To B or not to B? More tech companies should ask themselves that question

June 25, 2020 by  
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To B or not to B? More tech companies should ask themselves that question Heather Clancy Thu, 06/25/2020 – 02:00 Fifth Wall, the biggest venture fund dedicated to funding disruptive ideas in real estate and retail, this week revealed that it has become a Certified B Corporation (B Corp) — a move that requires it to embed concerns about equity, inclusiveness and sustainability into its portfolio. The disclosure caught my attention not just because it’s a relatively unusual move but because it’s the second company from the tech world that has made such a gesture: WeTransfer, the well-known file sharing service, also has adopted similar changes to its business model.  For Los Angeles-based Fifth Wall — whose portfolio includes sustainable footwear company Allbirds and “gear for good” company Cotopaxi (both B Corps), smart-bike firm Lime and a slew of other startups that beg my attention — the adjustment reflects that reality that buildings and real estate account for an estimated 40 percent of raw materials consumption and 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.  “We recognize that today’s announcement is a small step and that there is a lot more work to be done,” said Fifth Wall co-founder and CEO Brendan Wallace in a statement. “As a member of the venture capital and technology ecosystems, we’re hopeful this commitment will be shared by our peers and ultimately catalyze an industry-wide shift in mindset.” The catalyst was the $200 million Carbon Impact Fund that the firm announced earlier this year — and that is preparing to launch in collaboration its limited partner base, which includes big names such as CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield, Hines and Marriott.  “What needs to be done is a collective action problem,” wrote Fifth Wall partner Tyson Woeste in a blog about the fund. “By convening the world’s largest and most forward-thinking real estate leaders in this alliance, we can collectively take responsibility and bold, proactive actions to identify, develop, and adopt critical new technologies to reduce the industry’s GHG footprint.” Keep in mind that the fund was announced before the COVID-19 pandemic sent shock waves through the real estate world. As the economy restarts, many believe that the sector is in for a massive reboot, as companies reconsider the safety and necessity of mammoth corporate campuses and begin allowing a chunk of their workforce to work permanently from home. “Over the next few years, sustainability and decarbonization issues will be a dominant theme for every company in real estate and the technology companies that support the industry,” Woeste noted this week. We believe in accountability for the products and technology we put into the world, and we will strive to push our peers to transform our industry into a more responsible one. Right now, there are an estimated 3,300 Certified B Corps. When I spoke with WeTransfer CEO Gordon Willoughby about why the Amsterdam-based company decided to join their ranks, he said the move created more supervisory clarity. WeTransfer appointed its first non-executive chairperson, British businesswoman Martha Lane Fox, as part of the shift, which took about six months to pull off. “We believe in accountability for the products and technology we put into the world, and we will strive to push our peers to transform our industry into a more responsible one,” he said in a statement. To be clear, many of these policies aren’t yet baked into WeTransfer’s strategy. For example, Willoughby told me that the company is in the process of setting renewable energy policies — that plan will include recommendations for sustainable energy suppliers for employees who work at their homes.  One of the more intriguing policies it already has adopted, however, is a 20 percent discount on advertising rates for other B Corps. Considering that half of WeTransfer’s revenue comes from ad sales, that’s not a token gesture. The company’s original file-sharing service serves about 50 million monthly users, with more than 1 billion files sent per month. Are these two companies outliers? I prefer to think of them as the leading edge. After all, Danone, the world’s largest B Corp , has proven that it’s possible to make the shift, although it certainly won’t take just six months. Here’s hoping. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe  here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote We believe in accountability for the products and technology we put into the world, and we will strive to push our peers to transform our industry into a more responsible one. Topics Corporate Strategy Standards & Certification Technology Venture Capital Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off WeTransfer CEO Gordon Willoughby Courtesy of WeTransfer Close Authorship

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To B or not to B? More tech companies should ask themselves that question

Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

June 25, 2020 by  
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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right Paolo Natali Thu, 06/25/2020 – 00:30 According to polls, it was  mid-March  when most of us in the United States understood the severity of COVID-19. At the same time, we collectively were searching for data to drive lifesaving decision-making. Close all business and keep people inside homes? Or allow some degree of freedom? What would be the exact growth curve of virus cases, and most important, how could we flatten it? By early April, a consensus had emerged around the role of accurate data, even if it could not help contain a first wave of infections. This lesson on the importance of actionable data did not go unnoticed for those of us working on industrial decarbonization. With growing consensus on the gravity of the climate crisis, countries and companies are adopting carbon reduction targets. If we are to learn from the pandemic, there’s one critical element for any effort to have a chance of success. Less catchy than a target reopening date, and perhaps more like an immunologist telling you to get tested: Do we have the right data to act upon? Pressure is growing to take action The question is relevant because there is mounting pressure to take action against the climate crisis. Pressure to make emissions visible has been around for a while: Consumers want to know how much carbon is embodied in the products they buy. Investors are concerned about the viability of long-term assets in high emissions sectors at risk of being hit by negative policy or market developments. For example,  one chocolate bar  could emit as much as 7 kilograms of CO2, equivalent to driving 30 miles in a non-electric car. Alternately, if the cacao is grown alongside agroforestry or reforestation, the same bar could have zero or even negative emissions via the trees removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If consumers knew the difference, would they pay a premium for the climate-smart chocolate? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. This year, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management company, made thundering news in his  annual letter to investors , touting, “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.” Since then, the asset manager  backed two proposals  at the annual general meetings of both Chevron and Exxon, related to the manner these companies conduct themselves in relation to Paris Agreement targets. Earlier in the year in Australia, investors at both Woodside Petroleum and Santos passed annual general meetings motions to  adopt a “Scope 3 ” (indirect emissions) reduction target. This trend of shareholder and consumer scrutiny has strengthened in recent months, and most S&P 500 companies — in fact, 70 percent of them — already make climate-related disclosures to the reporting platform CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). Translating demands into dollars Yet, to date, there is no way to exactly translate these demands for action into dollar figures. You walk around trade conferences (or, more likely these days, Zoom workshops) and everyone is asking: What’s the premium that a consumer is willing to pay for low-carbon products? Is a bank really willing to decline loans for an investment that fails to fulfill certain sustainability standards, for example as pledged by the 11 global banks that signed the  Poseidon Principles  for shipping finance in 2019? If the European Union agrees on a border price for carbon, what should it be? All of this pricing talk begs the question: How can we have such discussions without clear metrics that everyone can stand by? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. For a start, while financial accounts are reported via one of two standards — U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) — a variety of methods can be used for carbon accounting (CDP accepts 64 of them). While financials make the performance of a chemicals company comparable to an iron ore miner, the carbon accounting metrics differ in a way that is difficult to reconcile. This becomes a problem for an automotive company, which needs to combine the performance of both to make an accurate declaration about the carbon content of a product that has over 30,000 parts. It is also a challenge for a fund manager who needs to combine stocks of different sectors, and has a fiduciary duty to use financially material metrics to do so; or for a commercial banker who lends money to different asset classes, and needs to determine the amount of “climate risk” involved in each investment decision. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. Remember the core of the coronavirus debate: The number of confirmed cases are better known than the total number of cases. This uncertainty generates debatable data, upon which it is difficult to make decisions that will have an enormous impact on the destiny of societies. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. And if the cost of those gases to a community and ecosystem isn’t clearly visible, conversely, how can we measure good interventions so that investors feel confident to put their money toward them? This is particularly ironic because market demand for product sustainability creates a win-win situation for everyone involved: make a plan to increase product sustainability, shape the world to be a better place. In most cases, low-carbon technologies are either readily available, such as in the case of low-carbon electricity and carbon-neutral concrete, or less than a decade away, such as hydrogen-based trucking. But if it’s so easy, why isn’t it happening? And most importantly, what needs to happen? Harmonizing the efforts The current ecosystem of reporting is built on bottom-up efforts that are not harmonized. The previously mentioned CDP has a large database of disclosures. The Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has a widely adopted set of metrics that companies use to report (including to CDP). The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board has — you guessed it — standards solid enough to guarantee “financial materiality,” that is, to allow the analyst in the above example to “buy with confidence” when making investment decisions based on sustainability. The Science-Based Targets Initiative promises to take all this to the next level and link carbon disclosures to the trajectories that companies need to undertake in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. Companies that need to report emissions lament that this is too complex or that it doesn’t allow apples-to-apples comparisons due to discrepancies in the way different methods prescribe calculations. Investors lament that they can’t base financial decisions on current metrics, because they aren’t reliable or standardized. Consumers still have to see eco-labels that are truly credible. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. As confusing as it sounds, the good news is that between existing methods, standards and platforms, the elements of a functional system do exist. Despite the gloomy portrait that we often read in the news, of a humankind sleepwalking toward climate disaster due to a selfish inability to act together, this ecosystem actually represents a wonderful testament to the ability of society to recognize a challenge and address it. The importance of climate alignment A few years ago, the Smart Freight Center introduced the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) Framework, creating a common guidance for logistics companies to report in a unified manner. The GLEC Framework is a guidance that specifies how disclosures need to be made in each of the existing methodologies and platforms. Once a company discloses according to the GLEC Framework, analysts will be able to compare a disclosure made for different purposes using different methods, and trace back what it actually means. It is urgent that this expand to supply chains at large. It is also imperative that the emissions accounting focus shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. With unified and simplified standards, companies will be able to be easily ranked based on their actual and projected contribution to meeting the Paris Agreement, thus keeping climate change at bay. Why do this? To reap the benefits of being in sync with what stakeholders request more and ever louder. This is only wise, considering that not even a global pandemic and looming economic recession has silenced these requests. According to a recent Deloitte  report , 600 global C-suite executives remain firmly committed to a low-carbon transition. They are perhaps finding opportunity in shifting from risk and need clear data to make their decisions. Pull Quote A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. Contributors Charles Cannon Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Data Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand

June 11, 2020 by  
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Funding climate tech and entrepreneurs of color should go hand in hand Heather Clancy Thu, 06/11/2020 – 01:00 Not-so-news flash: The venture capital community has an abysmal track record when it comes to funding entrepreneurs of color.  Here’s the backstory in numbers. According to the nonprofit investor network BLCK VC, just 1 percent of venture-funded startup founders are black (that data comes from the Harvard Business School). Just as shocking, although maybe not surprising given the tech industry’s troubled past on diversity writ large, 80 percent of VC firms don’t have a single black investor on their staff.  Over the past week, big-name firms SoftBank and Andreessen Horowitz took baby steps toward addressing this, but far more needs to be done — especially when it comes to finding and funding climate tech. The specifics: SoftBank has created a separate $100 million fund specifically dedicated to people of color: Cool, but that amount is minuscule alongside the $100 billion in the SoftBank Vision Fund.  The new Andreessen Horowitz effort is a donor-advised fund launched with $2.2 million (and growing) from the firm’s partners with a focus on early-stage entrepreneurs “who did not have access to the fast track in life but who have great potential.”  Let’s cut to the chase. These are well-intentioned gestures, but they don’t even begin to address the bias that pervades the VC system, at least the one that exists in the United States. “Black entrepreneurs don’t need a separate water fountain,” observed Monique Woodard, a two-time entrepreneur and former partner at 500 Startups who backs early-stage investors, during a BLCK VC webcast last week that was livestreamed to more than 3,000 people. (She wasn’t specifically addressing the two funds.) “You have to fix the systemic issues in your funds that keep black founders out and keep you from delivering better returns.” What’s wrong with “the system”? Where do I begin? One black venture capitalist on the webcast, Drive Capital partner Van Jones, likened getting involved in the VC community to a track race in which you’ve been seeded in lane eight and handicapped with a weight vest and cement boots. “There is no reason we should be having the conversation today that we had in the 1960s,” he said during his remarks.  Elise Smith, CEO of Praxis Labs, a startup that develops virtual reality software for diversity and inclusion training, tells of putting on “armor” to engage with the predominantly white ecosystem supporting entrepreneurs — where her experience has been questioned repeatedly and her mission described as niche or as a passing fad.  Smith says one of the biggest issues faced by black founders: the inability of many investors to recognize problems faced by communities of color. “What happens when the problem you want to solve isn’t one that is faced by the people who make decisions about what is funded?” Or, as Garry Cooper, co-founder and CEO of circular economy startup Rheaply. puts it: “I have to overachieve to achieve.” He adds: “You are running a race twice as hard as your white counterparts.” He knows firsthand. Rheaply, which makes software that helps organizations share underused assets, raised $2.5 million in seed funding disclosed in March from a group led by Hyde Park Angels. Cooper started speaking with potential investors more than a year ago and was struck by how difficult it was for him even to score an introduction. While he has praise for his “committed” funding partners, Cooper is the only black founder represented in his lead investor’s portfolio. “It’s shameful that I know all the black VC founders in Chicago,” he said.   Along with some of his allies, Cooper is sketching out what he describes as a “pledge” intended to help expose this issue more visibly. The idea is to encourage hot startups — regardless of the race or gender of the founders — not to seek funding from firms that don’t represent the black community on their team of investors or within their portfolio. Stay tuned for more details as they are finalized, but Cooper says the response to this idea so far has been gratifying. As a climate tech startup founder, Cooper agreed with my personal conviction that any VC firm funding solutions to address climate-related technology solutions must pay particular attention to the issues of equity and inclusion. And yet, when I’ve asked well-known VCs about their strategy for this, none has offered specific strategies for recognizing the needs of people of color in the ideas they consider. I must admit: I never have asked any of them specifically about their strategies for funding entrepreneurs of color. But this is something I’m going to change. “The problems are so enormous, we need every brilliant committed mind thinking about this,” Cooper said.  That sentiment is echoed by Ramez Naam, futurist and board member with the E8 angel investor network, which recently launched the Decarbon-8 fund dedicated to supporting climate tech. Naam said investors funding climate tech startups must recognize the intersection between the climate crisis and the crisis of racial justice. That’s why Decarbon-8 will be intentional about seeking entrepreneurs of color. “We think that means it also makes sense to find entrepreneurs and teams who are minorities that are in the groups that are most impacted themselves. Because if we are going to help some people build companies in this, and they’re going to profit, as the entrepreneurs should, we’d like some of that to go back into those people, in those communities.”  Truth. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Topics Finance & Investing Climate Tech Environmental Justice Diversity Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Rheaply founder and CEO Garry Cooper.

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Microsoft’s quest to go ‘carbon negative’ inspires $1B fund

January 17, 2020 by  
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Bold new commitment will see the tech giant charge an internal carbon fee not just on emissions from its direct operations, but on those of its supply chain.

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Farm fresh: using new packaging technologies to prevent food loss in agriculture

August 9, 2019 by  
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Increasing access for farmers to use the tech could unlock fresher and more abundant food for many populations.

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Farm fresh: using new packaging technologies to prevent food loss in agriculture

14 apps to help you live a more eco-friendly sustainable lifestyle

July 11, 2019 by  
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So you’ve made the choice to start living more sustainably. That’s great! Figuring out how to start can be daunting, but luckily technology is here to help. These handy resources can fit in your pocket and serve as a reminder to continue your journey towards a more sustainable, greener life— whether you’re an experienced advocate for sustainability or just starting out. Related: The pros and cons of online versus in-store shopping Forest Forest lets you combine mindfulness, productivity and focus with real-life tree planting. By not checking your phone for a designated amount of time, the app lets you grow virtual trees , which can then be exchanged for actual trees planted throughout five African countries by Trees for the Future . Tap Plastic bottles are one of the greatest sources of plastic pollution in our oceans, and switching to a reusable water bottle is a simple way to reduce waste. Tap accesses your location and lets you find water refill stations nearby so you can fill up without creating any plastic garbage . HowGood HowGood has a database of 200,000 food product ratings to help users make more sustainable choices. With each product rated by growing guidelines, processing practices and company conduct, this app is a great tool for users who want to be more mindful about what they eat by choosing food that is ethically produced and environmentally friendly with minimal processing.  JouleBug JouleBug combines the best parts of sustainable living with social interaction and saving money on your utility bill. The app allows users to competitively track and score their sustainable habits and share them with friends. JouleBug also includes suggestions and tips for small changes that can help you live a more sustainable lifestyle .  ThredUp Making sure that less of your used clothes end up in a landfill by offering them up to other consumers first is a no-brainer. ThredUp is an online consignment store where you can take pictures of your clothes and sell them through the app. Related: Your guide to eco-friendly toothpastes OfferUp A simple way to buy and sell used items, OfferUp lets users find a new home for their unwanted items instead of the trash can. It only takes a few minutes to snap a photo of your item, post it on the app and connect with potential buyers. You can securely message through the app and check people’s profiles and transaction history as well.  PaperKarma Not only is junk mail super annoying, it’s wasteful and bad for the environment. With PaperKarma you can stop the actual physical junk mail that shows up in your mailbox and forces you to throw away good paper for no reason. Within the app, you simply snap a photo of your junk mail and received an unsubscribed notification about 24 hours later. Olio We throw away billions of pounds of food away every year in the United States— equal to 30-40 percent of our food supply. With Olio, users can connect with neighbors and local businesses to share food. Whether you’ve bought too much of something, prepared too much dinner or purged your fridge before vacation , making sure precious food doesn’t go to waste is easier than you think. DoneGood DoneGood helps you find ethical brands with ease through both an app on your phone and an extension for your internet browser. As you search and shop for products, DoneGood will create pop-up suggestions for alternatives offered by ethical stores. You can also align suggestions based on your personal passions. DoneGood selects their businesses based on things like eco-friendly , non-toxic, cruelty-free, organic, diversity and giving back.  No Waste Track and reduce your food waste with No Waste, an interactive organizational app that lets you make an inventory of the items in your fridge, freezer and pantry. You’ll be able to sort and search for food by category or expiration date to ensure that nothing goes to waste and share your lists with friends or family.  Oroeco Oroeco puts a carbon value on everything from what you buy to the food you eat and even to the appliances you use at home. The app has partnered with UC Berkeley’s CoolClimate research group to compare their users’ carbon values with their neighbors and friends, while providing them with personalized tips to help reduce their energy use and carbon footprints. The app also works with Impact Carbon , a non-profit that helps underdeveloped countries access energy-efficient appliances.  Sustainability Aware In order to ensure a brighter future for the earth, teaching our children about green living and sustainability will be paramount. That’s where Sustainability Aware comes it. A series of educational apps designed for children that teach about the environment and human impact, all in a fun, engaging way. Each app is made for a specific grade level and age group. iRecycle Proper recycling is a simple concept, but isn’t always simple to execute. The iRecycle app finds the closest opportunity to recycle based on your location. Whether you are looking for a recycling center near your home or find yourself walking down the street with an empty water bottle, iRecycle can help.  SDGs in Action Keep up to date on worldwide sustainable development news and learn about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with this app. The SDGs are basically a world to-do list to address poverty, climate change and inequality by the year 2030. Users can personalize the app to receive notifications about specific goals and find nearby events to help show support. Screenshots via Inhabitat. Image via picjumbo.com

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14 apps to help you live a more eco-friendly sustainable lifestyle

Google’s latest innovation: direct global clean energy procurement

January 30, 2019 by  
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It’s a first in the history of the tech giant’s 30-plus power projects.

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Google’s latest innovation: direct global clean energy procurement

HP links $700 million in revenue to sustainability strategy

July 9, 2018 by  
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More of the tech giant’s commercial and consumer customers are scrutinizing its products and its circular economy processes.

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HP links $700 million in revenue to sustainability strategy

This is the most noteworthy part of Apple’s 100% clean power milestone

April 11, 2018 by  
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Other big companies should emulate the tech giant’s focus on helping suppliers get there, too.

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This is the most noteworthy part of Apple’s 100% clean power milestone

Microsoft is razing its Redmond campus to build a sustainable mini city

December 1, 2017 by  
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If you thought Microsoft’s awesome treehouse offices were the ultimate step in the tech giant’s efforts to make its employees a top priority, think again. The tech giant just announced that it will be razing its 500-acre Redmond campus in order to construct a sustainable Microsoft mini city, complete with 18 new buildings, a two-acre open plaza , retail space, jogging and walking trails, two soccer fields, a cricket field, and its own light rail station. According to the company, the expansive campus, which will be divided into “team neighborhoods”, will be focused on providing a “more open and less formal” working environment. Inside, the spaces will be filled with social hubs and light-filled offices, but the new layout will be primarily focused on providing plenty of outdoor and recreational space for the employees. Once complete, the campus will have 18 new buildings, offering workspace for the 47,000 employees that currently work on site, as well as extra room for an additional 8,000 people. The Redmond campus is already a Zero Waste Certified campus, but will be renovated with increased waste-reduction initiatives . Related: Microsoft unveils amazing treehouse office where employees can brainstorm in fresh air As part of the green transportation focus, all of the cars will be parked in an underground parking lot, so that above ground, the employees can travel by foot, bike or, eventually, by a light rail system scheduled for completion in 2023. As part of the green transportation focus, a new foot and bike bridge will be built over the WA-520 in order to connect both sides of its campus. This will connect with a planned Redmond Technology Transit Station where the Link Light Rail is expected to arrive in 2023. Microsoft president Brad Smith said the project will run approximately $150m, and expects the rebuild to create 2,500 construction and development jobs.”We are not only creating a world-class work environment to help retain and attract the best and brightest global talent, but also building a campus that our neighbors can enjoy, and that we can build in a fiscally smart way with low environmental impact,” explained Smith in the announcement. + Microsoft blog Via ZD Net Images via Microsoft

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