Manufacturers have a huge opportunity to create products that will drive global sustainability and make their businesses stronger, says Intel CSO, Todd Brady.
“I strongly believe that good business and sustainability practices go hand in hand.”
Todd Brady, Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President, Global Public Affairs, Intel Corporation
Co-founded in 1968 by semiconductor pioneers Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, and later led by the company’s third original employee, Andy Grove, during the high-growth 1980s and 90s, Intel Corporation is now the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer with revenues of $79 billion and supported by 121,000 employees around the world.
Intel’s long tradition of focusing on and reporting its own sustainability performance over the last few decades has seen the company consistently ranked as a corporate environmental leader in industrial sustainability by numerous organizations, from Forbes to Dow Jones. In addition to successfully adopting its own internal sustainability programs, Intel has also become a leading initiator in numerous non-competitive coalitions aimed at driving more sustainable practices across broader industrial ecosystems.
In our latest interview with an industry thought-leader, Intel’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Todd Brady, talks to the MLC’s Executive Editor Paul Tate about the company’s own internal progress on environmental targets, the critical importance of harnessing digital technologies and AI in its sustainability efforts, engaging employees, suppliers, and even competitors in the process, and the pivotal role manufacturing can play in developing the products the world needs to meet urgent climate goals and create a more sustainable future.
Q: What excites you most about your role as Chief Sustainability Officer at Intel?
A: I strongly believe that good business and sustainability practices go hand in hand. The most rewarding part of that is making a difference in our day-to-day operations, our impact on the world, and our bottom line and the viability of the business. I truly believe that by making our operations more sustainable, we are making our business stronger. That’s something that really incentivizes me and gets me moving forward.
Q: What’s driving Intel’s sustainability initiatives?
A: Intel has been setting sustainability goals for several decades now, since around 1994. We set our latest round of goals and initiatives in 2020 with a 10-year vision of where we want to be by 2030. These cover key themes such as net zero greenhouse gas emissions, which we aim to achieve by 2040, net positive water, and zero waste to landfill. So, as we manufacture and make our products, how can we have a net zero or even net positive impact on the environment and the communities in which we operate? That’s the overall vision that we’re trying to achieve with these goals.
Q: What progress have you made so far?
A: We want to achieve net zero greenhouse gases by 2040 in our Scope 1 and 2 emissions. To do that, we’ve set a number of milestones. The first is to use 100% renewable energy globally by 2030. We’re a little over 80% today and we anticipate we’ll be about 90% by the end of this year. We’re already 100% renewable in the US, Europe, Israel, and Malaysia.
“We’ve set a number of milestones. The first is to use 100% renewable energy globally by 2030. We’re a little over 80% today and we anticipate we’ll be about 90% by the end of this year.”
We also have a goal for Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions for our supply chain that is a 30% reduction. We’ve taken a number of steps with our suppliers to engage and collectively work towards that goal. We see these sustainability issues as non-competitive and that we all need to work on collectively, both with our supply chain and with our competitors, at times.
Another goal is around water and our water use. Our goal is to be net positive water, so for every gallon of water we bring in and use in our manufacturing process, we’re returning a gallon or more water back to the community. We do that in two ways. One is by recycling, reclaiming, and reusing our water internally, and we’ve invested upwards of a billion dollars in that over the past decade. The second is by doing projects outside of Intel in the community, with NGOs, with government agencies, with farmers, and others, to support water conservation measures that put more water back into local streams and aquifers where we operate. This year we have just achieved net positive water in three locations where we operate – the US, India and Costa Rica.
Q: Does meeting some of these targets also involve adopting new circular economy approaches?
A: Yes. The circular economy is a big focus for us. We have goals as part of our 2030 framework, for example, to be zero waste to landfill and to upcycle over 60% of our manufacturing waste. The reason for that, again, goes back to the concept of tying together sustainability and the business. We need to look at our waste streams not as waste, but as something of value and not to look at them as something that we need to discard or get rid of. So, we’ve created a number of circular economy type solutions for a variety of different waste streams. Some of our fluoride waste streams are repurposed into cement. Some of our phosphorous waste streams are repurposed into fertilizer. Some of our solvents are recovered and either reused or resold as high value materials. Copper is another example. We use a lot of copper in semiconductors, so we have an extensive copper reclamation process and then we sell that for a profit into the reclaim market to be reused.
I think it’s about a change of mindset – not looking at waste as something that’s discarded, but instead looking at what value we can we get from it. That reduces our costs, and in some cases, generates a new revenue stream. And the more we look at it, the more we find new opportunities to create those circular loops.
Q: You mentioned that working closely with partners and competitors in broader, industry-wide ecosystems is important to making change happen. What role has Intel played in instigating these initiatives?
A: We’ve initiated a number of different coalitions over the years. Again, we have a history of doing this because we see these sustainability topics as non-competitive where collectively we need to work as an industry to solve some of the biggest challenges we face.
A couple of examples. Way back in 1998, we pulled the industry together to start working on reducing chemicals called perfluorocarbons, one of the greenhouse gases. As an industry, we committed voluntarily to reduce the overall emissions of those gases over time. For one company alone, it’s impossible to do. But working together, we have made significant reductions and even exceeded the goals we all set.
“It really is endless when you start thinking about all the different ways companies can use digital technologies to monitor, control, and then optimize their equipment, their operations, and how they are doing business.”
Another example is removing the lead from our products. When the European Union established the RoHS directive restricting hazardous substances, like lead, cadmium, chromium, and other heavy metals, again, that required us to come together as an industry and we helped form various coalitions looking to develop alternative solders to the traditional tin lead solder that was used in electronic products.
And last month, we launched the Semiconductor Climate Consortium across the industry, a new carbon initiative with 60 other companies where we’re working with all of our supply chain to tackle the remaining carbon emissions that we have as an industry and how we can go about doing that. So again, collectively we can accomplish much, much more by working together as an industry than we can independently.
Q: Do these groups deliver practical outcomes for their members, like new sustainability methodologies or tools?
A: Yes. For example, another industry group we’re involved in with MIT and many other IT companies, big OEMs, is called PAIA – Product Attribute to Impact Algorithm. It’s a carbon footprint methodology for calculating the lifecycle carbon footprint of electronic products. From there, companies can then figure out how to reduce that carbon footprint further. We’re strong believers in having that kind of open architecture so that we can all use the same standards and methodologies as we go forward.
Q: How important are digital technologies to driving the future of sustainability, both for companies and globally?
A: I believe digital technologies are a critical tool to help make the industry, and the world, more efficient and reduce its carbon emissions. While we’ve focused a lot on the carbon footprint of the company and the broader semiconductor industry, at the same time, we need to look at what we call the handprint, which is what we can actually do with our products to make the world more sustainable. I think that’s where IT industry is in a very unique situation because digital products can, and will, help make the world much more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions.
A report out of Europe by GeSI a few years ago called SMARTer2030 estimated that for every ton of carbon emissions produced by the IT industry, there was the opportunity to reduce the world’s emissions by 10 tons, almost a 10 to one return, by enabling smarter manufacturing, smarter buildings, smarter infrastructure, smarter transportation, smarter agriculture, you name it. All of those are enormous opportunities. We can already see it happening by applying digital technologies in both our own operations and in many of our customers.
Q: Which digital technologies are making the most sustainable impact at Intel?
A: There are many, many different examples. Take some of the new office buildings that we’ve built. These have been designed from the ground up to be smart buildings, integrating sensors throughout to monitor and control everything from lighting to HVAC and all the facility systems. Many of these are now LEED Platinum certified buildings, achieving anywhere from 30 to 50% reductions in the amount of energy being used, as well as reductions in water consumption. By monitoring the building in real time and understanding where the people are, where you need lighting, where you need cooling, heating, etc., you can make significant savings.
“Tapping into our people and their innovation is critical, because the engineers and technicians on the ground are the ones that know what’s going on within the business, within our operations.”
Another example would be in our manufacturing process. We have some big industrial equipment in use, and again, we’ve added additional sensors and monitoring and networking to optimize the performance. In our manufacturing and fabrication facilities we have a number of large industrial chillers which provide essential cooling, with maybe 20 or 30 chillers in a particular location. They are most efficient when they’re running near capacity, as opposed to very low load, and traditionally each of those chillers operated independently. Now we can link them all together and make them virtual, and by using AI and algorithms, we can optimize those chillers by changing the load depending on demand and monitor that in real time. Again, we’re seeing 20 to 30% less energy usage by integrating digital technology.
And as we dig into more and more sustainability opportunities using smart technologies including AI, we have been able to achieve very fast returns on investment of five years or less, often three years or less, and sometimes within a year. It really is endless when you start thinking about all the different ways companies can use digital technologies to monitor, control, and then optimize their equipment, their operations, and how they are doing business. Again, it’s that link between sustainability and good business.
Q: How are you engaging Intel’s workforce in this smart sustainability strategy?
A: Let me give you one example. When we started our energy efficiency program over a decade ago now, we did a call out to all our engineers around the world and said, “If you have an idea about how to make us more efficient, save money, and reduce our environmental impact, send it to us. We’ll fund it and take it from there. But it’s got to have a positive ROI and it’s got to have a positive environmental impact.”
I was blown away by how many ideas came forward. I think in the first year our budget was a million dollars – and we used it all up, just like that! Fast forward to today, and we’re now investing $30 million dollars a year on various energy efficiency projects, which are driven by our people, and by the engineers and the technicians who bring forward those ideas. Tapping into our people and their innovation is critical, because the engineers and technicians on the ground are the ones that know what’s going on within the business, within your operations.
The second example is that we’ve tied our employees’ bonuses to sustainability for over a decade. Everyone in the company is directly linked to our sustainability performance as a company. No matter what their role, whether it’s an attorney, a technician, a marketing person, whatever, there’s an incentive to think, “How can I help drive forward Intel’s sustainability agenda?” At the end of the day, everyone’s bonus is tied to how we do it and what we achieve. That’s another way we’ve been able to engage our people across the company.
Q: So, what level of priority do you think other manufacturing leadership teams should now be putting on sustainability for the years ahead?
A: There are many things driving the business case for sustainability today. One is simply driving efficiency in your own operations. They have a direct RoI and deliver cost savings and performance improvements in many areas.
But broadening the lens, our customers today absolutely expect us to be working on sustainability. And we also expect our own suppliers to be focused on sustainability too. It’s part of our supplier report card. When we judge our suppliers on how they’re doing, we look at their cost, we look at quality, we look at schedules, and whether they are meeting all of those core business aspects. But we also rate them and judge them on their sustainability performance. And we see the same from our own customers as well. So, for most manufacturers now, whatever product you’re producing, your customer wants a sustainable product to sell to their end customer, the consumer of that product. That’s becoming increasingly more evident as we talk on a regular basis with all our customers.
“I think the biggest challenge for the future is how do we continue to grow, both as Intel and as an industry, but continue to be more sustainable?”
The third area is with investors. I’ve been meeting with socially responsible investors, ESG investors, for almost 20 years now and I’ve seen a definite shift from a couple of decades ago. Back then there were only a handful of companies focused on socially responsible investing. Today it’s a who’s who of the investment community. You can’t find a big investment company that does not have an ESG research team. Increasingly, investors want to know that they are investing money in a company that is sustainable, is improving, and is thinking about how they can take actions to do so.
Lastly, governments. Sustainability regulations are increasing all around the world. We have many different proposals both in the US and the EU around climate reporting, CSR reporting, and so on. These are all raising the expectation that we are transparent as companies in terms of what our climate impact is, and what we’re doing to reduce that impact over time.
So, with all of those drivers, it is very clear that sustainability is not simply the issue of the day, but it’s becoming the norm and an expectation for all companies on how they will operate in the future.
Q: You mentioned scoring your suppliers on sustainability, increasingly important for Scope 3 reporting in the future. Does Intel actively help supplier companies, especially the smaller and medium sized suppliers who may not have the budgets or skills, to improve their own sustainability footprints?
A: It’s a great point because it’s easy to look to Intel or other multi-billion-dollar companies and say, ‘Well, you can induce sustainability because you have the resources.’ So, one of the things that we’ve done is to create supply chain summits and sustainability summits. We’ve held those for several years in Asia where we have a lot of our supply chain and a number of smaller companies and development companies who have asked for our help. At these summits we sit down and talk through what our expectations are, and what the various challenges are. It’s also a great opportunity for our suppliers to network together and learn what each other is doing. We’ve also held seminars and webinars on a variety of different topics to help our supply chain, and we’ve formed coalitions around supply chain improvements too.
“As we look forward to 2030, 2040, 2050, we as manufacturers now need to be looking ahead at where the world is going and produce the products that the world needs to address the planet’s sustainability challenges for the future.”
As we look at our own supply chain, renewable energy is a big opportunity. As a company, over half of our supply chain emissions are associated with energy use. So, I think driving more renewable energy sources and making those more readily available, are a significant opportunity and one that we, as manufacturers, should take advantage of.
Q: Looking ahead, what would you highlight as the greatest business challenges and opportunities for the manufacturing industry over the next five years?
A: I think the biggest challenge for the future is how do we continue to grow, both as Intel and as an industry, but continue to be more sustainable? We need manufacturing. Manufacturing is critical for the world and for global economic development. But how do we decouple that growth from increased resource usage? The expectation is certainly that we need to do that. We’ve got to all collectively get our greenhouse gas emissions down to zero. The issue is, how do we not grow our footprint as rapidly as we grow our businesses, and then continue to drive that at speed?
On the flip side, I think the big opportunity for the IT sector, and other manufacturing sectors as well, is that our innovation and products can be used to help make the world more sustainable. Look at renewable energy: we need renewable energy to achieve climate goals. But that renewable energy needs to be run on a smart grid because renewables are produced intermittently. You can’t have the same grid and controls that you have for a traditional coal fire power plant or natural gas plant that’s running 24/7. You need smarter technology to be able to route that green energy where it’s needed, and how it’s needed. So, there’s a big opportunity for new products and new services to get us there.
As we look forward to 2030, 2040, 2050, we as manufacturers now need to be looking ahead at where the world is going and produce the products that the world needs to address the planet’s sustainability challenges for the future.
Q: Finally, if you had to focus on one thing as a watchword or catchphrase for the future of manufacturing, what would that be?
A: For me, there are two things: sustainable manufacturing to make the business stronger and decoupling growth from an organization’s environmental footprint.
As an industry, we need to grow our businesses, and grow economically, but we need to decouple the environmental impact of economic growth. To do that, leaders have got to think out of the box. They have to think differently. By spending a little bit of money outside the company and partnering with key organizations or companies to create more sustainable approaches, organizations can achieve far more than they ever could by themselves in their own operations.
That out of the box thinking is really what’s needed as we go forward into the future. M
FACT FILE: Intel Corporation
HQ: Santa Clara, CA
Industry Sector: Semiconductors, computing, automation, AI
Sales: $79.02 Billion (2021)
Net Income: $19.87 Billion (2021)
Employees: 121,000 Employees
Production Sites: 10 Primary Manufacturing Sites
EXECUTIVE PROFILE: Todd Brady
Title: Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President, Global Public Affairs, Intel Corporation
Education: BSc degree in chemical engineering, Brigham Young University; Masters’ degree in environmental engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Languages: English, Italian
Previous Roles Include:
– Global Public Affairs Director, Intel Corporation
– Corporate Sustainability Director, Intel Corporation
– Global Environmental, Health and Safety Director, Intel Corporation
– Corporate Environmental Director, Intel Corporation
– Product Ecology Manager, Intel Corporation
– Environmental Engineer and Manager, Intel Corporation
Other Industry Roles/Awards/Board Memberships
– Top 20 Sustainability Leaders, Sustainability Magazine
– Top 10 Outstanding Leaders, Advancing Science and Technology in Research/Business/Policy Pursuits, –
– #1 Most Sustainable Company, Barrons
– America’s Most Responsible Companies, Newsweek
– CDP “A” Ranking for Climate and Water
– Corporate Knights, Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporate Citizens
– Dow Jones Sustainability Index, North America Index
– Just Capital, Just 100
About the author:
Paul Tate is Co-founding Executive Editor and Senior Content Director of the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council.