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We Rise Q&A: Michael Hwang on How to Create Conversations Around Sustainability

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As part of our 2030 goals, we are raising the bar for ourselves and evolving our corporate responsibility strategy to increase the scale of our work with others to create a more responsible, inclusive, and sustainable world, enabled by technology and our collective actions. We sat down with supply chain manager, Michael Hwang to discuss sustainability beyond his day job. Michael has been passionate about sustainability long before it was trendy, leads the We Rise Sustainability Speaker series for the last 5 years. It mobilizes employees to build sustainability into their roles at Intel and their everyday lives. Read or watch our chat to gain a deeper understanding of how he is helping accelerate Intel toward our 2030 goals and how nothing was trash in his household growing up.



Tell us about your role at Intel and how it relates to the 2030 Rise Goals.
Basically, my role is to take all the programs Intel has around supply chain sustainability and implement them into the Assembly & Test operation. Programs like the RBA Code of Conduct, which combats modern slavery and deals with things like sourcing responsible minerals, ensuring our carbon and water data is disclosed by our suppliers, and ensures greener chemistries are part of our operations and supply chain processes. Outside of my role, I run a speaker series and a Sustainability at Work meetup to help Intel employees incorporate sustainable practices into their daily lives, the decisions they make. So it’s really interesting to see both the large-scale and small-scale choices happening around sustainability at Intel.

How do you define sustainability? How did you first become passionate about it?
Sustainability, to me, is the ability of our generation and society to live and operate in a way that does not compromise or sacrifice our future generations. Avoiding waste was a huge part of my cultural upbringing, then I went to college and studied Chemical Engineering for my undergrad. My professors there had a lot of their research geared towards the environmental discipline. It really helped me gain an understanding of what we do and how it relates to the outside world. That sparked the passion within me to solve these problems.

What is the biggest barrier to sustainability at Intel?
One trap people tend to fall into – especially at Intel – is thinking that their resources are limited to what they're allocated by senior management. I think companies sometimes don't grasp that sustainability is a fascinating field that people have a lot of passion around. We need to leverage their passion by providing them with opportunities to put it into action. I think with the 2030 goals Intel is really hoping to overcome this mindset by saying, “this is how you can help.”

What is different about the way Intel approaches sustainability?
I would say one difference is how we apply the use of Intel products in the context of sustainability. We combine traditional elements of the supply chain – like energy or water usage – with our cutting-edge technology and innovations. We have the mindset and the structure to be able to make decisions, big and small, that have a huge impact on sustainability at a very large scale.

Why are sustainable practices good for business?
From a practical standpoint, the inclusion of sustainability has so many benefits. Sustainability saves money for a customer by reducing material scrap so therefore we save money for the client. We need to shift our mindset from total cost savings to how we are saving the planet. For example, it is considering metrics like the amount of water and carbon saved from a particular approach. A lot of this can be achieved by leveraging Intel technologies and solutions. I think that's the next area that will have a much wider impact to the overall world, respective to what Intel's specific footprint is.

Tell us a little about the We Rise Speaker Series.
The We Rise Speaker Series is really geared on including the wider Intel population as part of the conversation, and as part of the action for the sustainability programs within Intel. It's really here to generate ideas, garner expertise and provide people a forum to generate ideas and to have conversations on what are more efficient or better ways in solving sustainability challenges.

What should we do if we feel like we have a great idea for sustainability but we’re not sure if it will change anything?
What I would say is, understanding the way your organization works is important. Your ideas could provide a light bulb in someone’s head that would help them think about how to do things differently. And you might run into resistance from your organization or even the sustainability organizations because your idea is different from the way things have always been done. But don’t let that stop you from sharing your ideas. At Intel, I think our RISE2030 goals have established a common vision that basically says, “Now our products can play a role in that also.” So, do we want to just reduce Intel's carbon footprint? Or do we want to apply Intel technology to eliminate a worldwide carbon footprint? Those types of mechanisms and ideas are the starting point for everything.

What is your best advice for others wanting to live more sustainably?
Be mindful and take action. Get educated on the problems our world faces, whether it's climate change or planetary boundaries, like chemical contamination or water usage. When you're able to understand what those things are, start acting on those. Whether it's to educate, do things individually, or help policy action take hold and solve those problems. If you're able to, if you have passion enough to do things like that, you can make an impact! Even if your actions get one more can out of the landfill, it’s worth it.


Learn more about our RISE strategy and Intel’s 2030 impact goals here.


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