10 tips to optimize your carbon footprint (and collaboration) with Microsoft 365

10 tips to optimize your carbon footprint (and collaboration) with Microsoft 365

How and why do you optimize your carbon footprint (and your collaboration) with Microsoft 365? In this article, I'll share ten tips that will help you optimize the use of your tool.

According to a January 2021 report by ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency), the impact of digital technology on the environment is colossal. Digital technology in the broadest sense (data centers, home equipment, networks, etc.) accounts for 4% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Microsoft and Microsoft 365 are no exception to the rule. However, there are levers that can be used to reduce these GHG emissions as a supplier or consumer of the Microsoft 365 solution. They can be divided into two main categories:

  • Technical levers (energy sources, cooling systems for datacenters and servers). This part is mainly the responsibility of Microsoft, which is indeed making efforts in this direction.
  • The use of the tools. This is the responsibility of the users, i.e. you and me. This is the subject of the rest of the article.

Cloud vs Server (On Premise), what impact?

First of all, we can question the choice of a cloud environment instead of a server environment.

It's a fact that data centers are huge machines that consume a lot of electricity. And they are used to their full potential. The big providers (Microsoft, Google or Amazon for example), optimize the power consumption of their datacenters to the maximum. These providers are committed to using low-carbon energy for their data centers. They are clearly expected to do so.

As far as on-premise servers are concerned, it is clear that server environments are often under-utilized. This is because IT departments want to be able to anticipate any risk of overload. On Premise servers are therefore by nature overcapacity most of the time to manage rare load peaks. This is one of the reasons why the market is moving towards grouping data centers: pooling to save on hardware... and energy.

On the other hand, we can question the impact of collaboration tools on the environment. The first of them, messaging, is the one that has the strongest environmental impact. It's also the one where responsible use can have quick and effective results. In addition to improving your carbon footprint, the recommendations I give you are good practices for using collaborative tools. It is possible to optimize tools like SharePoint, Teams, or Power Platform, to improve your carbon footprint with Microsoft 365.

I give you ten tips to improve your carbon footprint with Microsoft 365 and your collaboration :

#1 : Choose the hosting area according to your geographical location

When you create a Microsoft 365 tenant, you can choose the hosting area for your data. Since 2018, it is notably possible to store your data in French datacenters. The best practice is to store your data in the country where as many of your company's employees reside.

Ecological advantage: the messages pass through fewer machines and therefore consume less electricity.

Collaborative advantage: your data is stored in France and you are therefore subject to French law concerning the processing of your data (see RGPD in particular).

#2: Avoid emails with attachments

When you send an attachment, you are creating a copy of an already existing file. The person who receives the email (or people, as this phenomenon is multiplied by the number of recipients) will often download a copy of your attachment and eventually reply with a modified attachment. So here we have multiple copies of the same content. On the one hand, this is bad in terms of document quality (the risk of error is multiplied). On the other hand, it is not relevant in terms of storage (multiple copies of the same content). The solution to this problem is to send links to documents stored in collaborative spaces (like Teams or SharePoint). Moreover, you will have control over what you share (who has access to what), which is not possible with emails with attachments.

Ecological advantage: you gain in storage (thus in cumulated in datacenters / servers to feed and cool) by avoiding multiple copies.

Collaborative advantage: you gain both in quality (a single reference document and history of changes) and in security (you keep control of the content and who has access to it).

Microsoft 365 Tip - One Drive and Sharepoint library synchronization

#3: Avoid multi-recipients

Following the previous tip, sending emails to multiple recipients will require more storage. The email must therefore have a targeted audience. In 90% of the cases, you need one or two people as recipients or copies. Another interesting example is the distribution of corporate communications by email (we will multiply the number of emails by the number of recipients). It can be interesting to use tools like SharePoint or Teams for this scenario of corporate communication. In addition to being less storage intensive, they offer interesting features ("Like", comments, number of views, link sharing).

Ecological advantage: as for the previous tip, the fewer recipients you have, the more you optimize storage.

Collaborative advantage : communication is targeted. For corporate communication, the use of dedicated tools provides specific functionalities for this use.

#4: Raise awareness of its recipients

Once you have assimilated these good practices related to messaging, it can be interesting to share them with the people with whom you exchange (employees, customers, suppliers, partners). Here again, your speech will have a double advantage.

Ecological advantage: the behavior of your interlocutors will have a positive impact on the environment. A virtuous circle.

Collaborative advantage : the collaboration with your interlocutors will be clear and the channels used will be adapted to each type of exchange.

Small aside on email:

At SmartView, we explain to our customers that it should be possible to empty an email inbox without impacting the employee's work. An email has three possible purposes:

  • First, it is disposable: once I have read the email, I can delete it (example: newsletter, informal message, information coming automatically from an application);
  • Then, it has a reference value (archive): once I have read the email, I transform it into a document and deposit it in the right place, in a repository (a meeting report deposited in Teams for example);
  • Finally, it leads to an action: once I have read the email, I create a task or an appointment from the email. NB: Outlook allows you to do this automatically by dragging and dropping an email into ToDo or the calendar.

#5: Use chat instead of email

We have already seen the problem of email storage. For all informal exchanges, the use of Teams seems much more appropriate. It covers the issues of attachments (via its file system and link sharing) and multi-recipients (a single provider and a single message storage).

Ecological advantage: the storage required for exchanges is much less than that of email.

Collaborative advantage : informal exchanges are much more fluid with Teams than a ping-pong of emails.

#6: Manage document versions

Still in this perspective of storage optimization, it is interesting to use the native document versioning system, provided with OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams. The system only stores the "difference" between two versions. This avoids having copies of documents like "MyDocument_V1.docx", "MyDocument_V2.docx", ... in your collaborative spaces (we've all seen it).

Ecological advantage: we only store the difference between the versions of the document. We therefore optimize the storage of the history.

Collaborative advantage: you always have a single reference document. In terms of quality, it is optimal, because you know at any time which is the good working document. For more information on version management, I refer you to this article: Teams or Sharepoint: which tool for my document management?

Microsoft 365 tips-automate processes with Power Automate

#7: Use synchronization only when necessary

The synchronization of OneDrive and SharePoint libraries is a useful mechanism especially when you want to work offline. Many users particularly appreciate it. However, synchronization inherently involves creating copies of documents on a hard drive. It should therefore only be used when necessary, and set to synchronize only the locations that are necessary. The arrival of 4G-5G keys, the very wide WiFi coverage of private and public spaces, or the activation of the WiFi hotspot mode of standard smartphones on the market allow to consider the connected mode as the default mode, and to forget about synchronization, in a large majority of situations.

Ecological advantage: the document is stored only once when it is not synchronized.

Collaborative advantage: using documents directly on the cloud services allows you to use real-time features, such as co-editing, and limits the risk of conflicts over documents. You always work on the same document, the "right" document.

#8: Delete obsolete content

Whether they are emails or documents, once they are no longer intended to be stored on Microsoft 365, they can and should be deleted. There are mechanisms to automatically delete/archive emails or documents on Microsoft 365. Once again, the interest is twofold.

Ecological advantage: when you delete obsolete content you free up storage space on your tenant.

Collaborative advantage : once your obsolete content is deleted, navigation and information retrieval become much more fluid.

#9: Automate your processes with Power Automate

Companies handle many processes via email exchanges (leave management, document validation, etc.). These simple processes can be easily automated with tools like Power Automate. In addition to reducing the number of emails sent, this will allow you to industrialize your processes.

Ecological advantage: reducing the number of emails allows you to optimize data center storage.

Collaborative advantage: by industrializing your processes, you reduce the risk of errors and improve follow-up.

#10: Telecommuting encouraged with Microsoft 365

As we observed during the health crisis, many companies deployed Teams and SharePoint abruptly. The reason is simple. From anywhere, employees can access their data (emails, documents), just with an internet connection. Microsoft 365 is completely adaptable to telecommuting.

Ecological advantage: with telecommuting, you avoid commuting to and from the office and therefore reduce your carbon footprint (unless you walk, bike or use soft mobility related transportation 😉 ).

Collaborative advantage: you can access your data from anywhere, the office, your home, a customer site, you just need an internet connection.

I hope these ten tips will help you optimize your carbon footprint (and your collaboration) with Microsoft 365, and thus protect our planet.

To go further, if you want transparency on the GHG emissions of your Microsoft 365 tenant, Microsoft provides a tool based on Power BI allowing you to track them(https://appsource.microsoft.com/fr-fr/product/power-bi/coi-sustainability.sustainability_dashboard).

Damien CELLE

Damien CELLE

Office 365 Consultant



An article by

Damien CELLE

Damien CELLE

Office 365 Consultant

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