Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the world’s largest software company. Its products include operating systems, office applications, cloud-based solutions, software development tools, video games, computer devices and AI. Microsoft Azure is a leading cloud provider with data centres worldwide. Microsoft also owns the professional networking site LinkedIn and the developer portal GitHub. In 2021, sales outside the US accounted for almost half the company’s revenues.
Microsoft advances digital inclusion for girls via its DigiGirlz initiative, which conducts hands-on computer and technology workshops as well as provides exposure to the tech industry for girls aged 11-18. Additionally, Microsoft has committed to using accessible design principles and its Windows and Office products have a host of accessibility features that accommodate people with a wide range of disabilities.
Microsoft’s TEALS programme gets software engineers and computer science professionals to serve as part-time computer science high school teachers in North America to empower students with digital skills. Since its inception in 2009, over 95,000 students have participated in the programme. The company also provides cash grants, technology and other resources to support teachers’ training in computer science.
Microsoft demonstrates leading practice in promoting innovation. Its commitment to open-source innovation is evidenced by its maintenance of a repository of open-source code; active participation in standards bodies; collaboration as well as other support for open-source research. Microsoft fosters innovation in the tech ecosystem by providing investment through its venture capital fund M12, as well as providing resources, mentorship, and networking access to start-ups including those founded by people from underrepresented groups. Further, the company partners with universities on sustainability research. Notably, Microsoft is a leading proponent of establishing ethics around the use of artificial intelligence (AI). It has a committee that advises on AI research, and it publishes the ethical principles it follows in its AI activities, which include human rights considerations.
Microsoft can report how the direct economic value it generates is distributed among its stakeholders as well as the income taxes it pays and its employment in its main markets in accordance with global standards. Additionally, the company can disclose its financial and in-kind contributions to its digital access programmes and carry out third-party impact assessments to assess the efficacy of its programmes.
Microsoft has an opportunity to improve transparency by reporting on its financial and in-kind contributions to its existing programmes on advancing digital skills as well as carrying out impact assessments.
Microsoft can enhance transparency by publishing a commitment to cybersecurity and disclosing cybersecurity oversight practices. It can also make its information security management certification publicly available and report data breaches, in accordance with global standards.
Through its membership in various industry associations, Microsoft has an opportunity to share its leading practices and advocate for broader adoption of open, sustainable, inclusive and ethical innovation.
Core Social Assessment
The core social indicators assess societal expectations of business conduct that companies should meet if they aspire to be part of a system transformation that leaves no one behind.
Microsoft commits to respecting human rights and the ILO core labour rights. It also has a publicly available policy statement that expects its business relationships to commit to respecting the ILO core labour rights. Furthermore, the company identifies and engages with stakeholders whose human rights have been or may be impacted by its operations. Microsoft also has a grievance mechanism accessible to both workers and external stakeholders to raise human rights concerns and complaints. However, it is unclear what factors are considered in Microsoft’s assessment of human rights risks. The company also does not have a global system in place to prevent, mitigate or remediate human rights issues.
Microsoft places expectations on its business relationships to respect the health and safety of workers and monitors their performance. The company does not disclose a policy commitment stating that it does not require workers to work more than the regular and overtime hours. However, it does explicitly state that it requires its business relationships to make this commitment. Furthermore, the company provides no relevant evidence in relation to paying its workers a living wage. The company commits to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, but it does not disclose a time-bound target on the subject. Microsoft also has an opportunity to improve its disclosure on workforce diversity by reporting on different indicators of diversity per employee category.
Microsoft has a policy prohibiting bribery and corruption, and it includes anti-bribery and anti-corruption clauses in its business relationship contracts. Furthermore, the company takes steps to identify and address bribery and corruption. It also has a grievance mechanism for stakeholders to raise concerns and complaints on the topic. Microsoft does not disclose any relevant information in relation to tax, such as a global tax strategy or its income tax payments in individual tax jurisdictions. The company also does not disclose its approach to lobbying and political engagement. Specifically, Microsoft does not have a publicly available statement indicating that it does not make political contributions, nor does it disclose its lobbying expenditures for its global operations.