track their sustainability efforts -- or lack thereof.
The new Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is an extensible SaaS solution that provides comprehensive and automated sustainability management for organizations at any stage of their sustainability journey.
Microsoft said the tool was designed to enable organizations to "streamline data connections and more easily and effectively record, report and reduce their emissions on a path to net-zero."
The SaaS solution centralizes the data available and is meant to help enterprises set industry-aligned sustainability targets while also providing "actionable insights and reduction strategies to expedite their sustainability journeys."
"Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is a comprehensive, end-to-end digital solution that helps organizations record their environmental footprint, progress report internally and externally, and reduce their emissions, but it's not just about making changes based on what's being reported," said Kees Hertogh, general manager of global industry product marketing at Microsoft.
"It's about using data continuously to make proactive decisions throughout an organization's sustainability journey."
Microsoft officials said the platform uses the company's open-source common data model to "streamline data ingestion, sharing, calculations and reporting." It is able to track emissions sources across siloed parts of a business and centralize it. The tool can calculate emissions as a result of Scope 1, 2, and 3 activities using dynamic calculation models aligned to greenhouse gas protocols and accounting standards.
The tool is also able to integrate with Microsoft's ecosystem of products, providing an accurate representation of an organization's footprint and value chain. Carbon accounting is enabled through connectivity to emissions sources and automation.
Enterprises get a full view of their resource consumption, environmental impact and sustainability progress, which can then be put in a report and shared with stakeholders, regulators and the public. Leaders will be able to know what measures need to be taken to reduce an organization's emissions footprint and improve business processes.
The tool will be available for public preview today, but Microsoft has been rolling it out for select customers ahead of the official launch.
Larry Fernandes, chief commercial & sustainability officer at Ingredion, told ZDNet that based on the tests the company has run with the system so far, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability "provides a really user-friendly interface and reporting to be able to examine our carbon emission data in numerous ways."
Fernandes said the company was eager to be part of the early adopters program for Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, noting that for Ingredion and many companies, putting data into a manageable and usable format is a challenge.
"We anticipate that its ease of use will help us in our company climate change planning by being able to provide timely information for business decision making. We are just in the early stages of using the tool, but I anticipate that it will be an important factor in helping us make better informed business decisions in to the future. As most companies know, carbon accounting is growing increasingly complex, so it's really beneficial to have a solution in hand that will help us navigate this part of our strategy moving forward," Fernandes said.
"Climate change is an important consideration for Ingredion's business operations. Whether we are looking at opportunities to support our customers' carbon strategies with plant-based ingredient solutions or working to mitigate the impacts of our agricultural supply chain, it is important that climate change be front-of-mind in our decision making. Ingredion's sustainability strategy is focused on making life better for all. We believe that operating sustainably is a shared responsibility that provides an opportunity to collaborate with our customers and stakeholders to contribute to a more sustainable future that drives positive change."
Companies will be able to track the computational and energetic costs of their AI workloads across the machine learning lifecycle through Azure Machine Learning. Within the Azure Machine Learning Studio monitoring tab, users can see resource metrics and detailed energy consumption information -- like CPU/GPU utilization, GPU memory usage and total GPU energy usage, according to Microsoft's Will Buchanan.
Marta Munoz, senior research director at IDC EMEA, noted that in 2020, 60% of worldwide organizations ranked sustainability as a top business priority, adding that this increased to 72% in 2021.
Accenture global sustainability services lead Peter Lacy explained that the platform is part of the "rewiring" of the entire global economy. Data is one of the most important things companies can have when it comes to sustainability, he added.
"The capital markets, the investors, are holding us as business leaders accountable for our ESG performance, and they want ever-greater data granularity to do that, and organizations are retooling top to bottom to make sure that people have the right actionable data in the right places at the right time," Lacy said.
"Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is a great example of how the business world is being rewired to track sustainability metrics alongside financial metrics."