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  • Writer's pictureCarolina MIlanesi

Intel Sustainability Summit: A Look Into the Future of Tech Collaboration for a Sustainable Supply Chain


In an era where regulatory requirements evolve rapidly, and the call for sustainability becomes more prominent, industries across the globe are facing an unprecedented challenge: to innovate, collaborate, and drive change from within.

 

I recently attended the Intel Sustainability Summit where 120 companies representing over 7 million employees, $3.2 trillion in total annual revenue and with 37% of them having a sustainable product commitment, ignited a conversation that could very well shape the future of industry operations, emphasizing the importance of collaborative effort, transparency. Intel's thought leadership in driving sustainability throughout the semiconductor ecosystem is a powerful catalyst for change. By setting a strong example and sharing best practices, Intel inspires and empowers its partners, suppliers, and peers to embrace eco-friendly practices. This ripple effect of sustainability-focused collaboration and innovation has the potential to transform the entire industry. Intel's commitment to sustainability in its supply chain demonstrates that environmental stewardship and business success can go hand in hand. The response to its first sustainability summit made it clear that the ecosystem is ready to come together to drive change.

 

Over the past decade, the landscape of industry-led sustainability efforts has undergone significant transformation. Initially characterized by voluntary initiatives, the dynamic has shifted towards a more regulatory-driven approach. Governments no longer wait for industries to present solutions but instead impose methodologies, demanding innovation and swiftness in tackling problems such as power, water scarcity, and access to materials. This shift puts industries at a crossroads where the cost of inaction could mean losing the license to operate.

 

At the summit, the consensus was clear: sustainable practices should not be viewed as mere compliance but as the foundation for building resilient, trusted, and future-proof businesses. It's about setting a new standard that intertwines operational excellence with environmental stewardship.

 

The Untapped Potential of Water Stewardship in Tech

 

In the bustling world of technology, where cutting-edge innovations and advancements take center stage, an often-overlooked element plays a crucial role in the sustainability and efficiency of the industry: water. The importance of water stewardship in the tech supply chain is gaining attention, highlighting the need for comprehensive strategies to manage this vital resource thoughtfully and responsibly.

 

The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) stands at the forefront of this initiative, promoting sustainable water use among businesses that consume significant volumes of water. Unlike Water.org, which focuses on raising funds for community-based projects, AWS targets businesses, offering them a framework to optimize water usage and engage positively with communities and stakeholders sharing the same water resources.

 

AWS's approach is built around the International Water Stewardship Standard, a non-prescriptive, global standard that caters to different sectors, recognizing the unique challenges and solutions required in each case. The standard outlines five key outcomes concerning water management, including qualitative and quantitative aspects, values-based outcomes, access to safe water, sanitation, hygiene, and governance. The goal is to encourage businesses to understand their impacts on water resources and take meaningful steps to address shared water challenges collaboratively.

 

The tech industry, in particular, is under the spotlight for its water use, especially with the proliferating demand for powerful computing and the resulting need for efficient cooling solutions in data centers. However, AWS points out that the most significant water impacts often lie within the supply chains. Companies like Apple have led by example, prioritizing water investments in water-stressed regions and pushing for water stewardship among their suppliers, particularly in the semiconductor manufacturing sector.

 

Measuring and managing water use in the tech industry presents unique challenges, given the contextual nature of water. Unlike carbon emissions, where the impact is globally uniform, water's impact is highly dependent on the local context, making it a complex issue to tackle. The AWS standard endeavors to address this by promoting collective action in water-stressed zones, advocating for a holistic and localized approach to water sustainability.

 

In Sustainability Sharing is Caring

 

The semiconductor industry, instrumental in driving technological advancement, faces its own set of unique sustainability challenges. Siemens stands as a colossus across various sectors, yet its role in the semiconductor industry epitomizes both innovation and commitment to sustainability.

 

With initiatives spanning the full value chain, from ASIC development to the fostering of sustainable manufacturing practices, Siemens has embedded sustainability into its core operations. The company's extensive sustainability program, underscores its holistic approach, focusing not just on decarbonization but encompassing resource efficiency, governance, and ethics. With around 65,000 suppliers, Siemens relies on digital solutions such as the blockchain-based C green software to track product carbon footprints across the supply chain, showcasing a concrete solution to the growing demand for transparency and accountability in environmental impact.

 

In addressing these challenges, Siemens is cognizant of the varied regional needs and resources, from biogas availability in agricultural regions to hydrogen pipelines. This geographical awareness is crucial for developing site-specific, optimized decarbonization roadmaps, further emphasizing the need for a nuanced approach to sustainability.

 

Embracing Collaboration for Sustainable Innovation

 

The semiconductor industry's approach to sustainability crystallizes the broader theme of the summit: the vital need for collaboration. Addressing complex challenges such as greenhouse gas emissions and responsible resource consumption demands a unified effort. The development of an industry-wide roadmap towards net-zero emissions exemplifies the commitment to collective action, a sentiment echoed throughout the discussions at the event.

 

Moreover, the summit underscored the importance of not allowing proprietary interests to hinder progress. The shared goal of sustainability necessitates openness, innovation, and a willingness to forge paths that benefit not only individual companies but the planet as a whole.

 

Keyvan Esfarjan, EVP, Chief Global Operations Officer, General Manager, Foundry Manufacturing and Supply Chain kept on coming back to one key point: a state-of-the-art supply chain must be trusted, resilient and sustainable.

 

Moving Forward with a Unified Vision

 

As industries navigate the path towards sustainability, the realization that environmental stewardship is not just an ethical obligation, but a strategic advantage marks a significant shift in corporate paradigms. The roles of regulations, innovation, and collaboration are intertwined, each playing a crucial part in shaping a sustainable future.

 

The road to sustainability is complex and fraught with challenges, yet the collective resolve and innovative spirit demonstrated at the summit offer a beacon of hope. As industries continue to grapple with the demands of environmental stewardship, the blueprint laid out — characterized by collaboration, innovative regulation, and a commitment to comprehensive sustainability practices — provides a promising path forward.

 

In a world where sustainability is non-negotiable, the actions, commitments, and visions shared at the Intel Sustainability Summit are not just ideals but necessary steps towards a thriving, resilient, and sustainable global industry landscape.

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