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Microsoft Walks Its Clean Energy Talk, Drops ALEC Membership

Image credit: Microsoft (Click for full Wind Power infographic)

Microsoft has announced that it is ending its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative public-policy lobbying group. The decision was apparently made in response to ALEC's anti-renewables lobbying efforts, including measures to repeal renewable energy standards and block the disclosure of chemicals in fracking.

According to Eclectablog, The Sustainability Group, a group aimed at fostering socially responsible investment, and Walden Asset Management, which offers portfolio management services to socially responsive investors, had been encouraging Microsoft to end its relationship with ALEC — the tech company had been a member of ALEC's Communications and Technology Task Force.

In a statement released Tuesday, the company said:

"In 2014 Microsoft decided to no longer participate in the American Legislative Exchange Council's Communications and Technology Task Force, which had been our only previous involvement with ALEC. With this decision, we no longer contribute any dues to ALEC ... we are no longer members of ALEC and do not provide the organization with financial support of any kind."

“Microsoft is a leader on carbon issues — in 2012, it committed to becoming carbon neutral, and is one of the largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy. Thus, we believe that its affiliation with ALEC, which is actively fighting policies that promote renewable energy, was incongruous,” the Sustainability Group said in response. “In addition, there were numerous other ALEC actions that conflicted directly with Microsoft’s values. We are pleased to report Microsoft is no longer a member of ALEC and is not financially supporting the organization in any way.”

Greenpeace also chimed in, applauding Microsoft’s decision.

"Microsoft deserves praise for living up to its sustainability values by ending its membership in ALEC, an organization which has attacked clean energy and climate policies in nearly all 50 states," Greenpeace senior IT policy analyst Gary Cook said in a statement emailed to SB. "Microsoft has demonstrated a commitment in recent years to clean energy and climate action by introducing an internal carbon fee and purchasing large amounts of wind energy to power two of its data centers — all actions which run contrary to ALEC's goal of killing the clean energy economy."

While Microsoft and fellow tech giant IBM, along with companies such as Coca-Cola, General Motors, Bank of America, and P&G have severed ties with ALEC (according to Common Cause, all of these companies left ALEC after it was revealed in 2011 that the lobbying group had secretly pushed legislation for restrictive voter ID requirements, anti-union measures, and proposals to block renewable energy development), many in the tech industry are still members.

"Google, Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, Yelp and other technology companies that are currently still ALEC members would do well to learn from Microsoft's leadership," Cook went on to say. “Some of these companies have made great clean energy strides in their own operations, but have rationalized their ALEC membership with the excuse that it is a crucial vehicle for their other political priorities. Microsoft's departure from ALEC proves that argument specious: Technology companies can advocate for their political agenda without loaning their credibility to organizations that undermine their environmental values at every turn."

Earlier this month, Microsoft was ranked 3rd in the EPA’s National Top 100 list of its Green Power Partners, having produced 1,363,216,892 kWh of energy through the use of biogas, biomass, solar and wind in 2013.


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