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Let’s get together: Intel’s 2030 commitments include ‘shared’ climate and social goals

Collaborations galore define the corporate sustainability movement, but the technology giant has set official ambitions for working with others.

Robert Noyce building in Santa Clara, California

'Tis the season for new corporate social and climate commitments, especially at the start of this decade of action and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which requires short-term prioritization from responsible companies around the world. 

So Intel’s declaration of its latest goals, which include a new 100 percent commitment to clean power and a "net positive" water ambition, isn’t all that unusual. But one component is highly unique: the company’s decision to include three "global challenges" — ones that require collaboration with "industries, governments and communities" to pull off.

Simply stated, they are:

  • Revolutionize health and safety with technology
  • Make technology fully inclusive and expand digital readiness
  • Achieve carbon-neutral computing to address climate change

In the press release touting the new initiative, Intel CEO Bob Swan noted: "The world is facing challenges that we understand better each day as we collect and analyze more data, but they go unchecked without a collective response — from climate change to deep digital divides around the world to the current pandemic that has fundamentally changed all our lives. We can solve them, but only by working together."

If you glance at the challenges above, you’d be right in thinking they’re awfully broad. But Intel has laid out some very specific milestones under each of them (more on those in moment), and those aspirations are timebound. They’ll be measured and reported on, just like another other sustainability metric and the company’s leadership will be held accountable for them, said Todd Brady, senior director of global public affairs and sustainability at Intel.

This year, for example, Brady said a portion of bonuses is linked to whether Intel achieves a 75 percent renewable energy benchmark (it’s near that mark) and for further progress on its water restoration efforts — so far, it has conserved billions of gallons in local communities in which it operates. This is a longstanding practice for Intel, something the company has done since 2008.

‘One company can’t solve climate change’

Swan, who took the helm as Intel CEO in January 2019, was the catalyst for the creation of the shared goals — because "one company can’t solve climate change" — and a broad coalition of stakeholders across the company was responsible for developing them, according to Brady. 

"He really pushed us to think big. We don’t see this space as competitive, we see it as one where we can work together and collaborate," he said.

The challenges are pegged to the adjectives that drive the company’s renewed corporate mandate: Responsible. Inclusive. Sustainable. Enabling. (The shorthand used by Intel is RISE.)

Here is a summary of what falls under each of them, all integrally linked with Intel’s high-level strategic agenda:

Revolutionize health and safety with technology
  • A focus on providing technology to accelerate cures for diseases; it includes the company’s Pandemic Response Technology Initiative
  • The creation of a global coalition focused on defining and setting safety standards for autonomous vehicles
Make technology fully inclusive and expand digital readiness
  • It is spearheading an effort to create and standardize a Global Inclusion Index that companies can use to track and disclose progress on issues such as equal pay or the percentage of women and minorities in senior positions
  • A major focus on addressing the digital divide and expanding access to technology skills. By 2030, it has pledged to partner with 30 governments (it doesn't specify at what level) and 30,000 institutions to achieve this.
Achieve carbon-neutral computing to address climate change
  • It will work with personal computer manufactures to create "the most sustainable and energy-efficient PC in the world — one that eliminates carbon, water and waste in its design and use." 
  • The creation of a collective approach to reducing emissions for semiconductor manufacturing and cloud computing and on using technology to combat the negative impact of climate change

While Brady didn’t share the specific milestones for the global challenges — which leaves them open to interpretation — they are bound by its 2030 agenda. He acknowledged that the work already has started and that the company will be discussing new partnerships in the coming months that point the way. "We have started in a few different areas," he said.

A work in progress

As you contemplate the next phase of Intel’s corporate sustainability journey, make sure to step back for a reality check on the company’s 2020 goals. According to the its latest report, Intel has delivered on the vast majority of them.

For example, it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent over the past decade, achieved its zero waste to landfill aspiration and has saved more than 4.5 kilowatt-hours of energy from 2012 to 2020 (beating its goal of 4 billion kWh). 

It has also restored more than 1.6 billion gallons of water. That puts it ahead of its goal to restore as much water as it uses by 2025, which is one reason Intel is stressing a net positive vision that will see it restore more water than it uses. It’s another place where collaboration is integral. "Where we have been most successful is where we have brought multiple players to the table," Brady said.

Where Intel hasn’t delivered: increasing the energy efficiency of notebook computers and data center servers by 25 times by 2020 over 2010 level (it has managed a 14 times increase) and encouraging at least 90 percent compliance among its supply chain on 12 environmental, labor, ethics, health and safety, and diversity and inclusivity metrics (it has achieved nine out of 12). 

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