Almost everyone is familiar with Microsoft, the global technology company responsible for hardware and software products such as Microsoft Office 365 and the Xbox video game platform. Microsoft is a clear leader in the tech industry, but it is also a trailblazer when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR). The company prioritizes people and the planet just as much as it does developing new tech products. In its 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, CEO Satya Nadella states “everywhere we operate, we focus on contributing to local communities in positive ways--helping to spark growth, competitiveness and economic opportunity for all.”
A clear example of the value Microsoft places on CSR can be seen in the company’s approach to managing its extensive datacenters around the world. Microsoft takes great care to ensure that every aspect of its datacenters are designed with people and the planet in mind. Whether it relates to choosing a city to host a facility (often in a rural area to create jobs and economic benefits) or managing its environmental footprint (the company is going to great lengths to become carbon negative by 2030).
Microsoft considers it an obligation to give back to the communities in which it operates, and the company’s Datacenter Community Development (DCCD) initiative is a reflection of that. They have partnered with organizations like the Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS) of Iowa, donating equipment and funding for their programs, and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center to help people in rural Virginia develop IT skills.
Microsoft’s DCCD has invested in numerous communities and organizations all over the world. And at the end of 2017, Holly Spangler Beale, an Energy Analyst for Microsoft’s data centers at the time, suggested adding sustainability into the program’s mission. Since February 2018, Beale has been the Program Manager for the Datacenter Community Environmental Sustainability Program. Beale has been able to increase Microsoft’s influence on sustainability in their datacenter communities beyond just sourcing renewable energy.
“Corporations like Microsoft can have a large impact because we touch so many customers around the world,” Beale said, “I believed that adding environmental sustainability as a pillar to the DCCD initiative would make it even stronger.”
In the first year alone, Microsoft’s Community Environmental Sustainability program in nine projects in multiple locations, such as Phoenix, Arizona; Dublin, Ireland; Des Moines, Iowa; and Southern Virginia with SHINE.
Microsoft joined SHINE as a member of our Leadership Council in 2018, providing much needed expertise and guidance to help SHINE navigate its early stages as an initiative to grow Virginia’s solar workforce. They have assisted in developing multiple aspects of our program. For example, Microsoft helped identify projects in which SHINE can potentially place solar installer graduates, and the company introduced us to a number of Virginia renewable energy stakeholders through the process.
“We are excited to work with SHINE because the initiative generates social and economic benefits by supporting employability in datacenter communities, which we value highly,” Beale said. “Not to mention that SHINE also fosters partnerships between other organizations within local communities, another outcome we value.”
SHINE is proud to partner with Microsoft, and Beale is proud as well. “We’re really excited about SHINE because we are such a large purchaser of renewable energy, especially in Virginia,” Beale said. “As we grow our operations, we will continue to grow our renewable energy portfolio. To be able to support the workforce in the solar industry is very important to us.”
Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
The Solar Hands-On Instructional Network of Excellence (SHINE), is a public-private partnership dedicated to building innovative solar career pathways in Virginia. SHINE’s mission is to develop a qualified, diverse, equitable, and inclusive solar workforce, equip Virginians with the tools and knowledge to enter the solar sector with a competitive edge, help solar developers and construction companies source qualified and trained talent, and bridge the gap between solar jobs supply and solar jobs demand.