BSR 2009 – Biodegradable Lanyards and Microsoft Sustainability

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Ah, it feels good to have the BSR conference back in San Francisco. Even though the economy has gone to hell, it is good see that probably close to 1000 attendees hit the conference so the sour economy has not killed the whole notion of notion of sustainability and companies.

Good start — as we walked in and registered the staff handed me a recyclable, biodegradable, compostable lanyard.

The theme for this year’s conference – Sustainability in a Reset World

After admiring our lanyards and breakfast we jumped into packed conversation with Pamela Passman of Microsoft. Of course we considered today’s launch of Windows 7.

The discussion centered on the sustainability of Microsoft. Now, most people will admit that the technology business isn’t the least sustainable or “dirtiest” business. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t press a heavy carbon footprint. Passman discussed that companies need software to track their own carbon footprint.Microsoft may have many ideas for other comanies but they need to look in the mirror as well.

She admitted the two most pressing issues that Microsoft needs to improve in so far as reducing their carbon footprint that includes:

1- Traveling (lots of it)

2 – Data centers — The data centers continue to be electric and water intensive.
Microsoft claims to be attempting reduce the footprint of these data centers.

Besides environmental sustainability the talk shifted to information and human rights. Besides the separate Gates Foundation, Microsoft creates technological literacy for various NGOs and donates much money to various create technological literacy for people who don’t have educational/technological access. However, when discussing human rights and technology Pressman seemed to get a little defensive when discussing China, privacy issues, and human rights in other counties where the masses often don’t get access to certain technology.

Like so much of the conference, often we need to read between the lines to determine who or what companies enact true sustainability controls or who just spin fancy greenwashing, or maybe a combination.

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