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Microsoft’s commitment to sustainability and accessibility

Our interview with Microsoft’s Surface Marketing Manager Rustom Patel

Rustom Patel Microsoft (MS) is firmly committed to the values of sustainability and accessibility, and it has been for many years. This came through loud and clear in our interview with Rustom Patel, Microsoft Canada’s Surface Marketing Manager. Rustom spoke to us about the importance Microsoft ascribes to sustainability and accessibility and how the company promotes these values. He also discussed what this looks like in practice through specific MS products.

Why are sustainability and accessibility so important to you?

These values are an integral part of Microsoft’s mission. We want to do the right thing for the planet and to try to help every person from every walk of life. These are big priorities for us, and we refer to them right in our mission statement: ‘Microsoft aims to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.’

Do you have goals for sustainability and accessibility?

We certainly do. As far as sustainability goes, Microsoft’s target for becoming carbon-negative is 2030. By then, our goal is to reduce more carbon than we’re producing. We also want to use less water and produce less waste. This can only help our ecosystems and water resources, and make the planet more liveable in the long term.

Regarding accessibility, our goals are ambitious but doable. We want to help people from all walks of life, and empower them to do more. This includes people with situational, temporary, or permanent physical or mental accessibility needs. Our aim is for all people to be able to use our products and take advantage of them to achieve their goals.

Do you have products that promote sustainability?

Yes, absolutely. We’re looking to make all Surface and Xbox products fully recyclable by 2030. One thing we’re doing is reducing the use of plastics in our packaging. This is really important. In a product’s lifecycle, the largest impact of Co2 emissions is in the manufacturing stage. We’re reducing the amount of emissions it takes to design and create our products.

Microsoft also manufactures products so they’re more repairable. We can repair and refurbish our products without sending them back to the factory. This allows us to avoid significant transportation costs and the carbon footprint this makes on the environment. In fact, more and more of our products are end-user serviceable, meaning our customers can implement, manage, maintain, and support them by themselves, or possibly, with our help. For instance, our Surface laptop SE is our first fully end-user serviceable product. And we expect more of our products to follow

How does this help the environment?

Before this, you often had to send the entire product to another country to get fixed, refurbished, or replaced. And this, of course, has a really bad impact on the environment. It produces ‘e-waste.’ Now, that’s no longer the case.

What’s more, we responsibly recycle most devices through our global recycling program, and we partner with waste management and recycling organizations around the world. We also educate our customers about sustainability and the environment, so they can play their part in helping out. We publish something called an ‘ecoprofile’ for each of our products: This outlines each product’s carbon emissions, energy-efficiency, the environmental standards it meets, and the hazardous materials it doesn’t use.

Finally, when a device is plugged in, turned on, and connected to the internet, and regional carbon intensity data is available, the new Windows update schedules installations at specific times of the day. This can result in lower carbon emissions. Find out more about how the Windows update is now carbon aware.

How do you promote accessibility?

We promote accessibility on both the hardware and software sides of our products and services. We want people who have challenges with sight, hearing, mobility, and mental health to be able to benefit from our products. Neurodiversity is a big focus for us. We develop products, tools, and accessories that can accommodate people with a variety of needs and impairments.

What kind of products do you have that promote accessibility?

One is the Surface Adapt Kit, which is a set of adhesive labels and products. This enables someone with sight impairment to put labels on keyboards and ports to make them tactile and thus easier to locate, identify, and use. This also helps people with poor fine-motor coordination, who have difficulty using their hands and fingers. This fall, we’re also launching an adaptive mouse that’s easier to manipulate for various purposes.

Let me give you one more example. For people who struggle with concentration, Windows 11 offers a ‘focus session.’ This minimizes distractions for anybody who has difficulty concentrating (like people with ADHD or ASD). One thing the focus session can do is eliminate notifications like those you might receive when you get an email or an instant message. It can also link to Spotify to provide white noise or relaxing music. This is a really cool and useful feature that our customers love.

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