Microsoft has pledged to make all its direct operations carbon neutral from July 1st, marking the start of its 2013 fiscal year. The company plans to charge an internal "carbon fee" for emissions incurred by air travel, data centers, and other parts of the business, and will aim to reduce its carbon output through efficiency measures such as making air travel a "last resort." To cover the environmental cost of emissions that aren't able to be cut, the company will purchase carbon offsets and make investments in renewable energy.
Microsoft acknowledges that recent expansions into cloud computing have brought on greater CO2 output due to the high level of electricity required. Greenpeace, which has been campaigning for a "clean cloud," issued a statement offering qualified support for the company's pledge and calling it a "good first step." However, the organization expressed concern over Microsoft's continued use of coal to power its data centers, and called on the company to "match or exceed" green efforts from Google and Facebook.
Facebook has a policy in place that favors renewable sources when building new data centers, and Google has invested over $915 million in green energy. While Microsoft certainly has the financial clout to buy renewable energy credits and offset its emissions, it might take a more radical reshaping of the company's infrastructure to fully satisfy those concerned about the environment.