The Semiconductor Sustainability Challenge – Accenture Weighs In

SEMI spoke with Guido D’hert, High Tech and Semiconductor Industry Europe Lead at Accenture, about the challenges semiconductor companies face in meeting sustainability goals and how to apply analytics, new green technologies and circular design. D’hert shared his views ahead of his presentation at SEMI Industry Strategy Symposium Europe (ISS Europe) on May 30, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium. Join us at the event to meet experts from Accenture and many other key industry influencers. Registration is open.

SEMI: How and when did your interest for sustainability topics and trends start?

Over the past 12 to 18 months, we have been working closely with clients to help reach sustainability goals while at the same time driving positive business outcomes. There are many intrinsic challenges to meet the industry’s aspirations to meet the carbon neutral challenge. At Accenture we have our own goals and we are collaborating closely with clients and partners to make an industry impact.

SEMI: How can the semiconductor industry contribute to the sustainability challenge?

D’hert: The semiconductor industry can contribute to the sustainability challenge in many ways. Semiconductor manufacturing has a sizable carbon footprint, from the mining processes used to extract and refine the component materials to the chip fabrication steps themselves.

A single semiconductor fab can consume 1 TWh of energy per year and two to four million gallons of ultra-pure water per day, as highlighted in our report Sustainability is the Next Growth Area, High Tech are you Ready?

Moreover, a 2g chip uses 70+ g chemicals, 1,5 kg fossil fuel and 35kg water, and island states like Taiwan, Singapore have big challenges to move to power plants with renewable energy. So does Arizona, where the water consumption should not impact local communities and other stakeholders.

All global industry players need to work together to solve the issues. Collaboration is key.

SEMI: What is the most pressing next step for the semiconductor industry players to pursue this sustainability goal?

D’hert: The steps to pursue sustainability are many. On the one hand there are technical capabilities to make operations more efficient through the use of sensor technologies and green clouds, while taking a data-driven approach to understand and apply insights.

On the other hand, optimizing supply chains and adopting circular design can help meet specific sustainability goals across the ecosystem. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria are a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments.

Both steps mentioned above can help the semiconductor industry meet ESG goals but also improve products and help increase manufacturing yields.

SEMI: What are good examples of companies that are preparing for a sustainable future?

D’hert: Microsoft is definitely a company to follow. The leadership team set targets for carbon negative across scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2030, a high ambition for reducing supply chain emissions. Google committed way back in 2007 by purchasing enough carbon offsets to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions it produced. The company eventually racked up enough offsets to zero out all the emissions generated since its founding in 1998. And by 2030, it aims to run all of its data centers worldwide 24/7 on 100% clean energy—no offsetting required.

Semiconductor companies are also committing to carbon neutral goals.

  • Applied Materials is actively working with suppliers to look at how to reduce the energy generated in the fab during the manufacturing of the chips.
  • Qualcomm intends to achieve net-zero global emissions for scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2040.
  • Intel has committed to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in its global operations by 2040, to increase the energy efficiency and lower the carbon footprint of Intel products and platforms with specific goals, and to work with customers and industry partners to create solutions that lower the greenhouse gas footprint of the entire technology ecosystem.
  • ASM International expects to achieve net-zero emissions by 2035.

SEMI: How can semiconductor manufacturing analytics help leverage data for addressing important sustainability initiatives?

D’hert: With advances in AI and big data, data analytics can be applied to the semiconductor manufacturing process. This helps speed time to market by optimizing processes, reducing machine downtime and gaining new efficiencies through more collaborative and faster decision making.

Manufacturing analytics can generate tangible value, including:

  • 50% in machine downtime
  • 5-15% improvement in manufacturing yield by deploying machine and deep learning

SEMI: What else should companies be doing to meet sustainability goals?

D’hert: Look at circular design and ways to re-use and deploy reverse logistics to help reduce a company’s environmental, social and economic impact. Optimizing the supply chain will continue to be important for greater efficiencies. Adopting digital green tech and green clouds can help optimize cloud usage and reduce overall energy usage.

HydropowerThere are also opportunities for companies to make investments to become more green. Companies are buying carbon credits. One example is the ASML GO2 project, where ASML has co-financed the construction of three small hydropower plants in the rugged countryside north and south of Bergen, Norway. The Sandvock, Valdra and Nottveit installations are run-of-river power plants, which capture energy from fast-moving rivers and have a low ecological impact. They generate 26,000 MWh of green energy per year, which is fed into the cable between Norway and the Netherlands.

I will be discussing these and other ways companies can adopt circular design in my talk at ISS Europe.

SEMI: What are your expectations regarding your participation at ISS Europe?  

D’hert: Attendees will understand the latest thinking and sustainability challenges and ways to address them. I am looking forward to networking with peers and exchanging ideas on how we can best collaborate to solve the issues and advance the industry innovation around sustainability.

Accenture headshotGuido D’hert is managing director for High Tech and Semiconductor Industry Sector Lead for Europe at Accenture. He has more than 25 years of consulting experience in both Europe and Silicon Valley. D’hert serves clients across the high tech and semiconductor value chain on topics such as corporate strategy and new growth areas, digital supply chain and operations transformations, and end-to-end product lifecycle management.

Serena Brischetto is director of Marketing and Event Operations at SEMI Europe.

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