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Chip Sustainability Efforts Get Their Own Consortium

Going green is becoming table stakes no matter the sector, and the semiconductor industry formalized a commitment to sustainability by launching the Semiconductor Climate Consortium (SCC).

SEMI, the industry association serving the global electronics manufacturing and design supply chain along with more than 60 founding semiconductor companies, is governing the initiative. James Amano, SEMI’s senior director of environment, health, safety, and sustainability, told EE Times that sustainability has become a major focus of the industry and the association’s 2,500 members in recent years. While many members have their own sustainability initiatives, he acknowledged that “we’re stronger as an industry association with all of our members rather than individual voices.”

The formation of the SCC was spurred by collaboration with member companies meeting under the SEMI Sustainability Initiative, which will continue to focus on non-climate related Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues. It launched in 2021 and gained momentum quickly, Amano said.

The SCC contains three key pillars: collaboration, transparency, and ambition. With these ideologies, the SCC will enable members to collaborate and align on common approaches, technology innovations, and communications channels to continuously reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Transparency will come in the form of publicly reported progress annually, including Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.

The ambition, Amano said, is to set near- and long-term decarbonization targets with the aim of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. All founding members have affirmed their support of the Paris Agreement and related accords driving the 1.5⁰C pathway. “The fundamental goal here is to improve and reduce emissions in the industry,” he added.

Meeting SCC targets means different things to different member companies because it affects varying parts of the value chain. For a fab company, it might be about hitting energy conservation targets. Sustainability can also impact the type of materials used and how they are sourced—but the core issue is emissions.

The SCC will look to help organizations tackle Scope 1 emissions (direct emissions from company-owned and controlled resources), Scope 2 emissions (indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy, from a utility provider), and Scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions resulting from activities related to a company or organization). Amano noted Scope 3 emissions are the most challenging for much of the supply chain.

Scope 3 emissions can come from a variety of sources, such as the production and transportation of materials, waste disposal, employee commuting, and the use of company-owned vehicles. “This was identified as one of the key issues moving forward,” Amano said.

The SCC will look to work with other associations and NGOs, as well as the investment community, he said. “We really need all hands-on deck. It’s going to be the complete value chain moving forward.” The collaborative nature of SCC will mean sharing intelligence and best practices all participants can benefit from. “We consider this a pre-competitive space,” Amano added.

Founding SCC member companies such as Micron Technology have already increased their focus on sustainability. Micron releases an annual progress report on its milestones around its ESG priorities. Applied Materials also releases annual sustainability reports. Amano said the companies focusing on sustainability are making headway on emissions reductions that have been cumulative over the past decade.

Schneider Electric, another founding SCC member company, has a strong focus on sustainability across its entire ecosystem. At the recently held infra/STRUCTURE conference in Toronto, the company’s director of strategic initiatives, Carsten Baumann, said sustainability is no longer a “nice to have,” and transforming more into a “must have.”

Given today’s challenges in the supply chain, long-term sustainability must address the complexity of the supplier ecosystem and focus on transparency. Schneider publishes a quarterly scorecard as part of its own commitment to sustainability, with a breakdown of everything from materials in electronics to water and electricity use, including usage in manufacturing.

Research by KMPG shows that companies are taking sincere initiatives to measure and minimize environmentally unfriendly operations. The study also reveals sustainable business practices are increasingly considered a corporate obligation as part of an overall ESG strategy.

By  EETimes