November 30, 2022

Devices and green credentials: does Microsoft stand up to the test?

Scott Gosling
National Practice Manager - Microsoft at Data#3
If environmental responsibility is important to your organisation, you’ve probably put considerable thought into your processes, the materials you source, and your overall environmental footprint. However, what about the devices you use every day? While most device manufacturers are stepping up their efforts to bring you cleaner, greener machines, Microsoft must surely be among the most active.

You might have noticed a few recent announcements from Microsoft about their cloud carbon tracking tools, which help you to understand the carbon footprint implications of your off-premises IT decisions. Fewer people realise, though, that Microsoft’s green credentials in the physical device space are equally impressive – and their responsible sourcing program dates all the way back to 2005. When you’re putting in a requisition for surface devices – or even that X-box you’ve been promising yourself for your downtime – it is good to know that it has been subjected to a mature, rigorous sustainability review.

A big focus among the more environmentally conscious device manufacturers is energy usage. While a variation between individual devices may not seem much in the grand scheme of things, when you multiply that by hundreds, even thousands of devices in your organisation, it sure adds up. The Surface Pro 8, for example, is the most energy efficient yet from Microsoft, with energy consumption a massive 62.5% below US EPA Energy Star limits. They do this through a combination of energy efficient design and adjustments to device sleep mode settings.

Repairability is a big trend too. As every purchasing manager knows, for every couple of hundred laptop users, you’ll inevitably get the occasional fault, or a forgetful colleague who drives away with his device still sitting on the roof of the car. The good news is that Surface is now even more serviceable than ever before, with Microsoft’s commitment to designing with circularity in mind. The latest Surface Pro 9 has been designed with more replaceable components. They have removeable SSD, display, charge port and kickstand, to name just a few of the more commonly damaged elements. These can all be switched out by one of Microsoft’s growing network of authorised repairers, so instead of wasting all the perfectly functional materials that make up a laptop, it is quickly fixed and back in action.

Even with that improved repairability, materials consumption must be tackled. The technology sector’s ability to endlessly innovate must-have devices is not without a downside, and it has led to a shortage of some key materials as well as a growing mountain of discarded tech. You’ll see device disposal recommendations now as a feature of any Data#3 refresh proposal, and our device specialists report that an increasing number of customers are looking for the most environmentally friendly options. Appropriately managed end-of-life is in any case necessary for risk management, so these discussions are well worth the effort.

You can expect laptops – and accessories – to be increasingly sourced from recycled materials. In Microsoft’s case, Alcantara® material, more commonly used in car interior manufacturing, is sourced for features such as Surface type covers, making them more durable. The Japanese-designed material has been certified carbon neutral since 2009. The Surface Studio 2+ is 25% recycled plastic, while the Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse will make both our desks and our waterways more beautiful. Microsoft has declared its intention to go further and achieve 100% recyclable devices and packaging by 2030. Judging by the resources it has committed, it looks likely they will reach this lofty aim.

What can you do?

Clearly there are many factors, such as suitability and price, that must be considered when updating a device fleet. We recommend including a sustainability score as an additional factor. There are, quite simply, enough devices that score highly to have a wide pick, meeting cost and usage requirements at the same time.

In addition, scrutinise the sustainability statement of potential IT partners, and ask questions to clarify whether they share the same environmental values as your organisation. This is now something we do ourselves when we consider which partner vendors to work with, and we are glad to report that Microsoft is among the technology partners paying far more than mere lip service to working towards carbon neutral. Users already love the Microsoft Surface range for its performance and usability, and knowing they are among the most environmentally progressive devices can only serve to cement that positive response.

If you take one key message out of this piece, it should be that the ‘take, make, and waste’ model of electronics is no longer viable. Devices, such as Surface, designed with the circular economy in mind and following a ‘reduce, reuse, and recover’ model should be at the top of your evaluation list. Microsoft’s commitment to prioritising sustainability and aiming to become carbon negative, zero waste and water positive by 2030 is not something to be overlooked.

Read more about Microsoft’s sustainability approach.

Work with Microsoft’s worldwide Surface+ Partner of the Year

Data#3 is Microsoft’s largest Australian Surface partner, as well as the Microsoft Device Distributor/Reseller Partner of the Year 2022. With unrivalled experience improving device fulfilment and implementation for our clients, Data#3 will help you end the frustrations associated with device sourcing, deployment and warranties.

To find out more about Microsoft Surface devices please get in touch with a Surface Solution Specialist.

And don’t forget to check out the other entries in our series focusing on Microsoft’s commitment to creating a more sustainable future and how you can utilise their innovative solutions to do the same:

  1. Beyond Net Zero: the bold Microsoft negative emissions plan
  2. Automating ESG Reporting: What Microsoft Sustainability Manager and Cloud for Sustainability Have to Offer

Contact a Surface Specialist here: