Sustainability--Stan Myers Article

Waking up to Sustainability

By Stan Myers

Unless you’ve been asleep for the past year, you’ll be aware of the intense global focus on sustainability—everything from renewable energy to global warming.

We cannot go a day without being confronted by sustainability issues such as global warming, environmental degradation, species loss, energy conservation, resource management and so on. Experts agree that those companies who look at the environment, health and safety (EHS) as an integral part of development, production and sales will be long-term winners in the market place.

Sustainable manufacturing facilities work with nature and use resources efficiently to achieve better results at a lower cost and with less impact on the planet. The approach is aptly summed up by the title of a recent book: Green to Gold. The co-author, Andrew Winston, was a speaker during a Sustainability Executive Panel at the SEMI International Trade Partners’ Conference (ITPC) held last November in Maui, Hawaii.

Winston made the point that “going green” is not a fad. It’s a real change that is here to stay. Just ask the CEOs of WalMart, DuPont, Applied Materials and others, all of whom have embraced sustainability as a way to make their businesses more efficient, more profitable and environmentally responsible.

Even activities such as brand and positioning strategy, partner management, and after-sales support can have a serious impact on the energy use and carbon footprint of a product, according to another ITPC speaker, Peter Williams of IBM.

In this business and social climate, “being green” is no longer optional for semiconductor manufacturers, or any company for that matter. Many stakeholders—customers, investors, employees, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—now routinely ask about the environmental impact of manufacturing plants and projects.

Another speaker at ITPC was Shauna Black, vice president of Texas Instruments. She explained how TI saved money by applying sustainable design and construction concepts in its 300mm fab in Richardson, Texas. The savings continued after the fab was built, with an estimated $1 million reduction in operating costs in the first full year and more than $4 million per year saved after full build out. These ongoing savings result from significant reductions in energy consumption, water usage, among others. TI is applying the same practices to the design and construction of two other sites, and investigating the retrofit of all existing buildings to incorporate energy and resource-saving features.

SEMI members can and should play a major role in sustainability. From the equipment makers’ point of view, small improvements in sub-components throughout a finished tool add up to large and valuable reductions in energy and materials use.

The current chairman of the SEMI board of directors, Jerry Coder, suggests that SEMI member companies consider reducing their environmental footprints by adopting the following practices:

Using renewable raw materials for their products

Reducing consumption of raw materials used in their operations and/or reclaiming, reusing, or finding alternative uses for waste materials

Designing their products and operations for sustainability

Delivering an internal awareness campaign on sustainability

Coder comes from the chemical industry, where environmental policy in the past was typical driven by government regulatory controls. That’s turned around and many chemical and materials companies have become leading proponents of sustainability.

For several years, SEMI has operated the Global Care program, which establishes a framework for companies to build and strengthen commitment to EHS programs. This SEMI initiative is based on five key principles: workplace health and safety, resource conservation, product stewardship, community service, and excellence.

Another recent example of our efforts in this area was SEMICON Japan 2007. Under a trial project, 90 percent of the energy consumption at the December show came from renewable energy sources such as wind power and biomass. In line with the theme of sustainability, featured programs at SEMICON Japan included the SEMI Global Environment Symposium as well as a special zone for EcoTech and EHS.

Going forward, SEMI will continue to focus on sustainability by providing information exchange and platforms for discussion and action among our member companies and their customers.