Jerry Coder asks, "Are SEMI Members Sustainable?"


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Jerry Coder asks, “Are SEMI Members Sustainable?”

Are SEMI members sustainable? Is the semiconductor industry sustainable? Jerry Coder ponders these questions. Coder is chairman of the SEMI Board of Directors and his concerns carry weight. And he’s not alone. Leaders in other industries are also questioning the future sustainability of their own business operations.

What is sustainability?

Sustainability is about business activity that fulfills our present-day needs without jeopardizing our future abilities in the process. Sustainability is about sustaining our abilities. Sustainability is about the continuity of business activities and growth.

Companies and industries that want to operate indefinitely must cope with an expanding universe of factors affecting their performance. Coder has been paying attention to these factors and he is warning colleagues not to look away.

What affects business sustainability?

Three categories of factors impact business sustainability. Traditionally, business patterns its operations around economic and financial factors. But two other types of non-traditional factors are becoming powerful drivers of corporate productivity.

Environmental factors are linked to the planet and include natural resources, energy systems, living ecosystems, and the globe itself. Companies rely on these natural inputs to create value and anything that draws down the environment could hinder business operations. Besides, these environmental factors have value, which can be banked like other traditional financial instruments.

As he looks to the future, Coder is deeply concerned about some environmental factors, especially those relating to energy inputs. Until recently, global prices of oil have been steady. But increasing demands in China and India may move oil prices up. “Is the semiconductor industry ready for higher oil prices? What would we do if the price of oil doubles or quadruples? Could we handle such a crisis?” Other natural resource challenges, including the possibility of global water scarcity, are also disconcerting.

Coder appreciates the powerful role of such environmental factors on business sustainability. And he’s wondering what SEMI members are doing to avoid future problems.

Social factors are another driver of corporate productivity. These factors involve people and include workers, families, and communities. Companies rely on people as workers to produce value, and families and communities as consumers. Anything that impacts these social variables could jeopardize business operations. Besides, workers, families and communities have value, which can be invested in like conventional economic portfolios.

As he looks forward, Coder appreciates the powerful impacts that some social forces may play on the future of industry. For example, birth rates are falling in some industrialized countries, reducing the size of a future labor pool. If these trends continue, some companies may be challenged to find enough local employees to sustain growth. Coder asks, “Do SEMI members appreciate the powerful role of such social factors?” He wonders how SEMI members could react.

Ultimately, sustainability is about indefinitely managing a wide array of internal and external risks that affect business activities, performance, and continuity. To become sustainable, companies must expand the scope of their vision to understand these risks and alter their corporate behavior to cope.

What steps can SEMI members and the larger semiconductor industry take to become more sustainable?

Coder’s final question is the most important. In this industry, we all need to affirm our commitment to the environment, health and safety. Employees, customer, regulators, investors, the public, and the press are all observing how we perform on the stock market—and on the ecology of the planet. Coder suggests that SEMI member companies consider decreasing their environmental footprints by: using renewable raw materials for their products, reducing consumption of raw materials used in their operations (and/or by reclaiming, reusing, or finding alternative uses for waste materials), by designing their products and operations for sustainability, and by delivering an internal awareness campaign on sustainability. These are just a few of the ways that companies can become more sustainable.

In addition, SEMI can help. Global Care is the semiconductor equipment and material industry initiative, which establishes a framework for companies to build and strengthen commitment to environmental, health and safety (EHS) programs. It provides a framework for strengthening the foundation of company-specific EHS strategies and provides positive reinforcement and support from an industry-wide movement. This SEMI initiative is based on five key principles: workplace health and safety, resource conservation, product stewardship, community service, and excellence. Participation in Global Care enables companies to effectively collaborate in the continuous improvement of EHS performance and to communicate these achievements in a strong, unified voice.

Visit the Global Care website for more information on how your company can take steps toward a more sustainable future. To read about SEMI member EHS success stories, visit Global Care Success Stories.

For an overview of the SEMI Environmental, Health, and Safety Division, please visit www.semi.org/ehs. To learn about EHS compliance and regulation, please visit the SEMI International Compliance and Regulatory Committeewebpage. To join a forum (with over 500 members) for sharing public, but specialized technical or compliance EHS information related to our industry, visit SEMI EHS Grapevine. In addition, SEMI publishes an industry event calendar.