Qualcomm’s CSR Report Highlights Progress On 2025 Sustainability Goals
Qualcomm’s 2021 Corporate Responsibility Report provides a detailed view of its efforts in driving a diverse and inclusive workforce, closing the connectivity gap with the Qualcomm Wireless Reach program, fostering the tech pipeline through its partnership with FIRST and positively impacting climate change and reducing greenhouse emissions. This is the 15th edition of the annual corporate responsibility report, a long-time commitment that granted Qualcomm a place in the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index.
In the opening of the 80-page report, President and CEO, Cristiano Amon, calls out the responsibility Qualcomm has for improving people’s lives through technology innovation and the belief that “the success of the business is fundamentally connected to the well-being of our people, the planet and the world.” This is why everyone is accountable for corporate responsibility at Qualcomm, from daily operations to our executive leadership and the Board of Directors. The governance structure put in place facilitates accountability, transparency and the ongoing improvement of the various programs undertaken by the company. Staying on course requires bringing to the table critical stakeholders from employees to investors, customers, suppliers, governments and communities where the company operates.
There is a lot to unpack in the report, but in a year when the supply chain was front, left and center for the tech sector, I want to pay particular attention to Qualcomm’s sustainable supply chain management efforts.
Climate change impacts much more than the environment as it affects entire communities and most often those already experiencing social and economic disadvantages. This means that when talking about sustainability, companies must consider the direct impact on the environment, operations and supply chain, manufacturing, and products. In 2021, Qualcomm expanded the commitment to reducing operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in its value chain and ensured new targets were aligned to the latest climate science by committing to and joining the Science Based Targets Initiative’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C and the United Nations’ Race to Zero. Qualcomm’s goals now include:
To reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 from the 2020 base year.
To reduce absolute Scope 3 GHG emissions by 25% by 2030 from the 2020 base year.
To reach net-zero global operational GHG emissions for Scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2040.
“As one of the largest semiconductor companies globally, I am proud of the commitment we have made to reach net-zero by 2025. More importantly, I am grateful that this mandate comes from the CEO, who understands the importance of what we do and the need to invest in new technologies and processes that can help us achieve our goals while remaining a market leader,” Angela Baker, Qualcomm’s Chief Sustainability Officer, told me during a video interview.
One example of what Ms. Baker is referring to is the transition to renewable energy in top operational footprint regions via long term Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), decarbonizing operations through the replacement of high global warming potential gases in manufacturing processes and reducing natural gas usage at the company’s San Diego, California headquarters.
Limiting a company's environmental impact on its own operations is only one side of the coin. Technology innovation's role in accelerating sustainability efforts also matters to partners, customers, and investors alike. For Qualcomm, this means looking at the positive impact 5G technology can have as a sustainability driver, as they highlighted in a report published last fa
Supply Chain Sustainability
Supply chain sustainability refers to companies’ efforts to consider the environmental and the human impact of their products’ journey through the supply chain. The journey starts with raw materials sourcing and goes onto production, storage, delivery of the products and every transportation touchpoint. The goal is to minimize environmental harm from factors like energy usage, water consumption, and waste production while positively impacting the people and communities in and around their operations.
Research has shown that the supply chain is responsible for the bulk of a company’s environmental impact. Seen how it often involves energy-intensive production and transportation of raw materials and finished goods around the globe, it is easy to understand why that is the case. A recent McKinsey study shows that over 80% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in most consumer-goods categories are in supply chains and over 90% of the natural capital impact. Therefore, organizations can often make the most significant difference by making changes to their supply chain rather than other business operations when it comes to sustainability efforts.
Yet, the number of suppliers most companies use and the geographical spread of their presence make maintaining optimal visibility of the entire supply chain quite complex. Qualcomm employs different methods to keep on top of things, from supply chain team direct engagement to surveys, providing training, establishing and maintaining a supplier code of conduct, quarterly quality review meetings, support the Qualcomm Taiwan Sustainability Collaboration Project to promote renewable energy development across the semiconductor supply chain and maintain the Supplier Diversity Program.
As of 2021, 78 percent of Qualcomm’s primary semiconductor manufacturing suppliers have received audits for conformance to the Supplier Code of Conduct. Qualcomm aims to ensure 100 percent of primary semiconductor manufacturing suppliers are audited every two years for conformance to the Supplier Code of Conduct. “Audits are critical, but we must avoid audit fatigue with our suppliers, so we use our audits to complement the information made available by the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) and get the full picture,” explained Baker.
RBA is the world’s largest industry coalition dedicated to corporate social responsibility in global supply chains. It provides its members, Qualcomm included, with training and assessment tools to support continual improvement in their supply chains' social, environmental and ethical responsibility while holding them accountable to a standard Code of Conduct
As is often the case, one can do well while doing good. Working towards a more sustainable supply chain requires improved supply chain visibility, which might help predict any issues that might negatively impact the supply chain itself. As we continue to see constraints on production, I would urge tech companies and organizations such as RBA to hear Ms. Baker’s call to be smart about working together and deepen their collaboration further by standardizing on self-assessment and audit so that one supplier can satisfy multiple customers’ requirements. At the same time as a member of the RBA, Qualcomm could also help those first-tier suppliers that aren’t members to become one themselves, so they will have to comply with the RBA’s standards which means they will have to assess their own supplier’s sustainability, thus creating a virtuous cycle. By doing so, Qualcomm would help limit the primary impediment to a more sustainable supply chain, which is the upfront cost smaller companies cannot afford.