Microsoft has pledged to make all of its data centers, software development labs and any other direct operations carbon neutral, starting in fiscal 2013.

The company announced its decision in a blog post, saying that it has also recently worked to promote environmental responsibility across the company and will make every business unit responsible for offsetting its own carbon emissions. The company will do so by charging a fee for carbon, which its operations in “over 100 countries” will have to pay off.

In the post, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, Kevin Turner, also highlighted the company’s smart buildings program, work to more accurately measure its carbon footprint and research into energy use and waste.

In response, Greenpeace Senior IT analyst Gary Cook said in a statement that the move is a good “first step” from Microsoft, but that the company needs to start looking at transitioning to clean energy.

“As written, the plan allows Microsoft to keep building data centers that rely on coal. ... That tactic looks good on paper, but won’t power Microsoft’s cloud with one more electron of clean electricity,” Cook said in his statement. “Microsoft should move quickly to back up its goal by committing to renewable energy for its growing data center fleet and using its influence to demand a shift away from dirty energy,” he said.

Technology companies often struggle with providing their services in a clean way. Google has dealt with the problem by investing in clean energy, such as wind farms, while Facebook has committed to pushing for clean energy when it builds data centers, Cook said.

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