Microsoft has released the results of a comparative carbon footprint study that quantifies the environmental benefits by providing its software to consumers online. The digital distribution study, based on the online download of 10 million copies of Microsoft Office 2007, avoided eight times the amount of carbon emissions, or reduced the total tons of carbon emissions by 88 percent, compared to producing and shipping a DVD and its associated packaging through traditional retail distribution channels.
Not surprisingly, the biggest carbon savings was realized by eliminating transportation and packaging materials for the off-the-shelf product.
Microsoft worked with its partners, Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy, to apply standards for carbon footprinting of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the lifecycle of its software products. The study found that carbon emissions avoided through online purchasing of 10 million copies is equivalent to the electric consumption of 7,715 U.S. households, or 13,008 passenger cars driven in one year, or 231 acres of Amazon rainforest deforestation.
Based on several distribution scenarios, the study captures carbon emissions associated with the raw materials, production, distribution, customer purchase, and end-of-life processes for 10 million off-the-shelf retail software products. These results were compared to the online delivery model for 10 million downloads, accounting for the data centers used for hosting software downloads and the energy used by a consumer’s personal computer to download the Office 2007 program.
Microsoft also continues to invest heavily in making its own operations and data centers more energy efficient, and pledges to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent compared to 2007 levels in the next three years.
The software giant also recently introduced the Environmental Sustainability Dashboard, an add-on to its Dynamics AX business applications, which allows midsize companies to collect auditable data for energy consumption and GHG emissions. In addition, the company’s virtualization software has saved some business customers an average of $470,000 annually through reduced electrical power consumption and cooling in datacenters.