How producers and consumers can collaborate for change

In the third episode of The Moore You Know, Kate Wilson (President of the Semiconductor Division of our partner Edwards) discusses the vital uses of semiconductors, and how the industry must collaborate to combat climate change.

Here's what we learnt...

What are semiconductors?

Semiconductors are materials which have a conductivity between conductors (like metals) and nonconductors or insulators (like ceramics). They are an essential part of most modern electronic devices, and they have enabled us to make important advances in communications, computing, healthcare, transport and clean energy.

Traditionally, they were found in computers and telephones, but nowadays semiconductors can be found in almost all electronics.

Recent production issues caused by the pandemic also increased awareness of the need for semiconductors, and how critical they are when it comes to interacting with the wider world.

What impact does increased demand for semiconductors have on the environment?

Semiconductor chips need electricity to run, which of course comes with an environmental impact. Higher demand for electronics also means that the increased production capacity of semiconductors takes power, water and gases to produce them.

As manufacturers, it’s important to be conscious as to how to meet the increased demand, without impacting the environment too much.

How can the industry meet the global drive for net zero?

To keep global warming below 2°c, every business needs to sign up to science-based targets, so that upstream and downstream emissions can be assured. Once the products have been created, it’s harder to control the environmental impact, as complex supply chains can be harder to track.

The best way to mitigate downstream emissions is to support the transition of global grids to renewable energy, so that it’s easier to know that ongoing use of your product isn’t polluting through energy use.

How is Edwards reducing CO2 in their supply chain?

At Edwards, Scope 3 is where we see the most emissions. We’ve switched over to renewable electricity in Korea, with the aim of showing the Korean government that this is a key factor for us in producing in the country.

As a producer, it’s important to put your money where your mouth is, and spend on renewables wherever possible to support the global shift to cleaner energy. We strive to reduce the power consumption of our manufacturing processes and our products themselves, as well as making equipment more efficient to allow us to produce more chips with less equipment.

Recycling water and gases are also great ways to reduce the environmental impact of production, limiting waste production, and making sure our packing is optimised for reuse and recycling. With an increased global demand for semiconductors, we’re looking to increase our global manufacturing footprint, to create supply chains as close to customers as possible to reduce the need for long haul transit. Influencing our customers is important, and encouraging uptake of renewables and waste reduction along the supply chain.

How much do you think consumers can influence the overall decisions along the supply chain?

In terms of consumers, we’re seeing that more and more are demanding a ‘green image’ from the companies they buy from.

This is influencing behaviour of large businesses in the right direction, and pushing for innovation. A big area of focus for organisations is to operate with renewable energy.

Renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels, so the shift should naturally happen once we have capacity.

What can organisations do to get us all to net zero?

Collaboration is key - working together to lobby governments and show that renewable energy is critical for all businesses.

We can start by working out what our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions are, then finding the solutions to reduce our emissions at every stage.

Switching the grid to renewable energy is the main objective for all businesses in order to meet SBT - so consumers, organisations and governments need to all collaborate to achieve this change.