What does Microsoft do around CSR?

Photo: tabacco.blog-city.com

This is the week I’ll be releasing my inner tech geek. Ever since owning the original Sinclair ZX81, which I still have in a box in the attic, I’ve been fascinated with the opportunities that technology can provide. I’m not saying I’m a fan of technology for technology’s sake, but I am passionate about the uniquely human ability for technological creativity when aligned with real flesh and bone people and the way they actually behave.

I’ve been invited to attend Microsoft’s  Corporate Citizenship Accelerator Summit in Seattle on Thursday and then decided to stop in New York on the way back to meet the 3BL Media crew in the non-Twitter real world.

I could hardly say no to such an  impressive line up on offer at Microsoft’s campus with charismatic CEO Steve Ballmer amply complemented by an array of senior level Executives, worthy of my carbon splurge on the air travel to get into the room, and yes, I did ask if there were virtual attendance possibilities.

The topics up for discussion include:

  • Innovating to solve the world’s most pressing issues
  • Transformative Role of Technology in Enabling NGOs
  • Part of Doing Business: Accelerating Change Through Technology and Partnerships
  • From Employee Giving to Social Entrepreneurs – How Microsoft Employees Are Making a Difference
  • Preparing People for the Jobs of Today and the Future

Until the invitation landed in my inbox I’d never really focused on Microsoft’s CSR activity, but ever since I’ve been astounded at the lack of not only consumer awareness but also by those far more closely engaged professionally with the global giant. In a very informal straw poll on my daily travels, everybody I asked about their understanding of what Microsoft ‘does’ responded with the unsurprising combinations of Office, Bing, Instant Messenger, Internet Explorer and Xbox, but that was about it, even when I pressed for details.

I will of course be offering Twitter updates during the event and a blog post afterwards, but if anybody out there has any particular questions you think are relevant to the topics above, post them as comments below and I’ll get them answered.

If any of my US-based Twitter friends are in or around Seattle (20th & 21st) or New York (22nd, 23rd & 24th) over the next week and want to grab a coffee, send me a direct message to @davidcoethica to help me get the most out of my carbon excesses.

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12 thoughts on “What does Microsoft do around CSR?

  1. Anneliza Humlen

    Looking forward to your Tweets David. I’m sorry that I will miss your visit to NYC. I’m based in NYC but will not be in the area during those days. Please give me a shout as to your next nyc trip. Would love to grab a coffee. best-Anneliza


  2. Ian Denny

    Unlike many, I’m not a Microsoft-basher. In fact, I like their software and feel they are too often lambasted unjustifiably.

    However, one thing they do need to be conscious of is their jargon. It seems to flow uncontrollably and confuse many.

    I’m learning more (through you) about CSR. And I know you battle to reduce jargon. But my question for Microsoft if they are seriously engaging in CSR is to do with communication.

    This may sound amazing for a company with all the technology anyone could wish for to communicate.

    But it aint the method of transmission and receipt, it’s the words.

    Do they recognise that their management-speak is not as easily digestible as it should be? If their goal is to win the hearts and minds of anyone they communicate with about CSR and other related issues, should their language be simplified?

    Those topics for example are not too bad for Microsoft. But what is an NGO? As you yourself have pointed out does everyone know what CSR is?

    Is an NGO the “private sector” for example? Or perhaps “commercial organisations”. I suspect there’s an element of non-profit in the true definition, but that wasn’t instantly clear from what I read.

    I know it takes more words to translate 3-letter short-forms, but surely it communicates the concept?

    I hadn’t a clue what an NGO (non-government organisation) until I got a definition. And even then, the first definition was confusing. The second referred to non-profit non-governmental organisations.

    It could therefore be argued that a clear definition could make the topic “Transformative Role of Technology in Enabling Not For Profit Organisations”.

    Anyway, good luck with the trip. If you can get some views on the value of clear language in CSR, sorry, Corporate & Social Responsibility (or should that be made clearer too?), that would be a postive step forward in my humble opinion.




    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Ian

      A typically short question 😉

      Microsoft are not the greatest at communicating their ‘good stuff’ in general, like many businesses regardless of size. The corporate world is awash with jargon, mind numbing abbreviations and intricately specific use of definitions. In particular I have daily debates about the definitions / differences between CSR, sustainability, ethical business and corporate citizenship especially. NGO fits into the charity / non-profit / philanthropy / activist / campaigner waters.

      As a man of many words 🙂 you will understand the need for clarity and precision whenever communicating any message. One of the biggest challenges for CSR is the potential scale and breadth of the audience wanting information. Social media is revolutionising the way businesses deliver their CSR communications with the better exponents using appropriately varied language across varied platforms such as print, pdf, Twitter, podcast etc for each audience group.

      Many businesses just don’t understand they cant use the same words for each stakeholder group, and often fail to build the productive relationships they could as a consequence.

      Just be glad you’re not immersed in the NGO world which also includes BINGOs, TANGOs, QUANGOs, and MANGOs!



  3. Brigitte


    it would be of interest to me, how Microsoft controls their supply chain in China. As with Apple, who are hardly communicating on this issue at all, there is really no statements from Microsoft neither. I saw one recently saying they were looking into the issue. Thanks, if you have a chance.. and enjoy your trip! Brigitte


    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Brigitte

      I didn’t get to ask the question on the day as there just wasn’t a gap in the proceedings to go too far of their agenda.

      I did subsequently ask if the blog questions could be answered but they aren’t initially overly forthcoming in answering individual questions, even though I had asked prior to the event if this was possible and there was only three questions to answer. Not quite got a grasp of the social media way of things yet I think.

      I will chase up but in the meantime I’d check out the links on the review of the Summit post, especially their Local Impact Map – http://www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/map/app/#data=zzzz



  4. Polly Traylor


    I’m glad that you will be looking into Microsoft’s efforts in this area. Microsoft does have a strong background in giving and I’m hoping that this philanthropic bent is also lending weight to environmental concerns. I would love to find out what they’re doing, measurable benefits to co and customers, and their overall sustainability “rating” compared to other tech giants such as HP and Cisco. What are they doing on the Redmond campus and also in global locations to support sustainability?

    I am a former MSFT employee, for full disclosure.



    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Polly

      Did you see the Fast Company Apple v Microsoft Sustainability Face Off?

      On the day the three green initiatives mentioned were their ‘Connector’ transport system of 48 cars & buses (pretty impressive), Hohm (see my reply to Sean Flynn) and their involvement with the data management technology relating to environmental research in the Amazon region.

      The environment pages on their website are pretty good – http://www.microsoft.com/environment/



    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Jessica

      The Local Impact Map is great – when it eventually finishes downloading on my laptop! I was lucky enough to have a play around the map on Microsoft’s Surface which was great fun. There’s a picture of myself and Christine Arena being given the tour of the map somewhere.



    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Sean

      Power management didn’t make the top of the bill on the day I’m afraid but I’m sure Microsoft are right in there somewhere. They closest the got at the Summit was a short presentation on their Hohm (http://www.microsoft-hohm.com) initiative (USA only), which focuses on residential energy efficiency.

      Just had a quick check of their site and I’d suggest looking at this link for more Green IT info: http://www.microsoft.com/environment/greenit/



  5. Zizou

    you have quite interesting blog.
    I am researching CSR and looking for bad CSR examples. What companies have initiated any campaigns which went down like a lead ballon?



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