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Quick Take: Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability Gains Data & AI Capabilities

A version of this blog post was previously published on Forbes.

Microsoft introduced new data and AI solutions in its Cloud for Sustainability at its recent AI for Sustainability event. The new offerings will assist organizations transitioning from sustainability pledges to tangible sustainability progress.

New Data & AI Solutions

Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability is Microsoft’s cloud-based solution for assisting organizations in their journey toward environmental responsibility and sustainability. It’s a comprehensive platform that bridges the gap between sustainability pledges and progress.

Microsoft is expanding the solution’s capabilities to help organizations accelerate their sustainability efforts. This includes offering a range of new data and AI solutions that Microsoft hopes will help transform how enterprises approach and manage sustainability goals.

The new data and AI updates to the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability include:

  • Microsoft Fabric: First announced in May 2023, Microsoft Fabric is an end-to-end analytics SaaS platform. It consolidates an organization’s entire range of enterprise data, including critical ESG data. This platform enables teams to connect to data from any source, derive insights using AI-powered analytics tools, and implement these insights in day-to-day applications to drive action and improve decision-making processes.
  • Sustainability Data Solutions in Microsoft Fabric: Now in preview, these solutions provide fast access to insights and facilitate sustainability progress. They include an out-of-the-box ESG data model, connectors, and reporting capabilities. By integrating ESG data with Microsoft Fabric, organizations can transform vast amounts of sustainability data into meaningful insights and actionable progress.
  • Copilot in Microsoft Sustainability Manager: This feature, currently in preview, leverages powerful generative AI and natural language queries to provide faster insights from data. Organizations can ask Copilot questions, and it will analyze environmental data to identify reduction opportunities in areas such as carbon and water usage. It can also assist in drafting sustainability reports, thus reducing time and allowing resources to focus on other priorities.
  • Intelligent Insights in Microsoft Sustainability Manager: Also in preview, this feature provides an integrated and interactive AI model for a deeper analysis of calculated emissions data. It helps organizations clean up their data, identify reduction opportunities, and make fine-tuned decisions based on historical trends and data anomalies.
  • ESG Value Chain Solution: Now generally available, this solution simplifies data collection from suppliers and offers a seamless and secure process for managing supplier data. It enables organizations to conduct advanced analytics on ESG value chain data and find emissions reduction opportunities within their supply chain.

These new capabilities in the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability platform should ease the burden for enterprises looking to make tangible progress in their sustainability journey. They offer enhanced efficiency and accuracy in decision-making and reporting and support new business models and growth opportunities focused on sustainability.

Analyst’s Take

Microsoft’s approach, which marries data integration and advanced AI capabilities, addresses a critical gap in many organizations’ sustainability initiatives: the ability to translate vast amounts of environmental data into actionable insights and coherent strategies. This empowers enterprises to transition from simply making sustainability pledges to delivering actionable progress.

Microsoft Fabric, a comprehensive analytics SaaS platform, provides the foundation for Microsoft’s new capabilities. It allows businesses to unify disparate data streams, including previously inaccessible ESG data. This unification is crucial in allowing organizations to embed sustainability into their core strategies rather than treat it as a peripheral concern. By offering AI-powered analytics and insights within a unified platform, Microsoft equips companies with the tools to make informed decisions and embed sustainability deeply into their operational fabric.

Integrating AI capabilities, such as Copilot, in Microsoft Sustainability Manager takes it a step further. It promises to accelerate decision-making processes by allowing organizations to interact intuitively and efficiently with their sustainability data. This feature streamlines sustainability reporting and compliance, reducing the operational burden and freeing up resources for strategic initiatives.

Microsoft’s focus on the ESG value chain solution is strategic. Recognizing that a significant portion of an organization’s environmental impact lies within its supply chain, the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability offers a holistic approach extending beyond a company’s immediate operations.

Microsoft isn’t alone in helping enterprises navigate the complexities of sustainability. Salesforce plays here with its Net Zero Cloud, while SAP offers its a wide range of sustainability management tools. IBM’s Environmental Intelligence Suite is another robust solution with a deep integration of environmental performance elements. Any enterprise looking for solutions has a compelling array of options.

Microsoft’s updates to its Cloud for Sustainability platform are a well-thought-out strategy that positions the company as a key player in helping organizations navigate the complex landscape of sustainability. By providing a robust, data-driven, and AI-enhanced toolset, Microsoft is not just selling a product; it’s offering a pathway for businesses to realize their sustainability ambitions tangibly and measurably.

The updated solutions to the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability will resonate well with businesses worldwide, particularly those grappling with the pressures of complying with environmental regulations and the growing expectations of a sustainability-conscious market—that’s nearly every enterprise.

Disclosure: The author is an industry analyst, and NAND Research an industry analyst firm, that engages in, or has engaged in, research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, which may include those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.