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Investing in a Better Future Through Sustainable Silicon

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Investing in a Better Future Through Sustainable Silicon
By: Todd Brady, Vice President, Global Public Affairs & Chief Sustainability Officer 

Semiconductors power the technological innovations that will move us all toward a more energy-efficient and sustainable future. Therefore, it’s increasingly important that those chips are sustainably made.  

The choices we make today to mitigate the impacts of climate change can create a better tomorrow for future generations. But, that future hinges on our immediate ability to collaborate, invest, and act. 

Both governments and businesses have decisive roles to play in leveraging the necessary resources to build a new, net-zero economy. For Intel, CEO Pat Gelsinger put it simply: “Intel was built for these kinds of challenges.”  

Intel has been a leader in sustainability for decades. In fact, our actions have enabled us to avoid over 80% of our cumulative Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the last decade. Today, we’re doubling down on our holistic approach to reduce our energy use, emissions, waste and water use across our operations, products, platforms, software, and solutions. It’s an ambitious and aggressive plan to meet the global climate challenge. 

Investing in Renewable Electricity 

Our roadmap to reduce GHG emissions starts internally. Intel is making significant investments in renewable electricity across our manufacturing operations and office buildings. Our goal is to achieve 100% renewable electricity use across our global operations and conserve 4 billion kWh of electricity by 2030. As of the end of 2022, we exceeded 93% of our global renewable electricity commitment. 

One way we will meet that goal is by working with local utility providers. Together, we’re developing new contracting mechanisms worldwide that facilitate the construction of renewable electricity projects near many of our sites. Over the past decade, the alternative and renewable electricity installations at our sites have grown dramatically, and today, we have more than 110 installations across our campuses.  

Reducing Direct and Indirect Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

Achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most complicated challenges the technology industry faces.  

Last year, Intel kicked off two major initiatives. Our plan is to reduce our absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions, which include direct emissions from operations and the emissions associated with purchased electricity, by 10% from 2020 to 2030 and also reach net-zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions across our global operations by 2040.   

Investing in renewable electricity is one way we are lowering our operational footprint. To ultimately achieve net-zero will require developing and piloting novel green chemistry solutions, abatement tools, new equipment designs and facility systems, many of which do not exist today. Therefore, we are deepening our long-standing collaboration across the ecosystem to drive sustainable semiconductor manufacturing initiatives. For instance, Intel is a founding member of the newly created Semiconductor Climate Consortium (SCC), which brings together our suppliers, peers and customers to accelerate solutions for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. 

As we think about our Scope 3 GHG footprint, we’re working with our suppliers to lower supply chain greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% by 2030 than they would be in the absence of investment and action. And we’re increasing energy efficiency and lowering the carbon footprint of our products and platforms, which helps our customers achieve their sustainability goals.  

Net Positive Water Use by 2030 

Water is arguably one of the most important ingredients to create the processors that power the electronic devices, and Intel is committed to efficiently managing our water use, investing in water conservation and reuse in our operations and funding projects that enable water restoration in our local watersheds.  

We’re on the path to conserving 60 billion gallons of water and achieving net positive water by 2030, which is defined as restoring more fresh water to our local watersheds than we consume. In Arizona, for example, we’re funding three new water restoration projects on the Price, Yampa and Colorado rivers. These projects will have a restoration benefit of nearly 1 billion gallons of water each year. 

We also invested to help Arizona farmers swap crops for less water-intensive growing and partnered with CLEAN International and SayTrees to fund water restoration projects to restore Dyavasandra Lake and Nanjapura Lake in Bengaluru, India. Together, the projects restore more than 1.2 billion gallons of water. 

Investments in water restoration projects like these have enabled the restoration of billions of gallons of water, and Intel achieved net positive water use in the U.S. and India in 2022. This year, Intel expects to conserve and restore 12 billion gallons of water across our operations through community partnerships and watershed restoration projects. Last year, we made significant progress toward our 2030 goal by conserving 9.6 billion gallons of water and more than 26 billion gallons cumulatively from our 2020 baseline. 

Public-Private Partnerships Enable Collective Action 

The world’s greatest challenges will not be solved by one country, one leader, or one company. It will take collective action. 

President Joe Biden recently called on fellow leaders to recommit themselves to action “while we still have time.” That action includes decarbonizing energy, ending deforestation, reducing non-CO2 emissions, and advancing carbon management.  

The U.S. and European Union are pursuing ambitious climate mitigation goals. The U.S. is on a path to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. President Biden’s plan includes developing clean energy at home and accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles. Semiconductors are critical to forming the basis of these and many other carbon-reducing technologies. The bipartisan U.S. CHIPS and Science Act and EU Chips Act provides incredible momentum for these initiatives. Through the legislation, billions of dollars will be invested to boost zero-carbon technology. Intel’s ambitious European and U.S. investment plans will have positive effects across industries and governments. Building up manufacturing capacities and R&D capabilities at this scale through public-private partnerships creates a virtuous cycle of innovation and climate-focused initiatives.  

Sustainability is a Shared Journey 

Reaching our sustainability goals is a multi-decade journey, and I’m proud of the progress Intel has made so far. Barron’s ranked Intel as the top technology company on its 2023 list of the 100 most sustainable companies in the U.S.  

Semiconductors are integral to the collective effort to address climate change, and we see our role not just to develop technology that supports sustainability, but to put sustainability at the heart of our own business. Everyone should be asking where their silicon is coming from and whether it’s sustainably made. The chip industry must take environmental, social and governance principles into account when making business decisions. Our action through systems changes, technological innovation, and global collaboration is driving our entire value chain toward a more sustainable future.  

We create world-changing technology that improves the life of every person on the planet. By using our experience and international influence as one of the largest semiconductor designers and manufacturers, Intel is helping to move us all toward a future of more sustainable computing. We are applying our reach, scale, and resources to deliver bold goals. And we’re not doing it alone. We’re working with our customers, suppliers, industry peers, and community and government leaders to galvanize the industry for even greater impact.  

Together we can make a difference. 

1 Comment

This is very important work. It could be even more effective if combined with or pursued in partnership with research programs in renewable energy use and data center control technologies being developed at universities. Can Intel leverage such work to step up its activities in sustainable technologies even further?