Intel Demonstrates Water Leadership in Semiconductor Industry

Intel's 2012 CR Report is chock-full of impressive accomplishments, but the company still wastes too much water and produces too much chemical waste.
Intel’s 2012 CR Report is chock-full of impressive accomplishments, but the company still wastes too much water and produces too much chemical waste.

Intel Corporation has released its 2012 Corporate Responsibility Report, summarizing the chipmaker’s performance across a range of sustainability activities. The report – the company’s 12th – also provides updates on Intel’s progress toward its 2020 environmental goals.

“Intel’s annual Corporate Responsibility Report allows us to transparently track our progress and aggressively work toward new goals in areas ranging from supply chain responsibility to K-12 education,” said Michael Jacobson, director of corporate responsibility at Intel.

The report documents the company’s corporate responsibility efforts along several fronts, including employee engagement, renewable power, green building design, supply chain responsibility, and education.

The Good: across-the-board accomplishments

Many of the company’s most impressive sustainability accomplishments are in the field of renewable power. Intel has been the largest voluntary buyer of green power in the United States for that last five years, and this year the company plans to increase its green power purchases to the equivalent of 100 percent of its projected annual U.S. electricity use. The company has installed 18 solar power stations on nine of its campuses.

Intel’s employee engagement achievements are hardly less impressive. In 2012, Intel workers donated 1.2 million hours of service to more than 5,400 schools and nonprofit organizations in 42 countries, bringing the total donated hours to more than five million in the last five years.

Other accomplishments include the completion of its 29th LEED-certified building project, the successful manufacture of a microprocessor free of conflict-free tantalum, and the investment of some $100 million in education programs globally.

“Embedding corporate responsibility into our vision, strategy and management systems creates value for us, as well as our stockholders, customers and our global communities,” said Jacobson.

The Bad: Still so wasteful

Still, the report is not without its disappointments. In 2012, Intel generated 47.3 thousand tons of chemical waste, a twelve thousand ton increase from 2011. Moreover, the company recycled a smaller percentage of chemical waste in 2012 than it did the previous year.

Moreover, Intel’s total usage of water, a resource of which the semiconductor industry is notoriously wasteful because of the need to rinse silicon wafers of decontaminants, has increased every year since 2008.

Of its water usage, the company observes that it is using less water for each chip it manufactures and further notes that Intel employees received an Environmental Excellence Award last year for conserving 90 million gallons of water.

However, the company’s total water usage jumped from 8.3 billion in 2011 to a full 9 billion in 2012, rendering the 90 million in savings somewhat insignificant.

But excessive water usage in the semiconductor industry (and it is excessive — the Arizona Daily Star once reported that a typical semiconductor chipmaking plant can use enough water in one day to supply a medium-sized city) comes with the territory. Ultimately, Intel’s corporate responsibility efforts are industry-leading in an inherently unsustainable industry.

Conclusion: integrating corporate social responsibility

Indeed, the extent to which the company has embedded sustainability across its operations deserves credit. Suzanne Fallender, who directs Intel’s sustainability communications and has been instrumental in compiling the company’s last six corporate responsibility reports, said in a blog post that she has been an eye witness to the integration of sustainability across the entire span of the company’s operations.

“The most important one change I’ve seen that cuts across all of [the report’s] highlights?” she asked. “It’s how corporate responsibility and sustainability have become more deeply integrated into our business – into our reporting approach, into our management practices, and into how we approach value creation.”

A full copy of the report is available on the company’s website. Intel also provides a report builder for those interested only in certain segments of the company’s corporate responsibility initiatives.

[Image credit: Wimox, Flickr]

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, TriplePundit, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens

One response

  1. Corporate social responsibility and sustainability is the major theme of my novel, Thirsty Planet, which I’ve made available FREE for a limited time as an ebook on Kindle, Smashwords, and other ebook retailers. Sometimes fiction works best when getting across ideas for important policy issues. The book has achieved many top reviews but I believe it needs to reach as many decision makers as possible. That’s why it’s now FREE.

Leave a Reply