Software Downloads Help Microsoft and Customers Reduce Carbon Footprint

Today, Microsoft released the results of a comparative carbon footprint study which found significant environmental benefits to providing its software to consumers online. The study concluded that downloading Office 2007 avoided 8 times the amount of carbon emissions compared to producing and shipping a DVD and its associated packaging through traditional retail distribution channels.
The study determined that carbon emissions avoided through online purchasing of 10 million copies is equivalent to:

  • the electric consumption of 7,715 US households, or
  • 13,008 passengers cars driven in one year, or
  • 231 acres of avoided Amazon rainforest deforestation.

Microsoft worked with its partners, Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy, to apply leading standards for product carbon footprinting in accounting for greenhouse gas emissions arising from the complete lifecycle of its software products. 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. Microsoft then compared these results to the online delivery model for 10 million downloads, accounting for the data centers used for hosting software downloads and even the energy used by a consumer's personal computer to download the Office 2007 program. Not surprisingly, transportation and packaging materials were identified as the largest contributors to carbon emissions for the off-the-shelf product. Avoided carbon emissions associated with downloading 1 copy of Office 2007 are roughly equal to 1 gallon of gas.

Internally, Microsoft has already invested heavily in making their own operations and data centers more energy efficient and Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) senior scientist, Noah Horowitz, applauded Microsoft's continued efforts in leading the software industry on the climate agenda, noting "this study gives us meaningful comparisons for quantifying avoided carbon emissions through the use of digital distribution. As use of this software delivery approach continues to grow, software vendors and their partners have much to gain: reduced costs, quicker time to market, and a significant reduction in carbon emissions."

This research also supports Microsoft's broader corporate sustainability programs and on-going efforts to reduce its carbon footprint through innovative product delivery channels for many of its other core products. "Microsoft's strategy to encourage online purchases provides customers with more options and enables us all to reduce our carbon footprint and is a good example of how we are using software and technology to enable people and organizations to improve the environment", explained Francois Ajenstat, Microsoft's Director of Environmental Sustainability.

Web Links:

Microsoft's Environmental Corporate Sustainability Report can be viewed at:

Microsoft's Carbon Disclosure Project Response can be viewed at:

Read more about Microsoft's environmental commitments at:

Calculating Business Value and Environmental Benefit of Digital Software Distribution: