Intel has set some ambitious new sustainability goals: By 2020, it wants to reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent per chip, cut water use to below 2010 levels on a per-chip basis, decrease the amount of chemical waste it generates by 10 percent from 2010 levels, eliminate all chemical waste going to landfills and recycle 90 percent of its solid waste.
But it certainly has its work cut out. In the company's 2011 corporate responsibility report, released today, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) said it didn't meet all of its previous goals. It has significantly cut its greenhouse-gas emissions and it's making more energy-efficient products – but it also has been using more water and producing more chemical waste.
Cutting its carbon footprint
Intel reduced its carbon footprint by more than 60 percent from 2007 -- tripling its goal of cutting emissions 20 percent by 2012 – via measures such as installing solar panels and buying other green energy. Even more impressively, it did this while growing revenue 41 percent during that period. The reductions bring the company's emissions down to 1.3 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent per year.
“I think in the area of addressing climate change and the environment, we’re pretty proud of what we’ve done,” said Suzanne Fallender, director of corporate responsibility at Intel, in an interview.
The company also recycles more than 80 percent of the chemical solid waste that it generates from operations and construction. It designs all of its new buildings to meet LEED Silver requirements and it's working to retrofit existing buildings to the standards as well.
Boosting products' energy efficiency (but missing the target)
Still, it fell short on some of its other goals. Intel missed its target of reducing the amount of energy its products use by 5 percent annually since 2007; instead, it lowered energy consumption 8 percent in that time.
The company sees its products' energy efficiency as the area where it can make the most difference, Fallender said. “That’s where you have strategic importance,” she said, adding that it also saves customers money.
Intel estimates that its technology will enable the 1 billion PCs and servers expected to be installed between 2007 and 2014 to consume half the energy -- while providing 17 times the capacity -- of the first billion PCs and servers that were installed between 1980 and 2007.
Growing water consumption and waste
However, the company says its continuous technology advancements also led to increasing -- instead of decreasing -- its water use and chemical-waste production. Many of the major trends in semiconductor manufacturing that improve energy efficiency require more chemicals and water rinses, Intel says.
Next page: Water, waste and a supply-chain success story