Microsoft’s Shareholders Demand Right-to-Repair

The computer giant’s shareholders are demanding it investigate how right-to-repair can build a more sustainable world.
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Microsoft shareholders have filed a resolution demanding the company seriously consider making its products easier to repair. As You Sow, a non-profit that specializes in shareholder advocacy, delivered the shareholder resolution on Thursday.

According to As You Sow, the right-to-repair is important to Microsoft’s shareholders because discarded electronics are destroying the world’s environment, and Microsoft has pledged to help it stop. 

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“Microsoft is a corporate leader in pledging to take substantial action to reduce climate emissions; yet our Company actively restricts consumer access to device repairability, undermining our sustainability commitments by failing to recognize a fundamental principle of electronics sustainability: that overall device environmental impact is principally determined by the length of its useful lifetime,” the shareholders' resolution said. 

In a 2020 blog post, Microsoft said it will invest in climate innovation and eliminate single-use plastics, but it’s been quiet about repair. 

“Microsoft positions itself as a leader on climate and the environment, yet facilitates premature landfilling of its devices by restricting consumer access to device reparability,” Kelly McBee, waste program coordinator for As You Sow, said in a press release. “To take genuine action on sustainability and ease pressure on extraction of limited resources including precious metals, the company must extend the useful life of its devices by facilitating widespread access to repair.”

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In 2020, Microsoft claimed it would be a carbon neutral company by 2030. McBee said that, in order to do that, it would have to manufacture its devices to be more easily repaired. “For Microsoft to authentically pursue its commitment to be carbon negative by 2030, it must make it easier for consumers to repair their device than to buy a new one,” she said in the press release. “An important first step will be the company considering the public provision of repair tools, parts, and instructions, as this resolution and current federal legislation outline.”

The shareholder resolution is demanding that the Board “prepare a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, on the environmental and social benefits of making Company devices more easily repairable by consumers and independent repair shops.”

Shareholders want this report to assess the “benefits or harms of making instructions, parts, and/or tools for our products more readily available” and “the impact of potential state and federal legislation that requires all electronics companies to improve repair access and repairability.”

The shareholder resolution comes on the heels of the national right-to-repair legislation filed in the U.S. house and a similar law clearing the New York state senate. More than half the states in the country are now considering some form of a law that would make it easier for people to fix their own stuff. As the movement builds, companies will have to change the way they do business. This shareholder resolution is another step in the right direction.

Microsoft did not immediately return Motherboard’s request for comment.