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Miri Rodriguez Author Block

For Elizabeth Willmott, Carbon Lead at Microsoft, there’s no time to waste. The impact global climate change is having on our environment is alarming. But even more disconcerting is the slow response to its devastating effects.

Willmott spent more than 10 years in the public and nonprofit sectors, working tirelessly to drive significant change on climate action and sustainability. She grew impatient when she didn’t see the change happening fast enough. Willmott wanted to work with an organization inspired by digital transformation and the opportunity to help its partners do the same.

On our journey to the cloud, Microsoft is fostering a data-driven culture where a vast amount of data is leveraged to help the organization strategically grow in socially responsible ways. Microsoft also helps partner organizations learn how to implement similar transformative practices.

Earlier this month, Microsoft was featured as one of the world’s top socially responsible companies by Forbes, retaining its second-place finish from last year with a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) score of 74.1. Microsoft is committed to making a positive social impact by applying the power of technology to help solve some of the most pressing environmental challenges.

Powering toward sustainability

Since 2012, global operations at Microsoft have been 100 percent carbon neutral. A Power BI dashboard helps govern and maintain a visualization of carbon offsets, renewable energy investments, and sustainability projects. The dashboard was built following these steps that partners can employ to build their own sustainability data management solutions:

  • Identify the target audience. The right dashboard isn’t always the one with more information, but the one with the right information.
  • Add the right data into the Power BI platform. Your data can come from one or more sources, and well-organized data allows updates to source data to flow seamlessly.
  • Choose the right visuals for the data and audience. Power BI visuals include maps, charts, tables, filters, and cards. Each of these can help you communicate valuable information to tell your organization’s story.

AI is another huge part of how intelligent data contributes to a more sustainable world. Willmott sits in a broader team that designed and launched AI for Earth to give AI access and education to individuals and organizations working on challenging global environmental issues. Willmott says that this is the epitome of why she came to Microsoft; technology is helping solve environmental problems more quickly and cheaply, freeing up the time of environmental nonprofits and other partner organizations to do much more.

The origins of many of these tools preceded Willmott’s arrival at Microsoft and continue to evolve. Conor Kelly, a colleague on the Azure Internet of Things (IoT) team, is currently designing a suite of open source tools that use grid data to choreograph energy supply and demand. This is just one of many examples of how AI and cloud computing are helping reduce impact to the environment.

“I pinch myself every day!” The geographic reach is colossal, and I feel that in this role I’m driving more change than I ever have before.” 
-Elizabeth Willmott, Carbon Lead, Microsoft

Having joined Microsoft less than a year ago, Willmott keeps her team’s curiosity alive through continuous exploration of AI, blockchain and other advanced technologies that help create more efficient environmental solutions.

On November 14, 2017, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith announced that Microsoft would cut its operational greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2030. While this is a large goal, Willmott explained it isn’t far-fetched for Microsoft because “we are already on that path,” thanks to existing energy efficiency and renewable electricity commitments.

“The possibilities are infinite,” promises Willmott-it just requires a continuous attitude of learning, staying curious, and adopting new technologies.

Learn more about empowering your organization to embrace a data culture with Power BI and how internal disciplines at Microsoft manage the data life cycle using Azure Data Factory for improved operations. You can also watch a five-part miniseries recounting the Microsoft journey to the cloud-as told by the pioneers who took us there.